I have been living with type-one diabetes since 1994, but if you didn’t know me, you would not know this. Type-one diabetes makes up only 10-15% of those diagnosed with diabetes, this is where the pancreas stops producing insulin so the body cannot turn what is eaten, glucose, into energy for daily activities1. A person who has diabetes cannot be pin pointed by their appearance, their habits or by what they are eating; it is a fallacy that these people only eat sweet foods and do no exercise. There are many types of diabetes; the two most confused being type-one and type two-diabetes.
Type-two diabetes affects 85-90% of those diagnosed with diabetes; it is the most common form of diabetes1. Type-two diabetes is more commonly associated with diet and lifestyle factors at its cause but there are many people who have been diagnosed with type-two diabetes who are athletic and healthy individuals. In these cases, there are other risk factors associated with a diagnosis including age, gender, resting blood pressure and nationality1. Whilst obesity and lack of exercise does account for a large number of cases of type-two diabetes it is unfair to associate this with every person; you cannot just pick one out of a crowd. According to Preventative Health Australia, 55% of cases of type-two diabetes are caused in part by obesity or high body mass index2.
Media propagates diabetic fallacies by presenting information directed at people at risk of developing diabetes. Viewers often would think that these were talking about all people with diabetes, however, these have little or no relevance to people with type-one diabetes. For example, a new Coca-Cola commercial, “Coming Together” emphasises the detrimental effects of coca-cola and states that it is known to cause a number of the world’s leading health conditions. However, type-one diabetes is not caused by an individual eating too much sugar nor by a sedentary lifestyle. Unlike type-two diabetes, type-one diabetes is a genetic autoimmune disorder passed down through your genetic makeup, nobody can control whether or not an individual is diagnosed with type-one diabetes, but they can affect the outcomes of this diagnosis.
I was an active ten year old, bike riding around the neighbourhood, competing and performing seriously in gymnastics and playing with the kids on my street. I didn’t play computer games; I would rather play with my cat outside or the other children in the neighbourhood. I ate well, my mother prepared healthy meals, and I consumed the occasionally sweet treat just like any child does. One day I became very lethargic, was very thirsty and was going to the toilet a lot more than usual. After a couple of days of this my mum took me to our general practitioner’s office where she was asked if my urine had changed at all. While mum hadn’t noticed anything specifically she had remembered that she thought my brother had put glue on the toilet seat as a trap. On hearing this, the doctor did a blood sugar test and made a presumptive diagnosis of type-one diabetes and we were sent directly to the hospital. We were told that the crystals that were forming on top of the toilet seat were crystals of sugary urine because my pancreas at that time could not process the sugar that was going through my body so it was coming out in excessive amounts.
Having type-one diabetes means that I need to test my blood sugar levels upto 15 times per day. I do this before sometimes after meals, before snacks and before and after going participating in any type of exercise. It is with continual monitoring that I am able to live a healthy lifestyle and positively affect my future well being. For sixteen years I also did numerous injections of insulin throughout a day, ranging anywhere between three and eight injections in just one day but I am now using what is called an insulin pump which runs like an external pancreas. Now, I inject a cannula like plastic tubing into my stomach every three or four days through which a tube runs to my insulin pump and delivers insulin to me throughout the day. This device sits conveniently in the middle of my bra and is pulled out throughout the day whenever I need to input a blood sugar level or do a additional dose of insulin when I eat. It may look weird but I don’t really mind. If people look I know that they are only doing so out of curiosity and I never mind if people ask questions.
People with type-one diabetes have no particular appearance, they are neither always fat nor skinny, they don’t really eat a specific type of food, and you would not be able to pick one out in a crowd. Like any person, someone with type-one diabetes is encouraged to participate in a healthy diet, eating sweet foods in moderation and no type of food to excess. I would like to make it clear that a type-one diabetic diet is not necessarily different to any non diabetic person’s diet if those people are all aiming to be healthy individuals. Even people with diabetes are allowed to have moments where they make poor choices, like any person, but as long as they manage their blood sugar levels and insulin appropriately this will not necessarily affect their long term health. Much like a non diabetic person, the risk factors of non healthy eating are numerous including eye problems, heart disease, kidney disease and nerve damage3. A person with diabetes is at greater risk of these than a non diabetic person but with stringent management these complications are severely reduced. A diagnosis of diabetes is not a death sentence. Like many other people diagnosed with type-one diabetes I am an active member of society; I work as a Registered Nurse in a busy Emergency Department where I have never had any problems with my diabetes and I am specialising to become a diabetes educator so I can help other people to find their way.
1.Diabetes Australia; Understanding Diabetes; 2011; http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/…pe-1-Diabetes/ accessed on 4/11/2013
2.Preventative Health; 2. Obesity in Australia; http://www.preventativehealth.org.au/internet/preventativehealth/publishing.nsf/Content/E233F8695823F16CCA2574DD00818E64/$File/obesity-2.pdf accessed on 3/11/2013
3.JDRF; Type One Diabetes Complications; 2010; http://www.jdrf.org.au/living-with-t…-complications accessed on 4/11/2013
4.Ambler, Geoffrey and Cameron, Fergus; Caring for Diabetes in Children and Adolescents; 2012; Blue Star Print Group; Australia