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You Say Tomato, I Say To-mah-to: Being “Against” Diabetes.

February 22, 2010

I have had quite a bit of fun writing my debate posts that I’ve decided to make it an actual category on my blog called “You Say Tomato, I Say To-mah-to.” All about all the different things we discuss in the world. For the most part they will probably be diabetes-related but who knows? It could get crazy!

Last week, on DiabetesMine, Amy posted this image to illustrate the new Diabetes Advocacy Program that David and Manny have created. The image didn’t actually belong to the program, it was just something she found (I believe the image is actually part of an American Diabetes Association program but I haven’t actually verified that). Anyway, Ellen, who is pretty much Mom to the Internet and one of the pre-eminent diabetes advocates of all time (I like her, can you tell?), wrote on Twitter, “So am I the only one who doesn’t like the idea of taking a stand AGAINST diabetes? It doesn’t sound like support to me.” She linked to this post, and a great debate ensued on Twitter (this happened on Feb. 17 if you want to scroll through anyone’s archives).

I told Ellen (and others who joined in) that I was against diabetes. I certainly wasn’t for diabetes, and the logical conclusion (in my head) was that I am against it. I am against it, I said, in that I don’t like it and I don’t want anyone to have it, which is why I am working so hard to find a cure.

Ellen also tweeted, “I think there’s a difference between being against it and being up against it.”

Around this time, Kelly K – who could rival just about anyone in the “making lemonade out of lemons” department – chimed in, saying, “Im not about hating diabetes because I refuse to hate myself. I can open a magazine and do that. Do I dislike it intensely at times? Yes I do. BUt Im not going to hate anything that is a part of me.” She then linked to this blog post that she wrote about not hating diabetes. She also tweeted, “I dont want another person to be diagnosed either- trust me.I cant hate diabetes,because I dont want 2lose ownership of MY D.”

Of course, that comment immediately made me think of Mr. Scott Strumello, a staunch supporter of NOT making diabetes “your diabetes.” You can find his dissertation here.

Now, I realize I’m giving you a lot of reading material, but that’s only because I want to present first-person narratives and not my own abridged version of someone else’s words.

But the original point of the whole conversation was whether or not someone can be “against” diabetes while living with it. To this I say, yes, I am against diabetes. However, I am not against myself and this is because I am not diabetes. I am Allison, a person, not a disease. And while I may hate or be against diabetes, I do not hate people with diabetes. I do not hate that millions of people are victims of their own immune system, I do not hate millions of people who are victims of slow research, lack of funds, misdirected priorities or a faulty treatment protocol (to use Scott’s words), and I do not hate people who are victims of society, genetics, the economy or any of the other dozen “reasons” or “causes” for type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

I will say that I do not, for the most part, hate diabetes. I try to have as little emotional reaction to my diabetes as I can. When my blood sugar is high or low, I am momentarily frustrated or embarrassed, but I adapt to the situation as best as I can with the tools I am given and then I move on. Sometimes I complain as a release for frustration, but I do not dwell, I do not worry, because seriously, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27) I know not all of you are Christian, but was Jesus right or what? Who has ever lowered their blood sugar but worrying? Not I.

What I take from being “against” diabetes is that I actively work to eradicate its existence on the planet. I understand that diabetes is a destructive presence for many people, and while I may have gleaned many positive effects in my own life, this is not the case for all people. I will also say that diabetes has had a negative impact in my life, and will continue to until it no longer exists. If I wasn’t against diabetes, then I wouldn’t care what happens. Being against diabetes is what drives my desire to find a cure. Supporting people with diabetes and their mission for greater health is what makes me so passionate against diabetes existing, because curing diabetes will help people live even healthier lives. Not that you can’t do it now, but it’s harder. Life is hard enough.

When I see the phrase “take a stand against diabetes” I do not see this as being unsupportive of the person with diabetes. I see it as supporting the person with diabetes because I am helping them by working towards a cure. Of course I support people with diabetes, and I would hope that in your actions against diabetes, you are acting in the interests of people who have it. It’s like being against cancer or AIDS. I am not unsupportive of treatments for a woman with breast cancer or the emotional struggles she has gone through, but I damn well hate the cancer she has!

Taking a stand against diabetes is not meant to convey support for people with diabetes, in my opinion, and depending on the aims of the person using that phrase, I may suggest hiring a new copywriter. Saying you are against diabetes is not necessarily the appropriate tone for all situations and I can see how that would lead to frustration or a misunderstanding. But if the aim is to cure diabetes and prevent it from ever affecting another person on this planet, then yes, I think being against diabetes is a perfectly acceptable phrase to use.

