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Yin and Yang

October 8, 2008

Diabetes has a lot of these yin and yang qualities to it.

On one hand, diabetes is a complicated illness that can lead to terrible, life-threatening complications, even death. But on the other hand, we have people with diabetes who are living until they are in their seventies and eighties, people climbing mountains and biking across the country, people getting married and pushing out babies and what-not.

On one hand, diabetes fluctuates on a minute-by-minute basis. You never know what your next blood sugar reading is going to be. You never know if this 30 grams of carbohydrates are going to affect you the same as that other 30 grams of carbohydrates. You don’t know if this thirty minute job is going to crash you into the ground or make you feel jazzed. But on the other hand, when you are low, you treat with glucose. Every. Time. When your blood sugar is high, you take insulin. Every. Time. When you eat, you have to take insulin. Every. Time.

I remember past conversations about how it’s challenging to advocate for diabetes because on the one hand, you want people to understand that diabetes is serious and dangerous, but on the other hand, you don’t want them to treat you differently, codle you and prevent you from fulfilling your dreams.

As we approach National Diabetes Month, this debate about how to approach explaining diabetes is starting to surface in my head. I have conversations with myself about how to explain it completely without overexaggerating or glossing over some of the finer points of diabetes. I suppose to truly understand diabetes means you need to live with it, as I’m sure it is with most chronic illnesses. Unless you’re there, it’s hard to understand this tightrope balance we strike everyday in maintaining our quality of life.

I’ve received a couple of emails in the past week about this new video campaign sponsored by Novo Nordisk, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Discovery Education. It’s encouraging young people to film one minute video segments about the struggles of living with diabetes and what they want the next President of the United States to do about it. The winning videos will be presented in New York on World Diabetes Day. For each video submitted, Novo Nordisk will donate $10 to JDRF, up to a total of $25,000. You can find out more about the requirements and how to submit your video at the Young Voices: Life with Diabetes Call to Action Video website.

I wish people could understand that diabetes is both. It’s both a curse and a blessing. It’s both a mind-boggling challenge and fairly straight-forward. It has helped some of us live healthier lives by encouraging us to quit smoking and lose weight. But it has also hurt many of us.

My favorite thing about blogging is that we are all able to share our stories about diabetes with the world. Sometimes I think we get a little too caught up in our own little community, so my call to action for all of you is that this November, get outside of your usual readership and start sharing your life with people who don’t know about diabetes. Talk to your local newspaper about doing a story or ask if you can write a special column. Call your local television station. Write a letter to the editor of your largest newspaper.

Talk about diabetes to new people. You never know who might be listening.

  1. October 8, 2008 6:20 PM

    Great post Allison. It is a terribly hard thing to communicate.

  2. October 8, 2008 6:50 PM


    Great article. I understand you live in NJ. I live in Sea Girt, NJ which is in Monmouth County. I also wrote an article “Making Lemonade” which deals with diabetes and breast cancer. If you would like to get together, you can contact me at either of the above addresses. I am also a pumper for over 16 years and have had diabetes for over 53 years and do not have any complications due to diabetes. I would love to hear from you.

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