If I could only tell you one thing about diabetes

By | 3 August, 2011

I can talk for hours about diabetes. Literally. Get me started and I have to be forcibly removed from my soapbox at some point for the sake of other people’s sanity. In a way, it’s quite nice to have a condition that has so many variables, it’s not some boring old disease where you take a tablet twice a day and it’s all fine. Oh no, we have multitudinous things that affect our diabetes, which at least makes it vaguely interesting.

But what if I was forced to exercise a little bit of self-restraint for once? If I only had your attention for one minute before you escaped. What would I tell you about diabetes?

I could go for the basics – no produce insulin, insulin needed to convert carbohydrate into energy, no insulin no life, therefore inject insulin to stay alive.

Or the slightly more pessimistic – pancreas no work, need to regulate blood sugar manually, body doesn’t like having lots of sugar in blood, long term having blood like treacle can lead to bits dropping off or stopping working.

Or the more advanced – pancreas is lazy, I do its job by manually regulating blood sugar through monitoring carbohydrate intake and adjusting insulin injections accordingly. Mistakes are punished by low blood sugar sweating and gibbering or high sugar headaches and sickness.

Or you caught me on a bad day and I can see nothing positive about this at all – avoid at all costs, it infiltrates every minute of your waking hours and then disturbs your sleeping hours as well. It’s like a constant shadow, always there, lingering in the background, occasionally pushing its way into the foreground when it doesn’t feel it’s getting enough attention.

Or the positive – it’s a perfectly manageable condition which requires a little extra thought and planning in day to day life, but not something which should noticeably limit what you do. 

Or the brief but not very helpful – don’t get diabetes. It’s all needles, blood, sweating, nausea, embarrassing yourself in public, comatose and rotting toes.

Or the super brief but equally unhelpful – worse than a cold, not as bad as something imminently terminal like a head on car crash.

Depending on when you catch me, I could probably tell you any of the above. But if pushed, I’d likely settle for something along these lines. Your pancreas produces insulin. Mine doesn’t. I therefore do its job for it. I try to keep my blood sugar levels stable by balancing what I eat, the impact of exercise, stress, hormones and the weather against the volume of insulin I require. It doesn’t stop me doing anything, but it can be a complete nightmare at times.

What about you?

Category: Living with diabetes Tags:

About Alison

Diagnosed with Type One in 1983 at the age of four, Alison's been at this for a while now. She uses Humalog in a combined insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring system and any blood glucose meter as long as it takes five seconds or less.

7 thoughts on “If I could only tell you one thing about diabetes

  1. Annette A

    I think I’d have to add in a word about the T1/T2 difference (because I have to everytime I explain to a younger member of the family why ‘Grandad doesnt have to have injections but he’s diabetic…’)
    Maybe: My pancreas is totally broken and doesnt make any insulin at all. Without insulin my body cant use the food I eat for energy. So I have to replace it with injections/pump. Its a balancing act between the insulin I give and the food I eat and the exercise I do and the stress I’m under and other external conditions over which I have no control. Its difficult but manageable. Grandad’s (or Type 2s’, depending on who I’m talking to) pancreas still works a bit, but it needs help, so he takes tablets and might have to inject insulin in the future.
    I think I can get that out in a minute if I talk fast enough…

  2. Paul

    I go normally for a mix of the basic with the brief followed by a rant of

    “you have no idea what its like just because you watched an episode of casualty once where a diabetic truck driver caused a pile up on the M1”

    … There’s a reason why I try to avoid the subject, PR is not an inherent skill to engineers!

  3. Donald Thomson

    The main thing I would explain is: insulin lowers blood sugar and food raises it. The number of times I’ve tested my blood in the company of non-trained non-diabetics and if it’s been low they’ve always automatically said in pseudo-knowledgeable style, ‘Oh, so that means you must need some insulin’. Quite important to get that one right . . .

  4. Cecile

    Choose 1 of following:
    1)If I don’t inject insulin, I will become a skeleton.

    2)Embalm me with some insulin, or else dump rotting bits in bin.

    3)My antidotal insulin can sometimes also be poison.

  5. Megs

    On a bad day I would say

    ” do you seriously think I would have lost 75% of my sight if it was as easy as not eating chocolate”.

    On a good day a brief mixture of balancing insulin with food until their expression becomes glazed.

  6. Tim

    @megs – the not eating chocolate thing always irritates me for some reason. I then start on a more-than-one-minute lecture on how chocolate has a high fat content therefore has a low glyceamic index and therefore moderately diabetic-friendly. The eyes usually start to glaze over by that point.

    In answer to @Alison‘s original question, I don’t think it’s physically possible for me to talk about diabetes in less than minute. However, if people get away without diagrams being drawn then they’re doing well!

  7. lizz

    I must have led a charmed life – do you know (clearly you don’t so I’m going to tell you) that no-one has ever asked me anything about my diabetes or professed to know more than me or mentioned the fact I am eating something sweet when I ‘shouldn’t be’ or anything like that.

    I can only presume that the prominent gun marked ‘for people who ask idiotic questions or who just annoy me) that I wear strapped across my chest is working.


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