In case you didn’t know it, November 14th is designated by the United Nations as World Diabetes Awareness Day. In the United States the American Diabetes Association designates November as Diabetes Awareness as well. Their Mission is to “prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.” All day I have been thinking about this. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. I would like to believe in my heart of hearts that awareness campaigns are as successful as the promoters would like us to believe.
The American Diabetes Association, The Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund and the International Diabetes Federation are huge organizations who are doing great things in respect to furthering the much needed research to understand this most complex of disorders with an ultimate goal of learning how to prevent the onset AND how to reverse the malfunctioning organ that has all of us in chains to its whims. This condition has reached pandemic proportions. Pandemic means widespread over a country or the world. And here we sit in the pews, in our choir robes while the evangelists from the churches of ADA/JDRF and IDF stand at the pulpit and preach for the need to make the world aware of this terrible demon that is afflicting 1.5 million newly diagnosed Americans a year, as of 2015 according to the ADA. In 2017 the Center for Disease Control published that there are over 100 million Americans with some type of diabetes. We are a tremendous choir so much so that even the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would shudder at our numbers. The problem is these very same evangelists are not out there in tent revival style homecomings preaching the word of awareness to the unbaptized. The preaching does not commence until that poor, wretched soul is diagnosed. And then the first sermon they receive is that of the diligent, tireless researchers who are on the cusp of a cure right now. In ten years time this demon will be exorcised never to darken another metabolism. I have had diabetes sine 1979. When 1989 rolled around I was chomping at the bit to get in line to be blessed by the healers that had harnessed the ability to make me whole once again!
For the last 2 weeks, as I watch television or listen to the radio I am confounded by the number of advertisements for breast cancer awareness* campaigns. And then I sit there and get angry. I understand that advertising takes money. Money that could be used to further research, but the big three proselytizers have budgets that have line items for research AND marketing. If you want to increase the awareness of the need for people to recognize the symptoms of pre-diabetes and to give credence to the devastating effects of “having a little sugar” there needs to be a more public, in your face, exposure like breast cancer awareness. Especially in the month of NOVEMBER, for God’s sake! There is a cartoon circulating on social media with Santa Claus and Tom Turkey having a conversation and Ole’ Tom is letting St. Nick have it because no sooner than Halloween turned in to All Saint’s Day the stores had already deployed their Christmas decorations and wares.
Look at the image in the header of this post. Can you name all the awareness conditions that each ribbon represents? Even within the diabetes community we can’t agree on whether it should be Red (ADA) or Wedgewood Blue (IDF)/(JDRF). The Rainbow of Ribbons has gotten out of hand. I am not saying we shouldn’t support the causes that matter to us or have impacted our lives but now we need an app on our phone that when you point the camera at a ribbon it will identify all the causes associated with that color. After that you will be on your own as to how to narrow it down or perhaps, like reporting roadwork or radar on Waze, you could report a sighting in the wild after confronting the awareness advocate and have identified and classified that particular ribbon’s species and family.
You may have seen these appearing in your social media feeds or perhaps you have one yourself. This is the official badge of the Choir of Sweet Melodies. Some may look a little different.\, but the identity of the enrobed is the same: we all have a condition called diabetes. And as the evangelists spread the good word the members of the congregation, dressed in their robes, eagerly and swiftly, post their new #T1DLooksLikeMe profile images, IGram stories and FBook posts for all their friends/family/followers to see. I will concede, that in this modern world of anonymous and random “friends”, these posts may be enlightening to these “strange” friends. I am not really sure that the impact will be as expected. But, like it is said “If one person is reached then I have done my job.” Hmmmm. 1:1,500,000, I should go get a MegaMillions lottery ticket. The jackpot this week is $82,000,000.00. Even 1% would buy some serious advertising.
So how do the members of choir go forth with the message and expose the heathens with healthy pancreases or perhaps failing pancreases to the importance of what is still not being publicly recognized as a serious, life altering and at time life threatening condition? We need to stop talking just within our social circle. Our friends and families know we have diabetes. If they don’t, well they should and this is the time to sit them down and give them the basics. People need to know what we encounter on a daily basis. In my 35+ years I have never shied away from testing or taking insulin in public. As a teen, if I went to the bathroom to inject it was because I needed to politely get access to a site and not because it was wrong to inject at the table. Doing these things in plain sight are conversation starters. I have had multiple occasions when strangers have seen me testing or giving insulin and have approached me and started a conversation. Secondly, acquire some type of medical alert jewelry. It may save your life one day and it may also be an invitation to start a conversation. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive. It just has to be…on your wrist, your shoe, or around your neck.
Bottom line folks, we need to pour out of the Chapel of the Unquenchable Thirst and start knocking on doors and introducing ourselves:
“Hello, I am Elder DiabetesDude. Have you heard the news? Diabetes is on the rise and we want to make sure that you are saved from this horrible affliction. I only have 7 simple questions whose answers could save your life.”
“You’ve got a few minutes? Great!
Are over 40? Do you have any relatives afflicted with the demon called diabetes? Do you have high blood pressure? (If your neighbor is a woman – were you ever diagnosed with gestational diabetes?) Are you physically active? I only have one more question, brother/sister. You don’t have to tell me but would you please point to your weight category?
“Awesome. I am going to leave this assessment with you. Based on our score, as determined by the American Diabetes Association, you should discuss the results with your primary healthcare provider.”
Am I mocking certain church groups? If you think I am then you are probably right. But ask yourself this “Why do I know who DiabetesDude is mocking?” I’ll tell you. Because these folks get out there and make a presence in PUBLIC. We may not appreciate their tactics but I tell you this I sure as heck respect their dedication to spreading the word – whatever that may be.
Lastly, please don’t flame me because I appeared to downplay the seriousness of breast cancer. That is not the case at all. I support breast cancer research as well as support for those who have been impacted by this equally devastating disease.