What would happen if people with diabetes weren’t constantly subjected to blame and criticism?

supporting people with diabetes Diabetes Advocacy

If you are diagnosed with cancer, you are usually met with sympathy and compassion.  A person diagnosed with heart disease is met with care and concern.  When people find out someone has diabetes, the first reaction tends to be blame.  

What did the person with diabetes do to cause this condition? What have they done to have an A1c that high? Have you ever wondered what would happen if people with diabetes weren’t constantly subjected to blame and criticism?

What happens when you are diagnosed with cancer or heart disease?

choose compassion not blame
Choose compassion not blame

Think about this….a woman goes into her doctor’s office and is told that she has breast cancer. What does her doctor do after breaking this news to her? The doctor most likely offers support and treatment options.

Can you picture how her friends and family will react? Her family will offer to assist her in any way that they can.  Everyone offers sympathy and hope.

Next, imagine what happens when a man walks into his doctor’s office and told that he has congestive heart failure.  His doctor offers treatment suggestions and hope. His family offers support and understanding.

It isn’t the same when you are diagnosed with diabetes.

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Now consider what happens when diabetes is the diagnosis…. A family walks into a doctor’s office.  Their son hasn’t been himself lately.  He is lethargic.  He is drinking everything in the house and consequently is suddenly having accidents and can’t seem to hold his water.  They know that something is definitely off.

The doctor tells them that their son has Type 1 diabetes. She asks if there is a family history of diabetes? She gives them a brief rundown of what diabetes is.  The doctor provides a prescription for things like insulin, syringes, and blood glucose test strips.  No treatment options are discussed. The doctor then tells the family that they will have to go immediately to a place called “diabetes education” for a bit more training.

The stunned family is pushed out of the door and heads to the next office.  They are reeling.  They don’t understand what they have been told.  The poor family knew nothing about diabetes before this day.  It was something that came from eating too much sugar but they didn’t feed their son sugar…did they?

The family learns that they will have to regularly hurt their child to keep him alive.

boy with type 1 diabetes Diabetes Advocacy

The family has been told that they will have to inject their child with a syringe multiple times per day.  The doctor has told them that if their son gets too much insulin, it is an emergency and he could pass out and die.  They have been told that he currently has too much sugar in his body and he needs more insulin or he may go into a coma and die.

The doctor did ask them if there was a family history of diabetes. Now they wonder again if they caused this.  Did they do something wrong? Did they pass on faulty genes to their baby?

In a few short hours they are given a crash course in diabetes.

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This newly diagnosed family goes to diabetes education and learns all they need to know about diabetes in a few hours.  They are told about carbohydrates, insulin, exercise and many more terms that are floating around meaninglessly in their heads.  The family is overwhelmed and exhausted.

As the news of the young boy’s diagnosis reaches family and friends. Well-meaning friends reach out and contact the family  Their aunt tells them that their great-uncle had diabetes…the bad kind….he died.  A neighbourhood child asks the son if diabetes is contagious because he is worried that he might “catch it” and then have to have needles too!

The difference when the diagnosis is diabetes.

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Can you see the difference in these three scenarios? In each incidence, the diagnosis is earth-shattering.  The people involved in all three stories are forever changed but in the first two cases, they are met with compassion and care rather than being the butt of jokes.  When diagnosed with something other than diabetes, the individual does not seem to have to educate or correct misconceptions from family and friends.

What if there was no difference.

supporting people with diabetes Diabetes Advocacy

Now imagine this…the same family meets with their doctor.  She tells them that their son has diabetes.  It is a serious life-threatening disease but working together, they will ensure that he will live a long and healthy life.  She tells them about amazing treatment options and offers them numerous online resources.

A diabetes team comes in, bringing with them another family who also has a child with diabetes.  This family will act as mentors for them.  The parents will be able to share their fears and experiences and the children will be able to also share with each other.  They will guide them to other supports.  The family knows that they are not alone. They know that they will make it through.

What if families were offered support instead of medical advice?

supporting people with diabetes Diabetes Advocacy

Further, imagine this family going home after insulin guidelines are established, but they don’t come home to judgment and fear. Instead, this family walks in the door to find that their neighbours have prepared meals with carb counts so that Mom and Dad can focus on their family.  They see that Grandma has arrived to help out and learn diabetes care so that their son can still spend his summers with her.

What if a diabetes diagnosis was met with kindness and understanding?

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The is way diabetes should be handled–with compassion and care.  It does happen.  There are some incredible diabetes teams out there.  There are amazing people who understand and don’t judge.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this was the rule not the exception? Can you imagine if there were no more diabetes jokes? No more comments about Great Aunt Sarah dying from the bad kind of diabetes?  What if parents no longer threatened their children with “if you eat one more of those candies you are going to get diabetes!”

That would be compassion in its purest form.  It would allow families and individuals to deal with this new way of life with much more support and love.

Together we can make it happen.

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It can happen but it takes work.  We must continue to educate the general public.  Educators and doctors must continue to offer compassion and support.  It is important that those of us who live with diabetes constantly remain available and understanding towards those who are just learning about life with diabetes. Together we will create more compassionate resources for those with diabetes until there is a cure.

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4 thoughts on “What would happen if people with diabetes weren’t constantly subjected to blame and criticism?”

  1. I always wondered how my mom felt when I was Dx’d with T1. mom was t1 and I know what I saw (strength and wisdom), but I also know what I felt being so upset she could barely visit at the hospital. I hope mom did not feel blame, but I suspect she did. I never once blamed her.

    1. For me, I know I didn’t cause it. I have no idea about my genes, but I think that parents have that desire to protect…and it’s our failure to protect our children from this disease (as irrational as that is) that is the hardest to deal with. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

  2. Where did the idea that diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar come from? I can remember reading about Banting and Best’s discovery and the dog, Margery who was a “guinea pig” in a “reader” when I was in about grade 5. Obviously, there is nothing about sugar in that story. I have had an R.N. (step-sister to my husband!) scream at me, “Have you ever worked a day in your life?” when I was reeling from fatigue from trying to keep my dh from going into severe insulin reactions and learning how to run a pump years ago. Obviously, she like most of her fellow R.N.s knows very little about how to keep blood glucose levels in fairly close to normal range most of the time. Then, there’s the doctors who are totally clued out about type 1 diabetes as well. A cousin who is a retired Faculty of Medicine prof at the U. of Toronto and a former executive director of the College of Family Physicians of Canada was surprised when his grandson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 19. He thought he was very old to be diagnosed with that! Then, there’s the neurosurgical resident who wanted my dh’s pump + cgms off so she could put him on sliding scale!!! LOL! I don’t mind lay people being ignorant, but it could get very dangerous if medical personnel do not understand this disease. In my husband’s medical records, one nurse even wrote that I was “non-compliant.” LOL! I didn’t even know that I was her patient till then. LOL! If I knew during that hospital stay of my husband’s what I know now, I would have been more than compliant. I would be knowledgeable. More knowledgeable than the nursing and medical staff certainly. I don’t know that cancer patients get all that much compassion. I’ve known of a case where a paediatrican just brushed the parents’ concerns away for weeks and brushed their family physician’s concerns away, too. Then, the year old baby was diagnosed with a deadly, advanced brain tumour and died within the week! All is not sweetness and light on the cancer wards! (Nothing could have been done to save that baby, but, at least, the parents wouldn’t have the memories of being told to go home repeatedly, that there was nothing wrong with their baby even though she was having visible seizures.)

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