We are fighting with ourselves

type 1 vs type 2 war

We are at war, people!  Allow me to explain…

Earlier this week, Sara wrote a post on her blog Moments of Wonderful about a man with Type 2 diabetes that she had a conversation with and the shame that he associated with moving toward insulin-therapy in his diabetes management.

If you don’t read Sara’s blog, you should start.  She is living with type 1, and her posts vary between stories of living with diabetes and news about industry.  And like most of her posts, in the one mentioned above she did a really great job of explaining her feelings without also commanding that everyone reading agree with her. The “P.S.” from her post kind of wraps things up nicely:

I don’t think insulin = failure is an issue just for people with type 2 diabetes. I know I have been in situations where it is so tempting to compare basal rates or total daily doses with other people with type 1 when really our insulin amounts have very little to do with each other.

After reading her post on Tuesday I thought, “Yeah…you’re right Sara!  Good post.”  I walked away from my computer and went on with life.  When I returned to the Interweb, a civil war had broken out!  The war was started when the JDRF posted a link to Sara’s post.

The comments on this Facebook link were varied, but the majority of them were from people with type 1 diabetes, or with children that have type 1 diabetes and the general comment was something like, “We did nothing to deserve this like THOSE people.”

It’s ironic that Sara’s post was born from a place of acceptance and understanding and brought about more fingerpointing and misunderstanding.  I feel strongly that no person living with diabetes is responsible for having this condition.  Read that last sentence again, then stick a fork in me.

I know that many people agree with Sara and I.  Many people feel that this fight is counterproductive.  And many people feel that we need to move past this. Stick forks in all of us.

As people pointed out when commenting, type 1 and type 2 diabetes are not exactly the same, but as demonstrated by Sara explaining that all of us have different basal rates, her type 1 and my type 1 are also not exactly the same. This stuff is tricky.  It’s confusing.  And we are better off if we can all lean on one another…regardless of the number in our label.

This long civil war we’ve been fighting reminded me of a Diabetes Secret from a couple of weeks ago from a tired soldier:

It’s really time to stop fighting this war with ourselves, because at the end of it the only people that lose are people in our own army.  Allow me to quote from one of the army generals (and full-disclosure he also signs my paychecks) Manny Hernandez on the topic:

Back in the 80′s, people who were HIV/AIDS positive and negative joined together, because the stigma was affecting all of them. I recommend that everyone touched by diabetes watches the documentary “How To Survive a Plague“, so we can all get a sense of the unique challenges that this community faced and how they overcame them.

You may say: “HIV/AIDS is so different from diabetes. Diabetes is not contagious. There’s no point in comparing ourselves.” I would argue that a majority of people with diabetes live in the DIABETES CLOSET, and because of this, WE as a diabetes community, are in the DIABETES CAVE… we’re not being seen enough, all types of diabetes are not getting enough exposure, visibility, and deserved attention.

So I call a cease fire.  Everyone put away your weapons.  All is forgiven…let’s start healing.

“To a mankind that recognizes the equality of man everywhere, every war becomes a civil war.”
– Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

Diabetes is so gay.

gay bottles of insulin

To you, they might be totally different things, but hear me out. The term “that’s so gay” used to describe something stupid and the way that some people use #diabetes on Twitter or Instagram hit the same nerve with me, and I would go as far as saying that these two problems also have very similar solutions.

People saying “that’s so gay” has pretty much become synonymous with “that’s so stupid.” We live in a world (according to GLSEN) where 75% of high school students say that they have heard “that’s so gay” or “faggot” used as an insult while at school. I would guess that an additional 25% didn’t understand the question.

I can speak with authority on this after working with young people for the last decade that “good” kids with no intention of insulting their gay peers are using the term “that’s so gay” because it has become part of this generation’s daily dialect. It’s a term that’s accepted in schools. The sports field. On social media. And it’s hurtful.

Regardless of the intent of the speaker, calling something you dislike “gay” connects a group of people to something you don’t like. It’s a microaggression – a sneaky way that we passively communicate hostility toward a group of people.

Microaggression is a decent way of explaining what I feel that many people are doing when they use “#diabetes” on social media to tag photos of unhealthy food. A quick search on Instagram for the hashtag and you see that it’s equal parts people sharing their lives with diabetes and people sharing photos of unhealthy or over-indulgent food choices.

people posting fattening sugary food to instagram using #diabetes

The intention of someone adding “#diabetes” to a picture of cupcakes, for example, is to really poke fun at themselves. It’s as if they are saying, “look at the bad choices I’m about to make!” People that use this hashtag as a joke, like people using the term “gay” in the pejorative, rarely know the harm that they are doing. Like a racist joke, even if the intent of the joke-teller isn’t to cause harm, that doesn’t mean that harm wasn’t done.

