It happened for the millionth time the other day. Another conversation with a person very confused about type 1 diabetes.
I was sitting at the nail salon getting my nails done, and an alarm went off on my phone — the familiar chime telling me that Kaitlyn’s blood sugar was high. The gal doing my nails asked me if I needed to get my phone from my purse, so she stopped filing my nails long enough for me to grab it and silence the alarm. I told her about Kaitlyn’s type 1 diabetes and that an alarm linked to her continuous glucose monitor (CGM) lets me know when her blood sugar is out of range. Immediately, she said, “Oh, my husband has diabetes.” Then she asked me a bunch of questions. “When did she get diabetes?” “Is she doing okay?” “Did she eat a lot of sugar when she was a baby?”
I inwardly screamed at the last question and tried (successfully, I hope) to put on a friendly face as I answered. I did my best to set her straight, explaining that no — she didn’t eat too much sugar as a baby, and that type 1 diabetes is different from type 2. It’s not caused by diet or lack of exercise. It’s an autoimmune disease. My daughter’s body just decided to stop producing insulin. She nodded, but I’m not sure she really understood or cared.
I came home that day and said a silent plea to the universe: “Please give type 1 diabetes another name!”
There is so much confusion out there about diabetes. I really can’t blame people either. How much did I know about diabetes before my nephew and then my daughter were diagnosed? Next to nothing! There’s so much in the media making it even worse too. You hear comments all the time like, “This chocolate cake is so good, it will give you diabetes,” or “Doing this exercise program will help you avoid serious problems like heart disease and diabetes.” They never mention that they’re talking about type 2 diabetes. (And even then, the jokes in particular are rarely accurate.)
Have you noticed that when you meet someone who has type 2, they never say type 2? They just say diabetes. No wonder nobody knows anything about the different types. For every person out there trying to set people straight, there are at least 10 others confusing the daylight out of people! It’s time for a change, and I feel that the way to do it is to completely separate the two diseases with different names. Maybe type 1 can become “my-pancreas-completely-stopped-producing-insulin-against-my-will-itis”?
My dad has type 2 diabetes, and he gets it. He knows that even though there are similarities in symptoms between his disease and that of his granddaughter, there are some really important differences too. He agrees that individuals and families with diabetes — type 1 and type 2 — should support each other and help others to understand and become better educated as well.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.