Myths to do with diabetes frustrate me as much as the next person. I want people to get it right when they are talking about diabetes; I want the media to report diabetes correctly and I want facts presented in a clear, non-threatening, easy-to-understand way. Of course, this is relevant to all types of diabetes.
What annoys me is people who are furious about one myth, but more than happy to perpetuate others.
Some people in the type 1 diabetes community are outraged if they are lumped in with people with type 2 diabetes. Campaigns and petitions have been developed to change the name of type 1 diabetes to avoid confusion between the two conditions. The thought of being thrown in with people who ‘brought this on themselves’ (that, by the way, would be another myth and completely unhelpful) results in Facebook posts, Tweets and blog after blog after blog.
Me – I couldn’t really care less. I have type 1 diabetes, I know it and I’m happy to educate anyone who has no idea about autoimmune diabetes. I’m also too tired and just plain over this discussion, so I try to avoid it. I do acknowledge that if it wasn’t for the significant number of people with type 2 diabetes, I’m pretty sure that the 120,000 of us with type 1 in Australia would get lost when it comes to funding and media attention.
But, for some it is a real issue and they get angry and do anything they can to make sure that they are seen as different from the majority of people with diabetes in Australia – the type 2 diabetes community. And that’s fine. If that’s what your thing to get angry about is, knock yourself out. (My thing changes every day. Today it was that I didn’t get a cup of coffee in me until after 11.30am.)
There are many other myths about diabetes and they annoy me more. Here are just a selection that I’ve come across in the last couple of days:
- If you use an insulin pump you have diabetes ‘really bad’ (wrong and rotten grammar!)
- If you have diabetes, you can’t eat sugar
- If you weren’t so lazy you wouldn’t have type 2 diabetes (genes anyone)
- Diabetes isn’t really serious
- Cinnamon cures diabetes (okay – it was me banging on about that, but I was just trying to justify in my own head eating an apple cinnamon muffin.)
- You can catch diabetes.
- You grow out of type 1 diabetes (blood. starts. boiling.)
I immensely admire and respect the work done by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, but using the term ‘juvenile diabetes’ just fuels the myth that this is a condition that only affects kids. Focusing on children who have diabetes is incredibly important, but those kids are going to grow up and hopefully live long, healthy, happy lives. Where is the awareness and focus on adults with diabetes? The reason the term juvenile diabetes isn’t used anymore is because it doesn’t accurately represent the broader type 1 diabetes population.
Of course I’m being somewhat self-serving. I was diagnosed as an adult and my experience of life with diabetes is through the eyes of someone who has lived with it since my mid-twenties. But during that time, I’ve needed information and services and programs that just weren’t there. Information about pregnancy, body image, parenthood, work life balance – things that are relevant to me at this stage of my life – was quite thin on the ground!
I completely agree and believe that there needs to be programs and activities developed specifically for kids with diabetes. Diabetes in day care and school settings is a critical issue to be addressed; camps for kids with diabetes are brilliant. But this is an ages and stages condition. Why is there not as much of a focus on other periods? Whilst some attention is being given to transition from adolescent to adult health care, what about for men and women with diabetes in their thirties and forties? Where is consideration of women going through menopause or for people at retirement age? Why is no organisation focusing on older adults with diabetes in aged care?
If people want to make sure that the world understands that type 1 diabetes is different to type 2 diabetes, then surely they also want to break down other myths about type 1 diabetes. This is not a condition that only affects children. Half of those diagnosed with type 1 are diagnosed as adults. The majority of people in Australia living with type 1 diabetes are adults.
Break down the myths. Educate people about what type 1 is all about. Just don’t do it at the expense of all the facts.
Is there a myth about diabetes that annoys you?