Diabetes in Pop Culture: Is it Really That Hard to Get it Right?

I used to be an avid fan of the cultural behemoth, The Walking Dead. Imagine my delight and surprise when type 1 diabetes actually made a cameo in one of the episodes! T1D, in the zombie apocalypse! What could go wrong?

Turns out, a lot. A minor character in the show’s sixth season passes out, only for a main character to flock to her side just in time to give her a shot of insulin. Within moments, she’s totally fine, though – spoiler alert – she gets attacked by zombies and doesn’t survive at the end of the episode.

What’s wrong with this scenario is that if a person with diabetes passes out like that, it’s more than likely that their blood sugar is low, and the last thing that they need is more insulin. I can’t imagine her blood sugar being high seeing as it’s the ZOMBIE FREAKING APOCALYPSE and supplies are scarce. I doubt she’s eating, well, anything, let alone substantial meals. And how the heck does insulin stay fresh during the end of the world, anyways? I don’t necessarily expect a TV drama to explore that in a tight 60-minute time frame, but these are things to consider, as well as details that leave unusually informed viewers like me a little bemused and irritated.

Diabetes in pop culture_

And it’s not just The Walking Dead – it’s a LOT of shows that make mistakes or omissions that can be eyebrow-raising. A few shows that come to mind include The Big Bang Theory, Hannah Montana, and even my beloved soap, General Hospital. The errors have been to varying degrees, but a common theme among countless television shows is perpetuating the stereotype that all types of diabetes are caused by a poor diet; specifically, consuming sweets. It’s always an extremely cheap joke, and one that’s gotten stale in its overuse.

Surprisingly, reality TV doesn’t help dispel any myths, which is a bit ironic. Recent episodes of Southern Charm and one of the Real Housewives franchises spread diabetes misinformation that was just ludicrous to me. In the former, a licensed anesthesiologist implied that his girlfriend shouldn’t eat a pastry because it’ll cause diabetes (insert eye roll here) – last time I checked, an anesthesiologist does not know the intricacies of the endocrine system, so who is he, as a medical professional who ought to know better, to say something like that? And in the latter, one woman was scolding her T2D husband over not taking care of himself. She explained his condition in a confessional…but did a really rotten job of it. If I didn’t know anything about type 2 diabetes, and I “learned” about it from this source, then I would be seriously misled.

I’m not trying to be oversensitive here, but it is hard for me to understand why pop culture struggles to get certain aspects of diabetes right when it appears in various story lines. There’s a wealth of correct information out there that writers could rely on. It’s a shame that they don’t, because whether they mean to or not, all it does is add to the confusion and general misunderstanding of all types of diabetes.

Needless to say, pop culture in this day and age has a long way to go when it comes to the portrayal of diabetes.

 

Advertisements

Do You Have 2 Minutes to Spare?

If you’re reading this post, then the answer is YES – of course you have 2 minutes to spare. In that amount of time, you can share your opinions and help my dear friend, Heather, with her research.

Capture
Make your opinions heard by taking this survey.

Please click this link to access the survey. It’s very simple: You’ll see 24 phrases that relate to diabetes in some manner. You’ll rate how often you see these phrases around the Internet using a scale of 1-5. Then, you’ll share which one resonates with you the most and which one you see the most on various diabetes online communities. And…that’s it! You don’t even have to share your name or any of your contact information. It’s quick, easy, and you’ll get to share your opinions in a way that will make a difference. I’d say that’s a great way to spend 2 minutes, wouldn’t you?

And the Nominee is…Me?!

Friends, I am pleased to share that I have been nominated for a WEGO Health Award. My blogging for Hugging the Cactus has qualified me to be a Patient Leader nominee for the “Best Kept Secret” award, which is very exciting to me! What’s more, if I advance to the finals round, I may be able to win a trip to Las Vegas for the HLTH conference in October. This would provide me the opportunity to be around other Patient Leaders who, I’m confident, I could learn so much from, as well as the rare chance to attend a health-focused conference based on merit rather than cost.

