Today is March 23 and it's the American Diabetes Association's annual Diabetes Alert Day. Always falls on the fourth Tuesday of March, and this marks the 22nd year. Basically, this awareness campaign is designed to make people more aware of Type 2 diabetes and offer them ways to assess their own potential in developing this condition.
As this date approached, I began pondering a question that usually comes to mind everytime this Tuesday rolls around - What does this really mean for me, or anyone who's already been Living With Diabetes for any period of time? Particularly for those Type 1s who were diagnosed as children? The name almost implies we should be involved in it, but really does it even apply to our worlds? It often spurs some resentment for the misconceptions that are so prevelant in our society, relating to the differences between types and how it's portrayed inaqeuately under the same umbrella term. Type 2 is the "epidemic" and rightfully deserves attention, but so often everything else D-related gets pooled into that same box and the nuances are lost. I've written about this before, that Type 1 diabetes is Not An Afterthought.
Wanting to get past the Blame Game and not be a D-Downer, I did a quick online search using Google and some of the my most regularly-read D-Blogs. Of course, several have blogged about this through the years. One that stood out was Amy's post at DiabetesMine back in 2008. She encouraged all existing PWD to "Make This Our Own" day in a few ways. They're worth repeating and practicing.
1. For those who already have diabetes, consider this a “Tell-A-Friend Day.” Talk to someone in your life about what it’s like to live with diabetes - ideally someone who doesn’t yet know the basics, like the difference between Type 1 and Type 2. If everybody “told two friends and they told two friends,” we could do a lot towards educating people. I'm going to reach out in the name of Diabetes Advocacy.
2. Make a donation. Doesn't matter if it's a few dollars or a large chunk of the paycheck. Maybe today is a good day to go to the Children With Diabetes or JDRF sites and show them that we stand behind them.
3. Do something "mentor-ish." Maybe checking out local programs, through the ADA or JDRF or even a local diabetes education center. Sometimes, Children's Hospitals or Endo Offices have these types of activities and are always in need of more help. The idea is to help somebody new to this whole Living With Diabetes issue, to share what you've been through and help them through it.
All in all, this is a part of being a Diabetes Advocate and helping people understand what this chronic condition is about. Too often, Type 1 is lumped together with Type 2 diabetes. That causes society to look at us Type 1s and wonder if our diabetes is "bad" or "uncontrolled." simply because we're on insulin, and not "just pills," and because we must count carbs or test so frequently. Thanks to recent televised words from Those Claiming to Be Knowledgeable, millions were led to believe that the more insulin you use, the "worse your diabetes is." As a Type 1, I want people to know that this isn't my fault or the fault of my parents; I was diagnosed at age 5, and no lifestyle changes could have prevented this autoimmune disorder, and that it's not manageable with just a pill, diet, or exercise. Sometimes, you can't recognize Lows coming on because they strike suddenly, causing you to lose control of your ability to think rationally or control your body. Sometimes, sugars go High for unexplained reasons and all you can do is react to bring them down to safe levels as quickly as possible.
With Diabetes Alert Day, we can use this time to focus energy on Type 1 education, despite the day being directed at Type 2. It could also send a message to that Type 1s, while a minority of the overall Diabetes Community, have a voice that can be heard.