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Before we divulge you to you the common misconceptions, and futile myths that surround both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, I would like to state that I do not have diabetes. However, I have both family and friends who have lived and currently live with diabetes.
To put it briefly, diabetes is a condition where the body is deficient in producing that all important insulin to regulate our blood sugar. People without diabetes can experience hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), however, there seems to be more leeway, whereas if a diabetic’s moves only a fraction, they can find themselves unable to move, talk, or even function properly, until given a substantial amount of sugar to regulate themselves. Type 1 diabetes mainly occurs in childhood, and even in some cases of pregnant women, where the body doesn’t produce any insulin at all, having the body becoming known as ‘insulin-dependent’. However, Type 2 occurs in later life, and one of the causes can be attributed to an severely unhealthy diet and lack or no exercise. This type can be controlled by a healthy lifestyle, and has sometimes been known to ‘treat’ or ‘cure’ the condition, if maintained.
My first encounter with someone suffering from diabetes was when I had a friend at the age of 14 suffering from Type 1, starting from the tender age of nine. As far as I was aware, from what I had been told about the illness and learned in Biology at school, was that the body’s pancreas was deficient in producing insulin, which is vital for the stability of your internal physiology. People say you can’t eat
sweets or chocolate, a devastating realisation for a major sweet-toothed child. You will be deprived of sugar for the rest of your life! You will never be able to enjoy to the soul-fulfilling taste of chocolate ever again! You won’t be able to sip those fizzies that have been damned to rot your teeth. And to a certain extent this may be true for someone suffering from diabetes, but don’t be fooled by the whispers you hear about those poor people deprived from the delights of confectionary.
And like many, I also believed this for a number of years, purely because I had never come across anyone living with it at the time. But now, knowing several people living with both Type 1 and 2 diabetes, you somehow get used to them pricking their finger to test their blood sugar before and after every meal. Not all diabetics do this as regularly as they should. However, they don’t have to.
One thing you’ll learn is that there seem to be different approaches to how people handle their diabetes. There are some who seem to be a bit more careful about what they eat and drink, and those who go straight ahead and dig into their food, and shoot up with some insulin afterwards. It’s not to say that they don’t take their diabetes seriously, but more that they know what they are and aren’t allowed to have, and also how much they can consume, so they have one less thing to worry about.
Diabetics have options such as regular daily injections of insulin, or the pump, both, a matter of preference. Whilst it can be said that the pump allows people to watch their blood sugar levels closely, as well as being constantly monitored and also just easier to handle, there are some people that prefer the injections, because they seemingly find it less annoying and fiddly compared to the pump. Again, all a matter of preference.
Whilst some may find it a little strange to see their friend excuse themselves to the bathroom, only for them to conceal a needle in there with them, it really isn’t a big deal. You get used to the the sugar-free chocolate and sweeteners.
People living with diabetes are happy to tell you about it. And whilst, yes, at the beginning, you might find it a little weird to get your head round. Soon, you won’t think twice about them blood-testing themselves when you’re at work in the staffroom.
People take widely different attitudes to how they control their diabetes, with some being a little more careful about it than others, but they know what they’re doing and know what’s best for their bodies. They know the consequences if they don’t, so it’s something they, and you, can be smart about, and know what signs to look out for.
So whilst part of you may feel sorry for your friends because they can’t eat a whole bar of dairy milk chocolate, just keep in mind, there are just as good alternatives, like sugar-free or reduced sugar chocolate. Diabetes may seem a bit alien to many, but if people don’t tell you they’re diabetic- you wouldn’t have a clue.