The debate rages over what to call the “pancreatically challenged.”
William Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I guess that means that a “diabetic” by any other name would taste just as sweet … at least to a vampire!
For as long as I can remember, the debate has raged over the appropriateness of referring to someone living with diabetes as a “diabetic.” The acronym PWD (person with diabetes) has become a popular alternative in recent years. Personally, I don’t have a problem with being called a diabetic. I think of myself as a member of a large, dynamic, and influential community … sort of like being called a Democrat or a Republican. I just wish the term “diabetic” could differentiate between the type 1 and type 2 communities, since they are in many ways so different.
In fact, I take pride in being recognized as someone who lives with diabetes. It means I’ve managed to do what I do and accomplish what I’ve accomplished while also tending to a challenging chronic illness – similar to how we tend to look more favorably on an athlete who has overcome a physical disability to excel in his or her chosen sport. So if being called a “diabetic” creates that type of favorable impression, I’m all for it.
Of course, I can understand the view from the other side of the aisle as well. Most of us detest labels, especially when they lead to an antiquated, prejudiced point of view. Let’s use a political analogy again: Many people, especially those who have not taken the time to get to know the individuals behind the parties, envision all Democrats as one kind of generalization, and Republicans as another kind of generalization. Those who don’t understand the ins and outs of diabetes might view a “diabetic” as someone who simply made poor lifestyle choices. Of course, in the vast majority of cases, nothing could be further from the truth.
The beauty of our society is that everyone is supposed to be treated equally and without prejudice. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Members of a minority group such as “diabetics” are, in my opinion, too often frowned upon and denied access to fair opportunities. In almost all cases, this type of prejudice is the result of ignorance.
The way to overcome ignorance is through education. Don’t hesitate … rather, GO OUT OF YOUR WAY … to teach those around you about diabetes. Pick your moments of course. Before lunch, when you’re checking your blood sugar, is probably a better time than late in the day when everyone is stressed about meeting a deadline. Explain how you developed diabetes and that it is not contagious. Describe the “balancing act” of carbs, insulin, and physical activity that you must perform on a daily basis. Convey how it feels to have high blood sugar or low blood sugar, and why it is important to manage it as well as possible. I emphasize that with proper care, diabetes should not get in the way of anything I set out to do.
And don’t forget to set a good example. If you want to create the right impression, take proper care of yourself and be proud! That’s what makes a “diabetic” look, smell, taste, feel, and sound as sweet as ever. That’s my opinion, what’s yours?
Gary Scheiner, MS, CDE*, is a Certified Diabetes Educator and Masters-Level Exercise Physiologist who has lived with type 1 diabetes for more than twenty-eight years. He was named 2014 Diabetes Educator of the Year by the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and has written six books, including Think Like A Pancreas. Scheiner and his clinical staff provide diabetes management consultations worldwide via phone and the Internet through his practice, Integrated Diabetes Services. Scheiner is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience