Tag Archives: awareness

Let’s Talk Complications

diabetes complications Last night I had the opportunity to participate in a virtual summit with some members of the DOC. When I received the invitation from Scott Johnson to join him and some people involved in Pharma and social media, at first I wasn’t sure I would fit in the group; there was to be a discussion about Diabetic Neuropathy and my reaction was “Well, I don’t have that… What kind of input could I possibly give?” —But I said yes, anyway; the conversation was eye-opening and it left me with a lot of bittersweet feelings.

I was rather grateful to be able to say that I’m free of complications, and then it hit me. Just because I’m complication-free now, it doesn’t mean the future doesn’t hold any challenges. And how well informed am I about these complications? I wouldn’t put myself in the completely ignorant category, but I’m definitely very close to it. What I know is very vague, very superficial, and usually tainted by the sensationalism of the media. Nobody wants to learn about diabetes and what it can do to your body when the first thing you see is a horrendous photo of a sick foot that most probably needs to be amputated. That’s fear-education and I avoid it like the plague. The sad part is that at some point I end up avoiding it ALL.

How many of us can say that, unless we get diagnosed with something, we actively go and look for information on a certain condition, especially a complication from diabetes? I certainly can’t! I go for my eye exam every year and I’m all happy when the doctor tells me my retina is the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen, and I leave it at that. I don’t worry about it for another year because I’m almost convinced that I’m doing all the right things to control my diabetes. After all, no complications means good control. Ummm… No, not really. We all have different bodies and this is what we were talking about last night. Some people can spend years without paying attention to their blood sugars and develop no complications. Some others can pay attention to every single thing they do and still get them.

And that is why we all should be open to:

1) learn about complications
2) talk about complications
3) approach it from an educational point of view
4) discuss it like patients, not like pharma, doctors or the media

How do complications of diabetes make us feel? What would happen if we got one? Are we prepared? Do we know how to recognize symptoms? Let’s put neuropathy as an example. I was one of those people who thought neuropathy = pain. I was wrong. It turns out I could have diabetic neuropathy as of this very moment and be completely unaware of it. Why? Because the symptoms are vague and can be related to many other conditions. Orthostatic hypotension? I have that… and it’s a symptom! Yes, quite shocking. It may not be neuropathy, but at least now I know I should pay more attention to the things my body tells me.

So, the same way we advocate for finding a cure and talk about our rights, we should be working on discussing complications openly to get rid of the stigma created by the media and other misconceptions. Knowledge is power. Shared knowledge is power.

Go Test Yourself!

A couple of weeks ago I posted something on my Facebook timeline about testing my blood sugar (Shocking! I never talk about diabetes! :P). One of the comments came from a friend who’s afraid of getting tested, even though she was told she had pre-diabetes and she has a family history. She says she’s terrified they’re going to tell her she has diabetes because her father had too many complications and she can’t deal with that. My words to her: GO TEST YOURSELF!

As scary as the thought of having diabetes is the sooner you learn you have it, the better. Sure, when you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it isn’t fun to hear you have to change your life style, prick your fingers often, stop eating anything you want, exercise and all those fun things people with diabetes have to do. Most probably your doctor will put you on a medication that can and will upset your stomach and you will wish you never took it… but test yourself! If you’re afraid of developing complications, learn the most you can as soon as you can and take control of your diabetes if you have it.

People who are afraid of getting diagnosed or who are newly diagnosed see the condition as an overwhelming burden. IT IS! However, they also believe they won’t be able to make it, they won’t be able to manage it and they will sooner or later die of horrible complications. My words to my friend were “commitment and discipline” and her response was “the two things I lack of.” —Well, she’s not the only one. I think that’s what we struggle the most with, and I think that’s the first thing we have to work on instead of making ourselves crazy with a lot of information about the condition itself. Learn how to cope, learn what is good, learn that there is support, learn that you’re not alone.

It pains me to hear a friend telling me she/he has diabetes, but they won’t tell anyone… hence they’re not taking care of it. I don’t know if it’s denial, fear or a combination of the two… but please! If your doctor tells you that you have diabetes, don’t put it on the back burner. There is a way to live a happy, healthy life with a chronic condition. You just need to be aware of it.