Reading about diabetes-related news stories is one of those things that happens by accident. In much the same way as I might have my attention drawn to something about one of my former occupations, anything with 'Diabetes' or 'Diabetic' in the title catches my eye and pulls me towards it like a cartoon dog following a rib-eye steak. This is because - if you haven't come across it in the site archives somewhere - I suffer from diabetes mellitus. I won't capitalize it, because frankly I don't like it very much and I therefore see no reason to show it any undue respect.
...I'm a person with diabetes...
I developed the disease in my thirty-first year on the planet, at a time in my life when I was very active in sports. I was fit, I didn't smoke, and I barely drank any alcohol. My diet wasn't perfect, but it was pretty well balanced, and I wasn't a fast food junkie or anything approaching it. In other words, I did not fit the typical media organization's stock imagery of people with diabetes. You know the sort of thing: cropped footage of enormously obese headless people waddling around with their cellulite generating enough waves to power a cell phone charger.
I find it rather frustrating, as a person who developed diabetes, to be lumped in (pardon the weightist pun) along with such people, when the implication is very clearly that lifestyle is the major contributor to all diabetes. In my case, I have what's called TYPE ONE diabetes. To use a slightly broad brush, this typically means that the pancreas has decided that this insulin-production thing is all well and good but it would rather be in Hawaii on the beach drinking Tequila, and so it has duly buggered off, never to return. Basically, my pancreas produces little or no insulin, which is the hormone that our body needs to help us metabolize sugar in our system. In turn, this means that I have to regularly test my blood sugar levels (using the handy, dandy little kit pictured above) and inject insulin into my body many times each day. It could be worse, of course - I realize that - but at the same time, it's not much fun.
The danger that I perceive is that all diabetes sufferers become labelled by the media as overweight numpties who are entirely or largely (oops: there I go again with the weightism) responsible for their own disease. It's not true in a great many cases. My doctors, for example, have never been able to explain why I - and none of my siblings - developed the disease, but the consensus of opinions over the years has leaned increasingly towards a genetic predisposition. An accident, in other words.
The official line is that the cause of Type 1 is not yet understood.
With no sarcasm or cynicism intended, I was at my physical prime when I developed my condition. As I suspect so many people must feel, I've always felt that it was just bad luck. I feel disgruntled that it was me who developed the disease, but at the time I consoled myself with the knowledge that it could have been much, much worse. I still try to look on that positive side of this particular coin.
Please consider, then, when you hear about someone with diabetes, or you watch or read a news item about the disease, that it is not simply a condition that arises from self-neglect. Indeed, the truth is very different. Don't take for granted the stock footage of waddling bloated 'diabetics': I was a veritable racing snake when I started a personal journey without my own insulin. I know many seriously overweight people with no signs of developing diabetes. My parents both developed TYPE TWO (a very different, and much more common beastie, and usually the one linked to obesity) in their late seventies, and they both lived a healthy lifestyle. Indeed, my mum, at 86, is still going strong and making trouble.
Take a moment to educate yourself just a tiny bit about diabetes (one of the most energetically spreading diseases on the planet) so that the media coverage is not the only source of your information on the subject. This link to the Wikipedia page on the subject is as good a place as any to start with for general information. Check out the numbers: if you don't yet know someone with diabetes, you probably soon will, and that makes it even more important to educate yourself about it.