Wear blue to support American Diabetes Month

Jon Chapman, Contributing writer

Do you know someone with Diabetes? Do you know the difference between Type 1 and Type 2? Diabetes impacts so many more people than you may think, even people around you. People you may know and love, or even people you pass in the hallway may be living with Diabetes. It is not a very visible disease, and most endure the consequences of it in silence. It does not discriminate, affecting people of all ages, races, religions and identities. It is a disease that is commonly known but less often understood. November is American Diabetes Month. According to the CDC, approximately 37.3 million Americans have Diabetes. This encompasses both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes and affects one in ten, including me. I have had Type 1 for about eight years now, and I have been shocked to find how little people seem to know about it as a whole. No, I did not have too much sugar as a kid, and no, I cannot prevent or get rid of it with physical activity. While Type 2 is preventable, Type 1 is not. This is a very important distinction, and one that far too many seem to miss. Type 1 diabetics are completely dependent on insulin. I get regular doses of insulin before/after every meal, and I am constantly trying to adjust my blood sugar levels. I track my glucose numbers with my CGM (continuous glucose monitor), which sits on my arm most of the time. I wear multiple devices, as my insulin pump typically rests on one of my sides. Diabetes treatment has become quite technological, getting smarter and more advanced every year. There are even prototypes of the artificial pancreas being tested currently, and eventually, I will likely have one! Type 2 diabetics typically require weekly shots and blood sugar checks, and they are normally recommended to drink diet soda and consume foods/drinks with low sugar and fat content. Although November is American Diabetes month, it is important to recognize that for some, like myself, the disease is ever present. For many years I have worked closely with the Buffalo branch of JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) to raise awareness in my local community. I have led fundraisers at many schools and businesses, and I have attended the annual walk with a team many times. I am lucky to be surrounded by supportive and eager friends and family, but not all patients are afforded that luxury. That is why donating to JDRF and other organizations like the American Diabetes Association and the International Diabetes Foundation is so important, and we need to ensure that all patients are cared for and properly treated. There are a myriad of complications that can arise with Diabetes, and it can take a toll on many other body functions. Some diabetics go blind, lose fingers/toes or limbs, and some even experience DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis) or diabetic comas. Many of these issues are life-threatening, and Diabetes can be much more serious than is generally thought. Raising awareness is about more than educating others on the disease and how it operates. It is also important to shed light on the steadily growing issue of medication availability and affordability. Specifically in the United States, it is increasingly difficult for millions of patients to afford the life-saving insulin they need. Some have even taken such drastic measures as traveling to Canada or Mexico for cheaper insulin, sometimes in bulk. Considering the very obvious need for accessible and affordable insulin, it is frustrating to observe government officials and leaders of major insulin corporations actively sit back and ignore it. Unfortunately, there is very little progress being made on this issue. I am struck with an acute disconcerting feeling when I think that I may have to struggle financially simply for having a disease I cannot control. It is a very disappointing reality, but over a million diabetics have to ration their insulin. It simply cannot be overstated how badly changes are needed, and how necessary it is that people understand the severity of this problem. It is an even scarier situation when considering all the insurance issues with covering pumps and devices, as well as government officials (past and present), and even a president attempting to remove coverage of pre-existing conditions. The ACA (Affordable Care Act) was contested and recommended for invalidation under the previous administration, and if something so destructive can be done so easily, how can patients with Diabetes be sure they can stay healthy, or even alive? There are so many reasons to get behind American Diabetes Month, and there are so many ways to show your support, it can be large or small! The color for diabetes is blue—it can be as simple as painting your nails or wearing blue any day of the week! It is necessary to further diabetes awareness in any way possible, and no gesture of support goes unappreciated! So move all of your blue clothes to the top drawer and support diabetics this November!