Dear Paula Deen
Welcome to the Diabetes Community, Paula.
Though it’s a bittersweet welcome, one that no one deserves or hopes for, I’m grateful that your Type 2 diabetes diagnosis announcement comes at a time where you don’t have to be alone. Where you can find some friends who “get it” and know what you’re going through.
I applaud your courage and willingness to share your health story, especially in such a public way. On your own terms, your own timing.
Confession: I’ve never watched your show. Yes, I knew who you were before all this news materialized. And maybe once or twice, I’ve caught a glimpse of your cooking and personality while flipping channels or when passing through a room where you happened to be on the screen. No offense to you or your southern-creations – just not something I’ve ever embraced. And it has nothing to really do with the food types or ingredients, it’s just not something I’ve ever really paid much attention to. Even though I'm certainly a fan of food.
Now that you’ve unleashed the news for the world’s eyes, my hope is that you can use your D as an advocacy tool for the millions who watch and love your cooking show, to teach more general lessons about how we as a society need to better manage our health, our eating habits, our whole selves. That’s something you’re obviously doing, by embracing a campaign with a Pharma company and making personal changes and even re-creating some of your food dishes to be more D-friendly.
I could care less that you waited, that you held it close. Naturally, I'm cynical and skeptical and operate often on the mantra of "Your Mom Says She Loves You... Prove It." But I also have faith, and I'm trying to see the better positive side of people and not assume the worst all the time. So, I take you at your word that it was a personal family decision ultimately made for the reason you offered: Because you didn’t know anything about D then, and you wanted to “bring something to the table” before announcing this to the world. You did this on your terms, and I applaud you for that.
A lesson we can all take from this, though: You would have come out on this 3 years ago with little knowledge or information, and people would have criticized and judged you. You did this now, and people criticized and judged you. The point: you can't control human nature through timing.
Now, is there any hypocrisy in this - that you made changes personally in eating, exercising, lifestyle and health but yet continued to do everything on your cooking show exactly the same way? Mayhaps so. And just because you never said "eat this everyday for every meal" doesn't mean you preached moderation.
But none of that rises to the level of justifying claims that you "did this to yourself" or that you "deserved" this diagnosis. Not at all. I’m sorry that you’re experiencing criticism, judgment, blame…Science doesn’t tell us what causes any type, but sadly our society – even our own D-Community – can be quick to point fingers that a "contributing factor for one person" was the sole cause of another person's diagnosis. Poor media coverage fuels misconceptions and lumps all the types together, with little explanation or clarity except a big proclamation that “MILLIONS OF PEOPLE HAVE THIS SILENT KILLER.”
It's that war of battling misconceptions that connects us as Advocates, as regular People With Diabetes - beyond the blood testing and D-Management and shared moniker of diabetes. We impact each other, and what's said about your diabetes carries over into the general public's mind about anything related to any type or issue of diabetes. You’re a part of that now, just like the rest of us in the D-Community whether one "advocates" or not and regardless of a person's feelings about this type or that. Awareness through Unity is how we educate the masses, sidestepping the blame and the differences and focusing on the real information.
Maybe with your celebrity-status you can help battle some of those misconceptions and teach people what is and isn’t true about Life With Diabetes. I’ll be eager to see how you use that spotlight.
Again, thanks for sharing and being willing to advocate on behalf of yourself and others who are at various points in their D-journeys. At least you’re on the food channels, and not MTV where your “True Life” D-story would take on a different tone. No, that’s a whole different blog post right there…