The Invisible Elephant in the Room

Diabetes is the invisible elephant in my room on a regular basis. As a type 1 diabetic, I think about it frequently even if my friends, family, doctors, and the people I encounter daily don’t see it. While diabetes truly is an invisible illness, my blood sugars affect everything I do or even think about doing. My diabetes elephant is there all the time. That elephant does not take days off or breaks. So when such an important medical issue goes unnoticed by a doctor after a lengthy visit, I see a red flag.

I was visiting my endocrinologist recently for a yearly checkup on my thyroid due to Hashimoto’s disease. Sadly, I’m not sure I’ll return to her. I waited for nearly an hour to see her. During this time, I filled the nurse in on the medications I take, including my diabetes medications and thyroid medication.

When the doctor came in she kindly apologized for being late. Although the wait was not fun, I was okay with it. I was just relieved finally to be able to explain the Hashimoto’s symptoms I was still having. I had not seen her in a little over a year since my first visit with her. She spoke with me for nearly an hour, for which I was thankful. I spoke about my other type 1 friends who also have thyroid issues and their treatment strategies that seemed to help them in hopes that they could possibly help me.

She went on her computer to look up the blood work my primary care doctor had ordered so she could add hers to the system. She mentioned the additional tests she’d like to run. I continued to complain a bit about being tired all the time, and she said, “Oh, I think I’ll have them check your sugar level.” I sat quietly and confused for a moment. Then I asked, “What do you mean, check my sugar level?” I mean, I check it each and every day already. She replied, “To check for diabetes.” I’m pretty sure the look of shock was all over my face as I said, “But I have type 1 diabetes – I’ve had it for almost 20 years.” She quickly replied that she had forgotten and that she doesn’t treat me for that so she simply didn’t remember.

I was stunned. I know she’s human and that mistakes are bound to happen to all of us. I make plenty of them myself. Maybe I should have been clearer when speaking with her, but shouldn’t my diabetes “elephant” be visible to an endocrinologist? Shouldn’t a doctor who specializes in diseases of the endocrine system, including diabetes, catch the fact that I have diabetes? If not from the medications I take and the tests my primary care doctor had ordered, how about the fact that I had even mentioned “my friends that also have type 1, like me”?

I feel that diabetes should be a neon sign when it comes to medical care. Diabetes affects almost everything we do. The moments that makeup our lives are ruled by how well or poorly our blood sugars behave in those moments. Diabetes makes everything more complicated in the medical world. Different treatments can affect our health and blood sugars.

One person very close to me thinks I should give her another chance while another person I’m close to thinks I shouldn’t. I’m torn. I like this endocrinologist, I really do, even though I felt like just another patient after that visit. Everyone is entitled to have an off day at work, perhaps this was just one for her?

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