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World Diabetes Day: Why It Matters

Updated on November 15, 2018
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

World Diabetes Day: It Matters

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Will There Be A Cure?

I remember a friend of mine and I were talking a few months back. She was telling me that she was thinking about buying her 14-year-old son, who's my warrior buddy with diabetes, a sweatshirt that said something to the effect of "I'm the proud owner of a useless pancreas."

I love that she and her son, while they take his diabetes seriously (who wouldn't?), do approach it with some humor. It's an often-misunderstood condition that will require a lifetime of management, and sometimes, especially when you're young, you may not necessarily understand fully why certain measures need to be taken in order to properly manage your disease. My warrior buddy has woken up so disoriented from the things diabetes puts his body through - low insulin, low blood sugars, and high blood sugars, among other things - that he's had to be reminded of where he is. Being a teenager, his hormones are all over the map, and this, too, can have an impact on how diabetes affects his daily life. Sometimes, his insulin pump might have some sort of issue, and this can also make him quite ill. Some or all of this can happen from one day to the next and yet, he is one of the most positive people I know.

I don't know if I could live with diabetes, but then, I don't know any different. Outside of diabetes affecting a few of my friends and distant relatives, I haven't really been personally affected. I don't have to worry about what to do if my insulin is too high or too low or if I've remembered to pack a snack or if my blood sugars have risen or dropped to a point where I feel sick or disoriented. I don't have to worry about having a benefits package or access to enough funds to cover the costs of maintaining good health if I have diabetes.

Make no mistake; there is a significant financial cost that comes with having diabetes in your life. Diabetes Canada reports that costs of living with Type 1 diabetes and using insulin pump therapy can be anywhere from $1,400 to $4,900. Living with Type 1 diabetes with regular insulin injections can cost anywhere from $1,100 to $2,600 a year. There's also the significant personal cost - the knowledge that with diabetes, your life could be cut shorter by anywhere from five to 15 years.

It's not going away, folks. It's estimated that the numbers of people with diabetes is steadily climbing, with an estimated climb of approximately 1.14 million more individuals estimated to get diabetes - either type 1 or type 2 - between now and 2028. While a 10-year span doesn't seem significant, it is, because it means there will be approximately 114,000 people diagnosed with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes yearly over the next decade.

There is always hope that there will be a cure for diabetes. Technologies and science continue to develop with the hope that one day, those with type 1 diabetes won't necessarily have to have a "useless" pancreas. We continue to learn more about the dangers of type 2 diabetes, and while the number of individuals who have type 2 diabetes continues to rise, in part due to the rise in overweight children (per WebMD), there are those who have learned about the importance of regular exercise and a balanced diet when it comes to managing their diabetes or even prediabetic conditions.

There's also a third of the population with diabetes who simply don't want to talk about it. For whatever reason, they don't want people to know they have diabetes. That can create some challenges as well; how can you manage your health appropriately if you don't even want to acknowledge you have a condition you need to manage? To a certain extent, this does make sense; for instance, if you are a teenager, and you want to go out with friends for pizza, do you want to necessarily explain why you seem to be "holding back" on having yet another slice? Diabetic teens who want to make themselves stick out more than they feel they already do might choose to make inappropriate food choices in order to seem like "one of the guys" rather than sticking with the diet that helps manage their condition. Heck, there are adults who have done that.

It's important to realize that diabetes is a very real condition that simply won't just disappear by watching your sugar intake. There are often cost-prohibitive expenses associated with diabetes that entail families spending potentially up to 3 percent of their income just to have the test strips, the glucometers, and the prickers needed to monitor their blood sugars appropriately. These are expenses that are not necessarily covered by a benefits package and certainly, not everyone has a benefits package. There's a wealth of paperwork associated with trying to get certain government benefits to help cover the costs of diabetes as well, and in many cases, individuals have to "prove" that there is a certain percentage of time that they must devote to managing the disease in order to qualify for those government benefits.

Imagine. Having to prove that a disease has impacted your daily living enough that you can qualify for a benefit so you don't go broke paying for the supplies you need to survive.

Individuals, scientists, and the government need to work together to find a cure for diabetes. For the time being, at the very least, they need to find an appropriate solution so that individuals and families don't have to prove the significant impact of the disease just to get funding to survive the overwhelming cost of living with diabetes. They need to lobby the drug companies so that diabetes becomes more about the human factor and less about the bottom line.

It's the human thing to do.


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