Diabetes Awareness: Just for a Month, or All Year Long?

Twenty years ago, when I opened Sugar Happy Diabetes Supplies in San Francisco, people would open the front door, lean in, and ask, “I’m curious. Are there enough people with diabetes for you to stay in business?”  My reply was always, “You would be surprised by how many people have diabetes.”

Back then, everyone knew someone with diabetes, but they didn’t necessarily realize it because people with diabetes stayed silent, fearing discrimination.  They did not want to be viewed as less than normal. Some would even say that having diabetes made them feel like damaged goods.  In fact, I once had a customer who was baffled by the idea  that I had married someone with type 1 diabetes. I was equally baffled by her response.

What’s really important about these two perspectives is how far we have come in diabetes awareness.  Are you a “diabetic” or “someone with diabetes?”  Every day, we are making more empowering distinctions. No longer do people with diabetes have to hide in a bathroom while injecting insulin. Diabetes is out in the open.

Compassion from people without diabetes has become a source of tremendous support to people with what can be a “burn-out” disease.  This progress  in public awareness and understanding is attributed to diabetes education and the efforts of organizations like Diabetes Health magazine and the American Diabetes Association.  The dedication of so many groups that serve the diabetes community has paid huge dividends. People with and without diabetes are more educated about the disease and, as a result, far less likely to have the attitude of my former customer.

For American Diabetes Month, we have lined up a great issue to keep you inspired. If you plan on drinking during the holidays, please be safe and read “Diabetes and Alcohol” to learn more about the effects that alcohol consumption can have on your blood sugar levels.  “Living the Dream of Law Enforcement,” is an inspiring interview with Lt. Jose Lopez, who thought that his diagnosis of type 1 might exclude him from police service. What was it like to tell the truth about having diabetes? A group called “Insulindependence” is attempting to start a revolution by applying the concept of experiential education to diabetes management.  Are you on board? Our “No BG Deal” feature gives some humorous insight into the progress being made in meter design. To find out about a young insider’s momentous decision to  move from injections to pumping, read a feature article, “Finally, the Pump.”

At Diabetes Health magazine, we are coming up on our 20th anniversary of publishing. Now, instead of people opening the front door to my diabetes supply store to ask me if there is enough business for me to stay afloat, they comment on how prescient I was to enter in the diabetes education business.  But in actuality, it was living with family members who have type 1 and type 2 diabetes that inspired my drive to be in this field. This has been my family disease for three generations. It is my dream that the next three generations will live to see its cure. .

American Diabetes Month is almost here. This year, the American Diabetes Association is asking, “How will you stop diabetes?” The future is in your hands.

—Nadia Al-Samarrie
October, 2010

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