On Tuesday morning, I read a post by the “Diabetes Dad”, Tom Karlya, reminding his readers that November is not a month for the diabetes community, but rather, it is a month for those unaware of the in’s and out’s that is living with this disease. He pointed out that this is a month for those that “know nothing”, and urged people to focus on making those without the knowledge more aware.
Though I appreciate and applaud his call for diabetes-awareness foot soldiers, I can’t help but think that there are a LOT of people living with diabetes that definitely do not know enough. There are plenty of individuals, both T1 and T2, who are in serious need of a little diabetes education themselves. This is something that not only disappoints me, but scares me deeply as well. I recognize that there is absolutely a lack of education that our health care providers receive regarding diabetes, so I understand the shortcomings these often uninformed and under-prepared professionals are responsible for. Yet, I also recognize that the reason I know so much about my condition is because I have sought the information for myself. At the end of the day, I’m troubled by the reality that the information available isn’t efficiently getting to the people who need it most.
While working my side gig as an event bartender last night, I had the pleasure of meeting an older gentleman who is living with Type 2 diabetes. As I offered him a beverage, he turned down any alcohol, letting me know that he hasn’t had a drink in his life! I instantly confessed to him that, although I happen to occasionally work behind a bar, I am not really a big drinker myself! I followed by my usual joke that, when faced with the choice, I’d rather eat a hot fudge sundae than have a beer. (Which 99% of the time is totally true!)
He smiled and told me, “Oh me too, but my sugars wouldn’t like that to much!”. To that I replied, “Oh me neither! That’s why I’m glad I always have a plan in place for exceptions and special treats.” In that moment, as I gestured to the insulin pump clipped to the back of my apron, I saw the look in his eyes that indicated he had just realized he was in the presence of another diabetic. After that, I became the flame and he was a moth looking for the diabetes connection that I was so happy to give him.
We chatted a bit, and he talked about his health experiences. He told me about his doctors, what they had been telling him at appointments lately, and I followed by asking him some d-related questions. It’s not that he knew nothing at all, or that he was in any immediate danger based off of his treatment plan, but, I began to think about how lucky I was that I have all this diabetes information swimming around in my head; information I knew he could not possibly have himself. I was once again reminded that I am SO fortunate to be part of a generation where I can utilize the internet for my own health-related benefits. I only wish that everyone living today had the same capacity to find help online.
I wanted to give him a small piece of what I feel when I am offered the peer support that I love and speak about so much. Sure, we don’t live with the same type of diabetes, but our levels of understanding were nowhere near each other, and I felt a sense of duty to try my best to help. This lack of information is something I come across, both online and in real life, all too often. Some of the questions posed on forums and in discussions make my eyes bug out of my head. It’s just too hard to believe that a person can be SO in the dark about a condition they must deal with every hour of every day for the rest of their lives.
So let us remember, that although spreading awareness and understanding throughout the non-diabetes world is SO vital and important – especially during the month of November, we must not forgot those within the tribe that need a little more information themselves. If you have any confidence in the things that you know, don’t be afraid to lend a helping hand to a fellow PWD. Never underestimate the power of being an empathetic listener for another. Perhaps they don’t even know the questions to ask to receive the help that they need, but sometimes just being there for them could inspire that person to seek the answers for themselves. Know and recognize that you have the power to make an impact. Be the flame for the lost and lonely moths.