What do you think? Is saying you are against diabetes too strong?

  1. February 22, 2010 10:53 AM

    HA. Yes, I think that may indeed be a case of poor wording. Especially because certain types of diabetes (T2, duh) have a stigma attached, since they generally occur due to weight gain… I think it’s just an unfortunate choice of campaign for this particular affliction. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but still.

  2. NicoleP permalink
    February 22, 2010 2:40 PM

    Something about advertising campaigns, like the one represented by what’s on that pin: they’re supposed to get a point across in a brief, concise way. Which the button does. “Take a stand against diabetes.” It says in five words what the campaign is about – fighting a disease that effects many. To me, it’s kind of silly to debate whether the message is positive or not. If most people will get the intended message and what it’s intended to provoke: advocacy for people who are living with it (to support them in their fight against diabetes and the many negatives it brings), support for a cure (to rid ourselves of the thing we’re against)… then it’s a successful advertising campaign.

    In regard to hating diabetes. I hate diabetes. I hate the day to day with it, I hate the complications that loom and that diabetes makes me worry about. I hate the burden it puts on my pocketbook, my life, and my family. I hate it. And I would argue strongly that it’s not a part of me. It is a weight that I carry like a stone. It’s like an unwanted and dangerous houseguest who could seriously kick my ass (who would, in fact, kill me) if I tried to ignore or get rid of it. This debate is as old as the hills – and I don’t judge anyone who says they don’t hate diabetes. We all cope in different ways – more power to you and your mechanism for coping if you’re on the non-hate train.

    • February 22, 2010 2:48 PM

      Great thoughts, Nicole. I suppose in a way I hate diabetes, but I try to not let it weigh me down too much. I suppose I try to not make it an active part of my emotions, but if someone asked me, “Do you hate diabetes?” then I suppose I would say yes, for the reasons you described. Hmmm… the debate may be old but it still makes me think!

  3. February 22, 2010 2:47 PM

    I think it all depends in how you look at it. Against it, yes, by all means. But at the same time I don’t hate it. I look at all it’s brought to me and I wonder what my life would be like if I’d never gotten diabetes. Sure I want to know what my life could be like without it (cure, anyone??). But it’s had such an impact on my life in WONDERFUL ways that I can’t hate it completely. There’s a song from Wicked that says “Who’s to say that I’ve been changed for the better, but because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”
    Sure I hate it, but if I didn’t have it, I would have never met you, or Kelly, or Kerri, or Vivian, or Heidi, or George, or Amylia, or LeeAnn, or a million other great people who have made my life wonderful.
    So, if I can take a stand against it, yes. But I don’t know that I could wish it’d never happened. My life would be nothing like it is now. And I like my life too much to want to change it that much.

    • February 22, 2010 2:50 PM

      Yes! This was I’ve always thought to. It’s so weird though because I totally agree with Nicole too. I’m glad I met you too!

  4. February 22, 2010 2:49 PM

    Ah, the beauty of debates. Gotta love it. I’d thought about this quite a bit since Amy’s writing and the Twitter discussions, though really Nicole P above sums it up for me. I do hate diabetes, in that it affects my day-to-day and future and those of so many in this world. Hate that no matter how good I think I’m doing or try to stay in control, there are ups and downs that can’t be avoided. Personally, I don’t equate that to hating a part of myself at all – I regret we’ve been together since age 5, knowing of course that I didn’t do anything to cause this. But yes, I’m against it. Not against the support out there from so many – bloggers, friends, family, etc. Hating diabetes to me doesn’t equate to hating those who have it. Not at all. Additionally, I am thankful that it’s allowed me to be a stronger person, advocate, and trying to keep up my health in ways that might not happen if The D hadn’t been a part of my life. But, despite those little nuggets of appreciation, I am AGAINST diabetes and do what I can from my little corner to make it easier to live with until a time comes we don’t have to.

    • February 22, 2010 2:51 PM

      Yep, love it! Great thoughts. Appreciate what you’ve got now and work towards something even better, right? I think that keeps the positivity at the root of things, not negative energy. And you know how much I love positivity!

  5. February 22, 2010 3:00 PM

    Great post. I suppose I’d only add that, at this point, my small efforts are focused on being FOR PWDs.

  6. February 22, 2010 3:21 PM

    I guess I have to agree with Ellen, that the phrase “Take a stand against diabetes” sounds too close to “Take a stand against diabetics.” (I read into it the same stigma against type 2’s LiLu mentioned.)

