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When They Mean Well

Sometimes it isn’t a stranger or acquaintance giving you a hard time about your diabetes.  Sometimes it’s a family member or close friend that says something hurtful about your diabetes management. And that is far more difficult to hear than the guy at the table next to you in a restaurant or some lady sharing an office with you at work.

I had a loved one who had known me and about my diabetes for more than 13 years suggest over breakfast one day that I get stomach stapling surgery to cure my diabetes. That’s when I realized that pretty much no one without firsthand experience with type 1 diabetes understands it.

The media don’t always help people understand diabetes. Cure is a strong word to throw around, and miraculously simple cures are claimed all the time. You’ve seen the “Cure Diabetes with Cinnamon!” claims in the past, and other ridiculous so-called remedies. In her defense, this  particular individual who suggested stomach stapling to me has a family member with type 2 diabetes. She herself was overweight and had surgery, in part, to help keep her from developing type 2 diabetes.  

That kind of surgery would likely never be approved for someone like me. I could stand to lose a few pounds, but it’s nothing a little more exercise and some dietary restrictions couldn’t fix. But  stomach stapling surgery will not cure my type 1 diabetes.  

I wondered though, how anyone could think I’d live for 18 years like this on purpose. If there were a cure, I’d have jumped on it long ago.

Several of my friends with diabetes also remarked that their loved ones make inappropriate comments about their diabetes management. They insist strange things based on information they’ve heard or read about diabetes.  They can’t seem to understand that this is our life, barring an actual cure.  

I had just taken my injection at the table of the restaurant we were visiting when my friend made her suggestion of the stomach surgery. She didn’t say it to be mean, she meant it innocently enough. Still, the only thing I could do this particular day, over a plate of Swedish pancakes that I no longer felt like eating, was to inform her about type 1 diabetes.  

Her comment had caught me off guard and I had to take a moment to collect myself so I could speak calmly. Thankfully my husband jumped in to explain the fact that my diabetes was an autoimmune disease and that there is no cure. As I fought back tears I explained that even if I was able to have the stomach surgery she had, I’d need insulin injections for life because my body no longer made it naturally.  

This is my life and I’ve come to terms with it, but should an actual cure present itself, I’d be in line in a heartbeat. I felt like sobbing, and a little like shouting, but I took a deep breath and spoke as gently as I could instead. I still love her. I know she didn’t mean to hurt me with her comment. 

I had wrongly expected her to know all these things, but had never taken the time out to explain my diabetes to her. All we really have the power to do is educate others about our life with diabetes, and to keep on living, and hoping that someday there will truly be a cure.

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