The harm done by people poking fun at diabetes isn’t done to me. I understand what causes diabetes (as much as science has figured out anyway). I know that the candy bar that you take a photo of and add a hipster filter to is causing insulin-resistance as little as your bad sense of humor will.

The harm comes when someone hears for years that diabetes is a consequence of shitty choices and then he/she is diagnosed with diabetes. These jokes are the root cause of the shame-burden that newly diagnosed people with diabetes carry around…a burden that makes managing a complicated condition only more complicated.

rainbow vials of insulin from pancreassassin for diabetes art day

Photo Credit: Pancreassassin

What’s the solution? When I was working with young people and I heard one of them call something (not someONE) “gay” I let it go.  Part of me thought that the problem was just too big to tackle, while another part of me didn’t want to come off as the “word police.” Over time I started correcting word-choice when I heard a kid call something “gay” and it usually made a kid stop using the word (around me anyway).

My feelings toward the usage of #diabetes are very similar.  For the longest time I’ve thought that the problem is way to big for me to ever make a dent in, and I don’t want to be the diabetes-joke police on Instagram…but I can’t sit around and watch it any longer. Now when I come across them, I’m going to start tagging people that use #diabetes as a joke in photos of my bloody fingers, blood glucometer, insulin needles, etc.  And I’m going to say “This is what #diabetes really looks like.”

Join me.

My Diabetes Art Day Submission

Happy #DArtDay!

People all over the world are making art today to celebrate Diabetes Art Day!  The concept (brought to life by the fabulous Lee Ann Thill) is so easy.  Just make a piece of art that reflects your feelings about diabetes.  No rules beyond that.

Check out DiabetesArtDay.com and look at the submissions of others.

Here is the art that I made (click it to enlarge it):

Mike Lawson's diabetes art day submission lee ann thill dartday

Spare A Rose And Save A Child

Spare a rose save a child logo

In areas of the world, diabetes is still considered a death sentence.

For the cost of one rose ($5) you can give a child insulin for an entire month.  For the cost of a dozen roses, you can keep a child alive for an entire year.

With the Spare A Rose, Save A Child campaign, the diabetes online community is raising money for Life For a Child which is providing life-saving insulin to children in developing countries.  You can donate money today that will help children save alive.

So this Valentine’s day I ask you to spare a rose and save a child.  Instead of buying a dozen roses, buy 11 and donate the $5 you save to Life For A Child.

Go to http://www.SpareARose.org/give to donate.  You can also download and print out cards to include with the roses that let your loved one know that you donated in their honor.

If My Broken Pancreas Was On Social Media…

if my pancreas were on social media facebook diabetes

They just float around all day doing nothing. I would guess that the life of non-functioning pancreases is pretty easy.  I’m pretty sure that I can hear mine making un-funny jokes all the time about my other organs that are actually doing their jobs.  Busted pancreases are annoying.  Thank god mine doesn’t have internet access, because if he did…

line gray light faint foursquare diabetes social media pancreas humor

He would only check into ONE place on Foursquare

Why don’t you save the location-based apps for people that do exciting things?

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twitter account for my pancreas diabetes social media

His Twitter feed would be full of #HumbleBrags

I can think of a few things that I wish you were doing right now.  I don’t want to hear about how much you’re enjoying your life of leisure.

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songs lyrics posted on facebook diabetes pancreas

He would posts a lot of song lyrics

We might like this song, but reading it out of context and without the sweet guitar accompaniment, is just irritating.

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facebook to twitter sync is annoying

He has his Twitter Synched to Facebook

Hey @pancreas don’t you know that Facebook is different than Twitter? #duh

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tagged photo from instagram

He will tag you in photos that you aren’t in

Wait…were you wishing I was there?  Were you mistaken? Or is this just your obnoxious way of trying to make me look at your photo?

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annoying inspirational photos on facebook

The only photos he would post on Facebook are inspirational pictures he stole from someone else

He gets really inspired by hearing some worn out quote from Ghandi…fine.  But why do you have to post the images you stole from Pinterest to Facebook?

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diabetes jokes nobody thinks are funny

He reposts jokes that nobody thinks are funny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RIP Barbara Bancroft

brian mike and barbara diabetes aade philly 2013

Left to right: Brain, Me and Barbara at AADE 2013 in Philly

The world lost a really great woman today.

Barbara Bancroft was known to many people as jrtpup on TuDiabetes. Barbara has been a wonderful volunteer for TuDiabetes and the Diabetes Hands Foundation (my employer) where she was part of the admin team.  She frequently complimented me on the art and design I have done for the site (including the cartooned version of her below) and has put in countless hours helping shape the content of the TuDiabetes Community.

