Friday, November 03, 2006

National Diabetes Month

As a health care professional and a mother of a child with diabetes, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this is National Diabetes Month. Yep, that's right, every year in November.

So, where are all the, um, is it gray ribbons? (Are you sensing my sarcasm here.) You see, because I am a nurse, I will often come to work and find a little ribbon or pin on my desk to wear to show awareness of a certain disease or awareness of child or spousal abuse or whatever. In November...nothing.

To be honest, November was almost over last year before I found out it was NDM. Honestly, 9 years of nursing and I'd never even heard of it before. I was still very new to this disease last November. I was still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my 3 year old has a chronic disease. (Wow, it still hurts just to type that.)

This year, I knew from day 1, but still, nothing had really changed from last year. Last month was National Breast Cancer Month. Pink ribbons were everywhere. (I received a pink ribbon and a pink bracelet for October, by the way.) I saw several pink products in stores (candles, etc.) that if you purchased, a certain percentage of what you paid would go to breast cancer research. You don't know how many times I thought, "Wow, I'd like to know who's in charge of all this". I'd love to talk to them about diabetes.

Don't get my wrong. Breast cancer awareness is very, very important. And, because of this wonderful campaign, I'm sure some women's lives have been saved. I don't want to take anything away from other diseases. But, I want diabetes to have it's day (or month) in the spotlight too.

Is this so wrong of me? The problem is, what do I do about it? I mean, I'm just a mom with a little blog who loves my son (and the others I've met with this disease). I'm not a national corporation with lots of money and lots of pull.

Maybe it's the nurse in me, but I believe education means power. You can't fight a disease if you don't know anything about it. You can't have compassion about it, if you don't know what people with that disease struggle with on a daily basis.

There are a few problems with this, however. For one thing, I think diabetes isn't seen as being so bad. I mean, it doesn't kill you, right? (Sarcasm again there.) That's what most people think. Most people think it's a pain in the butt to deal with and well, the daily shots and finger pricks are just horrible. [If I hear, " I couldn't do that to my child" one more time, I will just scream. Come on people yes you would do that (stick them with needles several times a day) because you have to. If you don't, they would die. Sorry, that's another post, I think.]

Also, I think people that live with this disease on a daily basis, don't want to draw attention to themselves. Not that they are ashamed of what they have, but that they are just living their life, focusing on what they have to do to survive. Not thinking about what might be down the road, focusing on the here and now. Some are focusing on the cure in the future, but will that cure come without educating the general public as to why they should donate to that cure?

Or maybe it's because people think it could be much worse. Riley could, God forbid, have terminal cancer. But, you know what? He also could go into a diabetic coma and die at the age of 4. He could have a seizure from a low and suffer brain damage. He could suffer a hypo in his sleep and never wake up again. While all of that was very painful to type (I'm crying now), it doesn't change the fact that every word I just typed is very, very true.

While I was researching for Walk of Hope, there was one statistic that stuck in my mind and it's one that still haunts my thoughts every once in a while. It came from the JDRF site. I don't remember it word for word, but it was something along the lines of "Most people who live with Type 1 diabetes will have complications from the disease after 20 years." Of course, that sounds bad, just by itself. But, when I put it on a personal level, it hits me right in the gut. Riley was 3 when he was diagnosed. That means that, statistically, by the time he's 23, he'll have some form of complication from this stupid disease. 23. Just finishing college, just really starting to live. That doesn't mean he will, but the odds are not in his favor. Even with a normal A1C, his sugar still runs high after eating. While insulin is great, it is not the real thing and does not work as quickly as we would like. That is why I try not to check Riley's sugar too soon after eating. Those high numbers are just too hard to swallow.

See, these are the things the public needs to know. But, one last problem with that. The general public just doesn't care. We are all so wrapped up in our own lives that other people's problem aren't hardly even a blip on our radar screen. For example, a year and half ago, I wouldn't have been nearly as passionate about it as I am now.

That's why the breast cancer campaign is so great. It was kind of shoved down everyone's throats (in a nice way of course). You have no way to avoid it. It's in the forefront in October. It's in the media. It's even in the grocery store on some of the foods you buy. (ever seen pink M&Ms?)

