When my son was diagnosed with diabetes 3 years ago, I knew nothing about it. I mean NOTHING. I knew a couple of relatives who had diabetes (which I later found out was type 2), but I had never really dealt with it on a personal level. I quickly realized that the little I thought I knew was not at all what I was going to be dealing with.
When I tell people that my son has diabetes, most of them have reactions that show me I was not alone in my presumptions. Many people make assumptions about him (or us as parents) and some even go so far as to tell us what we should be doing to “fix” it.
Here are the 5 main things that people generally seem to believe about diabetes:
- He must have been eating poorly and not getting any exercise. While doing those things certainly can be unhealthy, type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with what you eat, do, don’t eat or don’t do. In fact, the cause is still unknown. The most commonly accepted theory is that it’s an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks the insulin producing cells in the pancreas until the pancreas can no longer make insulin.
- He’s too young to have Diabetes. Many people seem to think young children can’t have diabetes. I was in the hospital with my son about a year and a half ago (not diabetes related) and a nurse came into our room to check him and noticed his insulin pump. She asked what it was and Jordan told her it was his pump. She replied, “but you’re too young for that.” He looked almost offended and shot back, “no I’m not. I’m FOUR.” Most people with type 1 are diagnosed when they are children. There have even been cases of babies under a year old being diagnosed.
- But he looks so healthy. This is related to #1. People expect to visually be able to point out the child who has diabetes. There is an assumption that he will be overweight or lazy. He’s not, if you were told one of the kids in his class has diabetes, you wouldn’t be able to pick him out just by looking at the class.
- He can’t/ shouldn’t eat sugar. Wrong. He can eat anything anyone else eats. The only difference is he has to manually check his blood sugar level and give himself insulin to process the carbohydrates he is eating. Our bodies do that for us automatically. There are also times when he NEEDS to eat sugar or he could lose consciousness.
- He’ll grow out of it. There are certain types of diabetes that you can reverse if you change your diet and exercise habits. Type 1 is not that type. He will have diabetes for the rest of his life and no amount of routine, dieting or exercise will change that.
Diabetes is becoming more common all the time. If you meet someone who has diabetes remember, they deal with it every day. They know what it’s all about and they know how to manage their diabetes. They didn’t do anything to cause it, it just happened, all of a sudden, for no apparent reason and they’re doing their best to handle it.