    I’ve been diabetic virtually my entire life, and to me, this would be like saying “Take a stand against brown hair,” or “against women,” etc. Yes, I am much more than my d, but it’s also an integral part of who I am.

    Do I hate diabetes? I have to agree with k2 and the commenters above. I hate what the disease does to my body, I hate the time it takes up in my life and all the money it costs, and I wish it would go away and never impact anyone else’s life. But I don’t hate diabetes itself because again, it’s always been a part of me.

  7. Ciara permalink
    February 22, 2010 4:14 PM

    Saying “I am against diabetes” is too strong for me anyway. Had I have not had diabetes, I wouldn’t have ran 10K last summer for Team Diabetes, I wouldn’t have met the people I met at Diabetic Camp and I may not have followed the career path I choose (Nursing). I would be ecstatic if a cure were to arise, but I won’t look back on the last 10 years of my life despising such a big part of it. At times I will be frustrated, and I will be annoyed due to Diabetes… but I can’t overlook the positives that I have encountered on account of the big D.

  8. February 22, 2010 4:19 PM

    I am against anyone else, especially a child, having to endure this. But I would rather “Take a Stand For a Cure”, rather than “Against Diabetes”.

  9. February 22, 2010 6:05 PM

    I echo what Scott said. It’s poorly worded, and has a negative connotation to it. I’d much rather take a stand FOR something than AGAINST anything; it automatically evokes a feeling of… hatred. Which isn’t good!

  10. tmana permalink
    February 22, 2010 8:37 PM

    I’m going to step back from this a minute. There is no way on G-d’s green earth that a person with T1 can ignore hir diabetes and expect to live (well, more than a few days). Whether you like it or not, it’s a part of you in that it’s an unignoreable part of your daily routine (or lack thereof).

    For some of us T2s, the attention level and the care level are almost, if not as, intensive (but we don’t generally have the wide up-and-down swings, and it seems as if T1s and T2s don’t experience complications in the same order as the other). For others of us, it’s something that we can more-or-less ignore except for a couple of pills and whatever diet the doctor (or less frequently, the RD or CDE) tries to put us on. Diabetes is often presented to us as a punishment for not living the ascetic life of many CRONnies. (CRON = Caloric Restriction for Optimum Nutrition; it advocates near-starvation caloric levels, with nutrients optimized to fit within those levels, and multiple hours of daily exercise. One might consider them borderline OCD, anorexic, orthorexic, and exercise-bulimic — all at the same time.) It is the Sword of Damocles society holds over the heads of all of us who are larger than a model’s Size Zero. It is our punishment for not being rich enough to live in areas where healthy food is easy to attain, or where it is safe to exercise out-of-doors, not being rich enough to be able to afford healthy food, not having enough leisure time to prepare healthy food and/or exercise…

    Obviously, these attributes are more directly attributable to the way our society looks at “people of size” than to diabetes itself. However, we are brought up believing it misanthropic to rail against unjust social perceptions; therefore, rather than presuming to hate the society which relegates us to some back corner of “deserving of punishment”, we presume to hate that which is the direct cause (effect?) of society believing us so unworthy: diabetes.

  11. caitlin permalink
    February 22, 2010 9:41 PM

    I am against diabetes but for all people living with diabetes

  12. Nicole permalink
    February 22, 2010 9:52 PM

    I also would, I’m afraid,give up every great friendship I’ve had because of diabetes if it meant being rid of it. It’s not that I don’t value the friendships, it’s just that the cost of having them is higher than I’d ask my worst enemy to pay. I should hope that somehow fate or destiny or karma or whatever would find me with amazing people in my life with or without a chronic condition. And I believe that I would have somehow found the inner strengths that diabetes has fostered without it ever having touched my life.

    Again, I have never considered diabetes as part of my core, part of myself. It is an outsider that I’m forced to balance, forced to associate with, forced to deal with. But it is, in no way, a definitive part of who I am. It is an intruder that I hate.

  13. February 22, 2010 11:12 PM

    I wouldn’t trade one moment of my life with D or one friend I have to live without it. D is a part of who I am, but it is not WHO I am. I feel that, because of D, I can perhaps help others more than I could without it.

    I would like to see a logo of “We Take a Stand Together to Cure Diabetes”

  14. March 10, 2010 9:01 AM

    Amazing story. I enjoy reading your blog. I have diabetes myself.
    my diabetes blog

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