November is American Diabetes Month and November 14 is World Diabetes Day. This day and this month are important and excellent opportunities for those of us living with diabetes to help those of us living without it to better understand the disease, its costs and its challenges. Diabetes is every minute of every day for those of us living with it, but of course this is hard for people without the disease (or without a close family member that has the disease) to understand. That’s why stories are so important.
My story starts with the fact that I love basketball! And it was ultimately basketball that led to my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes when I was a 15-year-old high school sophomore. A few weeks prior to my diagnosis, I had not been well. I was skinny and losing weight, even though I ate like a horse. I was constantly thirsty even though I was drinking, literally, gallons of fluids. I was tired, listless and quickly losing my normally positive mental perspective. In short, I was a wreck!
But it wasn’t until I went out into my driveway one afternoon after school to shoot some hoops before I finally admitted that something was truly wrong. That afternoon I probably took ten or twelve shots, every single one of which was an air-ball. Every one. No rim, no net, just air. While I was never going to play in the NBA, I did know that there was no way that I was going to miss that many shots that badly unless I was either handcuffed and blind-folded, or something else was seriously wrong. So, I took my ball and walked back inside the house and told my dad that we needed to go to the hospital. Later that night I received my diabetes diagnosis.
The math is difficult to calculate, but in the close-to forty years that I have had diabetes, I estimate that I have taken somewhere on the order of 50,000 insulin injections and 85,000 finger-poke blood tests. Yes, I’m well-perforated! And I’ve also done well with the disease, knock on wood. Having diabetes has forced me to live a much more disciplined life than I would have without it. I have always been a patient advocate at some level, I think I was even mentoring younger kids living with diabetes while I was still in high school. But honestly, and not surprisingly, it was when my youngest daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes eight years ago that my diabetes and patient advocacy went into overdrive.
This November, as we recognize World Diabetes Day and American Diabetes Month, especially in the COVID-19 world we are living in, we at the Chronic Disease Coalition strongly encourage our members and friends to engage. Community for diabetes patients, family and supporters has never been more important. It’s vitally important that we are working with virtual support groups, engaging in earned media opportunities, working with legislative and congressional offices, connecting and educating via social media, and joining and supporting coalitions, among many other things. There are also so many vital issues out there right now for people with diabetes, including access to doctors, affordable insurance coverage, access to appropriate treatment options, the cost of insulin and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with diabetes.
Needless to say, it’s a complex world for those of us living with diabetes. World Diabetes Day and National Diabetes Month gives us an excellent opportunity to help unveil and explain those complexities to others. This includes communicating with policy, medical and media leaders, and in doing so, making strides toward a better life for the millions of Americans living with this disease. Please join us in these efforts! Tell your story! If you are not already a member, sign up to become a member of the Chronic Disease Coalition today. Together, let’s go make the world a little better.