Yesterday she lost her battle with cancer and passed away with her family around her.  I hope she knows that hundreds of us had her in our thoughts as well.

Barbara treated me like a son, and it wasn’t until I started reading all of the messages from the grieving community members that I have realized that many people also considered their bond with Barbara to be extra special.

Go to TuDiabetes and share your memories, thoughts on Barbara’s influence.
rip barbara bancroft diabetes tudiabetese

The conversation on the TuDiabetes thread I linked to above is really positive, so I’m going to avoid posting the negative thoughts that I’m having there.  But Barbara’s passing does remind me of something that I’ve been thinking of lately and I’ll share it here.  I feel that my bullshit reward for taking care of my diabetes, in the way that Barbara so diligently took care of her diabetes, is that I will get to die the “regular” way.  And that’s not encouraging at all.

Late last year when diabetes advocate Emilio Fernandez died in a car accident I had similar feelings.  While I didn’t know Emilio in the same way that I know and love Barbara, it’s just a startling reminder that life is short and fleeting despite how well you take care of your diabetes. Living with a chronic condition is relentless, and at times like this I feel that we never really win.

Sorry for the bleak post.  Now I’m going to go celebrate the awesomeness of @jrtpup with my TuDiabetes friends.

People With Diabetes and Flu Shots

text message about diabetes and flu shots

If you have diabetes you have certainly been nagged at by your doctor to get a flu shot.  We’ve all heard it a million times.  People with diabetes must get a flu-shot or the world will start spinning in the opposite direction.

But why?

According to this Canadian Study, people with diabetes are 6% more likely to get hospitalized for the flu.

“This increased risk [for hospitalization] is small, but nonetheless is justification for targeting adults with diabetes to get vaccinated,” said Johnson, director of the Alliance for Canadian Health Outcomes Research in Diabetes at the University of Alberta.

Is a tiny increased risk of hospitalization worth it to you?  And how effective is the flu-vaccine anyway?  According to the Center For Disease Control, it’s close to impossible to measure exactly how effective a vaccine is…but they do say this:

While determining how well a flu vaccine works is challenging, in general, recent studies have supported the conclusion that flu vaccination benefits public health, especially when the flu vaccine is well matched to circulating flu viruses.

Kelly Rawlings wrote an article for Diabetes Forecast that has some flu-fighting tips for people living with diabetes.  Kelly suggests getting the vaccine for much of the same reasons that the Canadian study pointed out.  It’s also well into flu-season and I still haven’t received the vaccination.  So I’m wondering if it’s too late.  According to Kelly’s article, however, getting the shot even after the beginning of flu season is better than going without.

I have a doctor’s appointment in February and I will ask for my doctor’s advice then…but I feel that if I haven’t had the flu by then, perhaps the vaccine won’t be worth it.

Late last week I sent a Tweet out asking people in the online community if they get a flu-shot and why or why not.  The responses were very varied.  Plenty of people believe in getting the flu-shot:

And other people expressed that they didn’t feel that the flu-shot did them any good:

Do you get the flu-shot?  Why or why not?

Diabetes Art Day 2014 is coming!

diabetes art day logo lee ann thill art therapyDiabetes Art Day is so close I can taste it!

I’m a huge fan of the work that Lee Ann Thill does.  She’s a diabetes advocate and art therapist that started Diabetes Art Day in 2010 to encourage people touched by diabetes to engage in creative visual expression to communicate their experience with diabetes, connect with others and to raise awareness.

Diabetes Art Day this year is February 3rd.  All you have to do is make a piece of art that reflects something about diabetes that you want to share.  Then submit it to DiabetesArtDay.com.

I have found the experience of creating diabetes-art to be very therapeutic.  In fact, in recent years I’ve been surprised at how emotional some of this has been for me.  A couple of years ago I made this video of my experience:

mike lawson diabetes art day art done with syringe for insulinIf you plan on taking part in Diabetes Art Day this year, you could also help out by taking this pre-survey which will help Lee Ann study the effects of Diabetes Art Day.

The survey is a PRE and POST survey…so you have to give your email address so there can be a follow-up.  But filling out the survey doesn’t mean a hard commitment to participating in the art day.  JUST DO IT!

Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Bicycling For Better Blood Sugar

It is a new year, but that has nothing to do with my new resolutions to do better for my body.

Really.

Nothing.

I’m serious.  But…since you brought it up, let me tell you about my new resolutions.

