Over the past couple of days I have read posts about a new petition going around to change the names of diabetes type 1 and type 2. You can read two of those posts here http://tminustwo.net/2013/04/15/association/ and here http://www.thebuttercompartment.com/?p=6908.
Intro to the petition:
We are two moms who’s lives were turned upside down when our sons were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Our sons face this life-threatening disease with strength, courage and perseverance despite being subjected on a daily basis to ignorance and misconceptions. It is with their future in mind that we file this petition to bring clarity to two very different diseases – Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. The facts surrounding both of these conditions are increasingly confused by the media. Revising the names to more accurately reflect the nature of each disease would alleviate the confusion and would not only benefit those living with both diseases, but it would allow awareness to be raised in a clear manner. We hope that you will join us in this effort.
I understand that those with type 1 diabetes are annoyed when the public assumes they have diabetes because they are fat and did not take good care of themselves. I know for a fact, because I have been there, that many people in the public, as well as in medical institutions, do not fully understand what diabetes is, how it is treated, or what causes it.
The petition says that type 1 and type 2 are really two very different conditions. Okay. I suppose there are differences. Type 1’s have no natural insulin production and must take insulin in order to survive. Type 1 is caused by an autoimmune response that destroyed the beta cells in the pancreas that produces insulin.
Type 2s often have too much insulin circulating in the blood stream, causing a condition known as insulin resistance. Type 2s do not take insulin, but are given oral medications that help the body make more insulin or use it more effectively. No one knows for sure what causes type 2, but believe it has to do with excess body weight (which can be caused, ironically enough, by too much insulin in the bloodstream).
Taken at face value, yes, type 1 and type 2 are different conditions. However, both conditions require dietary changes. Both conditions result in the same rise of blood sugar that can lead to complications such as blindness, amputations, and death. Both conditions are life altering.
As with any medical condition, there are also blurred lines. What about adults who are diagnosed with type 1, a condition that is traditionally juvenile onset? What about teens who are diagnosed with type 2, a condition that is traditionally adult onset? What about those with latent onset type 1, those whose condition acts like type 2 for a while, but then becomes type 1 in time?
There are misconceptions out there. The media seems to think that only fat people get diabetes (as discussed in my previous post Diabetes at the Movies/on Television). I’m sure this is a terrible thing for young kids with type 1 to have to live with, explaining why they are not fat or that the condition is not their fault. The funny thing is, insulin is a hormone that promotes the storing of fat. There are fat type 1s out there. And fat type 2s. But there are also those genetic freaks who never seem to gain weight for any reason. Some of those are type 2s.
Do I know what it feels like to be accused of causing my own life altering medical condition? Do I know what it feels like to have people judge me before they even know anything about me? Do I know what it is like to feel misunderstood and lacking in empathy because of the media’s perception of my condition?
Probably better than any of those type 1s.
Because my diagnosis says type 2, does that make me more deserving of the pre-judgement? Does it make me less deserving of compassion?
I live everyday with the same things those two boys live with with only a few, superficial, differences.
I have no functioning beta cells.
I have to count my carbs.
I have to check my blood sugars five to ten times a day.
I have to deal with energy sucking lows and complication causing highs.
I have to wear a pump to infuse insulin each day, every day, day and night.
I have insulin resistance.
I am obese.
I am type 2.
You would think that when someone is afflicted with a life altering illness, they would want to reach out to others who know what they are going through and can share that journey with them. Instead, we are all so busy pointing fingers and discriminating that we cannot find equal footing. There are no perfect little boxes we can fit everyone inside of. I do not fit into the typical type 2 box and I am sure there are type 1s out there who do not fit into their perfect boxes (such as those with insulin resistance).
It is the media that is creating this division, this stereotype that somehow none of us really fit into. But it is well meaning caregivers, angry and frustrated patients, and misinformed medical personnel who are perpetuating it.