That's what I want for diabetes. If I have to shove it down people's throats, I don't care. I'll be sure that they don't choke on it, of course, but, by goodness, they need to know what millions of people live with on a daily basis. People need to know why they should do something to help them.

Like I said before, I'm just a little ol' mom with a little 'ol blog. But, I'm going to do what I can. I am going to post a picture of the diabetes ribbon and encourage you to do the same on your blog. I'm not sure if you'll be able to copy it off of my blog. If not, you can go here and get it like I did.

But, don't just copy it and place it there just so people can look at it. I encourage each and every one of you, in honor of this month, to write a personal post about what diabetes is to you. Why it is so important for the public to get involved with fighting this disease too.

It has to start with us. We have to care enough about ourselves or our children to want to make people listen to us. Make them understand why this is so important.

So, post the ribbon. Also, ask others to post it on their blogs. Let's spread this outside of the OC. I know other people read some of your blogs that don't have D and they have blogs of their own. If you are reading this blog for some reason and you have a blog of your own, even if you have nothing to do with diabetes, please post it on your blog and at least mention that it's National Diabetes Month. If someone would like to make a donation in honor of National Diabetes Month then here are a few links: The Iacocca Foundation and JDRF are for Type 1 D and The ADA cover both Type 1 and Type 2.

Thank you in advance for doing this.

One of my favorite songs of the moment is "Waiting on the World to Change" by John Mayer. Every time I hear it, I think of diabetes.

Waiting on the World to Change by John Mayer

me and all my friends, we're all misunderstood
they say we stand for nothing, and there's no way we ever could

now we see everything that's going wrong with the world and those who lead it
we just feel like we don't have the means to rise above and beat it

so we keep waiting, waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change

it's hard to beat the system when we're standing at a distance,

so we keep waiting, waiting on the world to change
now, if we had the power to bring our neighbors home from war
they would have never missed a Christmas, no more ribbons on their door
and when you trust your television, what you get is what you got
cause when they own the information, oh, they can bend it all they want

that's why we're waiting, waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change

it's not that we don't care, we just know that the fight ain't fair
so we keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change

one day our generation is gonna' rule the population
so we keep on waiting, waiting on the world to change

I, for one, am sick of waiting. Are you?

(**side note: blogger is once again being very uncool this morning and not letting me post my ribbon.. the ribbon will be forthcoming. Until then, use my link and try to post it on your blog. Maybe you'll have more luck than me. Blogger just doesn't like me. I'm trying not to take it personally.)


Penny Ratzlaff said...

Thank you for the link. I had never heard of the Unite for Diabetes Campaign. I encourage everyone to check it out.

Brittney said...

Thought I'd let you know I got the ribbon up on my site. :-) Thanks for getting it started. I'm going to add links to ADA and the like later. Once I figure out how I want to do it!

BTW--my father thought it was cool you used his picture.


Anonymous said...

Sorry Penny, I had already done most of my post before I read yours. I know mine was not a personal story but I hope it helps someone just the same. Keep up the good work, you are awesome.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Penny, I had already done most of my post before I read yours. I know mine was not a personal story but I hope it helps someone just the same. Keep up the good work, you are awesome.

Anonymous said...

penny,Thank you for this post. I have a three year old that has been having higher blood sugars, but not diagnostic criteria for diabetes at this point. I am a type 1 of 15 years. The overwhelming idea of diabetes in my three year old, the unforgiving nature of this disease, was revealed much more truly than living for 15 years with it ever has for me. I will definitely write my piece on diabetes.

Anonymous said...

yes I am sick of waiting! I wish it would just all go away! I wanna live my life not going aroudn worrying about my blood sugar level all the darn time it gets in the way! good song. your post was inspirational!

Anonymous said...

Hi Penny,
I'm currently a Trainee Enrolled Nurse with a 13 year old daughter with Type 1 and a 11 year old son developing it. An RN Educator said last week that my daughter must be really bad if she is on a pump and tests for ketones via blood. That was after the week before she told me that I gave her too much sugar to give her D. I told her she should know better than that!!!!