Bicycling my way to better blood sugar diabetesFor starters, I bought a new (to me) bike.  It’s an old Schwinn Traveler from the late 80s.  Baby blue.  Adorable.  All fixed up and ready to ride.

I live about 2 miles from the office and have started biking into work each morning.  I haven’t noticed tons of differences in my blood sugar just yet.  But the benefits are already starting to roll in.

REASONS I LOVE BIKING TO WORK:

  • I get here faster.
  • I don’t feel tired when I get home at night.
  • I’m helping others by staying off the crowded bus/BART.
  • I feel more focused in the mornings at the office (this could also do with the standing thing I talk about below).

I’m notorious for getting really excited about new things (exercise routines, diets, reality TV shows) and then ditching them in a few weeks after the shiny outer layer is worn off.  So far, however, I’m looking at this as a new part of my lifestyle instead of a passing thing.  Ask me in a week.

standing desk setup at office diabetesI have also been getting really excited about the standing desk setup that I’ve created at work.  I read somewhere on the internet (so it must be true) that SITTING IS THE NEW SMOKING.  So I threw a bookshelf on its side and now I stand all day at work.

I do sit down during my lunch break and sometimes during meetings.  I find myself zoning out significantly less than I used to when I was hunched over in my chair.  And the fatigue at the end of that day is really minimal.

REASONS I LOVE MY STANDING DESK:

  • My after-lunch slump is doesn’t bring me all the way down to near-coma levels.
  • My creativity levels are higher. I even draw while standing.
  • I can self-righteously leave the office every day feeling like I just did a workout.
  • I get more Fitbit steps in since I’m constantly dancing and walking in place.

So there are my two new lifestyle changes that I’ve made…coincidentally at the beginning of this new year.  My birthday is in March; check back then to see if I’m still with it.

I wish my Pebble Smartwatch Integrated With my Dexcom

the pebble smartwatchI’m a new Pebble Smartwatch user.

If you’re not familiar, the Pebble is a wristwatch that you wear that wirelessly communicates with your iPhone or Android phone and all of your phone’s alerts will pop-up on the watch.  The project started from a Kickstarter campaign and is slowly seeping it’s way into the techier corners of our world.

I know that Diabetes Wonderwoman Cherise has one too.

There are a dozen reasons I love this thing.  And I don’t want to bore you with all of them here (the short list includes being able to see my text messages without taking out my iPhone in sketchy neighborhoods or on the train; I can control the music that’s playing on my iPhone while it’s in my pocket; and I can pay attention to everything that is in front of me without getting distracted by incoming messages that aren’t worth my time).  There is one diabetes-related thing that I wish the Pebble would do, but it’s more of an iPhone/Dexcom integration issue.

Dexcom patent smartphone integrationDexcom, the maker of continuous glucose monitors, announced last week that they had filed a patent for a system that would integrate my smartphone and my Dexcom device.  This is good news for people that don’t love carrying around their CGM receivers.  My friend Donna can’t seem to take a taxi cab without leaving her receiver in it, so this technology will benefit these types of people immensely.

One of the images that was used in the patent application (to the left) also includes notifications that seem a bit smarter than the normal CGM.  Things like “you’re starting to go high” or “it looks like you are going to go low in 10 minutes.”

This is an exciting idea.  I do know, however, that the FDA “roadblocks to new technology” or “regulations to keep the public safe” depending on which camp you’re in, are big and really difficult to clear.  I wouldn’t guess that this technology is super close to market.  But it’s an exciting prospect nonetheless.

The additional benefit, in my opinion, is that as my phone is becoming an invisible technology that sits in my pocket and is checked up on using a secondary screen (in my case my Pebble Smartwatch), I will be able to also see the alerts coming from an integrated continuous glucose system.

Pebble smartwatch integrated with dexcom continuous glucose monitor

This is just a mock-up version of a Dexcom alert that could possible be part of an integrated system. Someday.

Right now I’m loving how the Pebble is allowing me to avoid looking at my iPhone.  When I’m biking, I can see what text messages come in.  When I’m sitting in meetings I hate being rude and pulling out my phone and the Pebble allows me to avoid that.  And I’m even seeing an improvement in my normal workflow…sitting at my desk I can (without ever taking my fingers off of my keyboard) see what emails come in and decide if it’s worth clicking over to my inbox to deal with them at the moment.

The benefits this new technology has brought me will be only magnified when (if?) Dexcom clears the FDA and can start bringing me my CGM alerts directly to my phone.

As people with diabetes, we frequently dream about technology that would make our lives better.  For different reasons (regulations, cost, disinterest from industry) we conclude that these dreams are just that…dreams.  With the Dexcom patent application, however, I feel like this one desire could be close.

Calloused Fingers Crossed!