OPINION: Being diabetic is a medical condition, not a social one

by | Apr 7, 2020 | Opinion

Kyle Drinnan, Sports Reporter

I am a Type 1 diabetic.

When I introduce myself to people, one of the first things I mention is that I am diabetic.

I admit, it is odd that the first thing I usually tell people is my medical condition, but it’s only because people usually notice my diabetic pump around my waist.

There are a few responses I commonly get and even though I’ve been doing this routine for years, there is still one response that slightly rubs me the wrong way.

“I am sorry.”

Although I understand where they’re coming from, and for the most part it’s genuinely sincere, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t offend me a little.

It presumes I have a problem with having diabetes.

I was diagnosed when I was nine, so I can’t recall much of my life where I didn’t have diabetes. I need to make it clear: I am not a victim to this medical condition.

Like everyone else, I get up, I do what I need to do to survive, and then I fall asleep. I repeat this pattern every day, and just like everyone else, I live my life. I am no different from others who have their own issues.

What’s worse is I find some people within the diabetes community addressing it as if it’s a crutch. I remember going to organizations concerning diabetes and they usually had the same message: “don’t worry, there will be a cure in your lifetime,” or the worse response yet, “you can get over your disease.”

They made me feel like having diabetes prevented me from achieving my goals.

In Canada where there is a great healthcare system, I know I can achieve anything a non-diabetic can.  I mean, look at NHL players such as Bobby Clarke and Max Domi, they have diabetes and yet they’re still thriving. The Bruins’ Zdeno Chára was still knocking opponents into the boards at 43.

If there isn’t a cure in my lifetime, then that means I will have to live and accomplish my goals while living with the disease.

Also, I noticed If people aren’t pitying me then they’re asking me bizarre questions. Now, I don’t mind because it gives me a chance to enlighten others about diabetes.

One weird question I got last year was, “so what foods kill you?” I joked about the answer, but I was still glad I had the opportunity to correct this person who had been misinformed.

Another common question I’m usually asked is, “why are you not fat?” As someone who was underweight in high school, it was an eye opener for my classmates to know that not all people with diabetes are fat.

I think it’s very important to know there are two types of diabetes. Type 1 is when your pancreas completely stops producing insulin, and Type 2 is when there is not enough insulin produced by the pancreas.

I mention the different strains of diabetes because I think most people only know about Type 2 diabetes. Stereotypes of Type 2 diabetes include people who are not taking care of themselves.

However, there are multiple reasons for Type 2, including old age and genetics.

I now understand  why many diabetics do not openly share that they’re diabetic. There are questions some diabetics may not be prepared to answer and the ignorance can be hurtful.

I believe great work has been done to improve diabetics’ living standards, but more work has to be done on another issue, social stigma.