What exactly are the WEGO Health Awards? They were created to recognize and honor those who strive to make a difference in the online health community. In the past few days, I’ve scrolled through the growing list of nominees who are advocates for all sorts of conditions, from anemia to ulcerative colitis. It’s quite eye-opening to see just how many health topics inspire individuals to spread awareness via social media, blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and more. And it truly is an honor to be listed among these incredibly inspiring nominees.

70AA0C50-FF9F-4BCC-A8DE-20A76C79A2A5
Well, this is just plain cool.

If you feel that I deserve to move on to the semi-finalist round, please follow this link to endorse my nomination. By clicking the link, you can view the other nominees and their profiles, which I strongly encourage so you can find out for yourself the sheer volume of skilled storytellers out there. Plus, you never know, you might just discover someone who you can relate to or who inspires you. After all, in a world of chronic conditions that can feel so isolating, isn’t it always a comfort to find out that you’re not alone?

 

Supporting T1D Students with my #SensorSelfie

I’m taking a departure from a “traditional” blog post today to tell you, my dear readers, that you should consider celebrating a special holiday with me today: National Selfie Day! Before you roll your eyes at the mere idea of that, please keep reading to learn how participating will help support students with diabetes.

Dexcom has partnered with a nonprofit that is very important to me – The College Diabetes Network (CDN) – to help put some focus on the diabetes community and raise money. They’ve created the #SensorSelfie social media campaign to encourage people with diabetes to take photos of themselves proudly donning their Dexcom sensors.

947D37E4-B661-4EC5-8E02-C58D07A66110
Here’s my #SensorSelfie, which wouldn’t be complete without my cactus shirt.

But what exactly do you need to do in order to take part in the campaign? There’s four simple steps to follow today, June 21st:

  1. Take a picture showing off your Dexcom sensor
  2. Post the photo to your Facebook and Instagram pages
  3. Use the hashtag #SensorSelfie and tag @Dexcom
  4. Tell ALLLLLL your diabuddies to do the same

For every post that uses #SensorSelfie today, Dexcom will donate $1 to CDN. Can you imagine how much money could be raised if you got all the T1Ds you know to participate?

If you’re looking for some more information on this social media campaign, click this link. Otherwise, what are you waiting for? Get to snapping, posting, and tagging!

Bret Michaels Appreciation Post

There’s a bunch of famous T1Ds who would be really cool to meet: Victor Garber, Sonia Sotomayor, Derek Theler, to name a few. And obviously, there’s Nick Jonas, who is probably the most popular of them all. But there’s a different musician with diabetes who I’d be even more eager to meet than Nick – nothing against the guy, of course.

Who do I have in mind? Why, the one and only Bret Michaels, the lead singer of the rock band Poison.

This might surprise some of you – I don’t exactly seem like the type who’s into that sort of music. But I totally am. Nothin’ But a Good Time, Unskinny Bop, and Talk Dirty to Me are among my favorite Poison songs. They’re simply excellent to dance and sing along to, and to play on Guitar Hero (which I did often in the game’s heyday, and absolutely pretended to be a rock and roll guitar QUEEN every time I played it).

And I somewhat ashamedly admit to indulging in Rock of Love when it regularly aired on Vh1. It was Bret’s dating show, and it was like The Bachelor on steroids. Total reality TV trash, but I was hooked on it and never missed a season.

Okay, so you get the idea that Bret Michaels might be a stereotypical rock star who revels in big hair, eyeliner, and female company…but he’s different from most because like me, he has type 1 diabetes.

BRET MICHAELS APPRECIATION POST
It would be friggen’ sweet if Bret Michaels saw this post.

From what I’ve read and understand, he was only a couple years older than me when he was diagnosed. Growing up, he was the only kid with diabetes in school, which presented its challenges. Arguably, the stigma surrounding diabetes in those days was much stronger, and Bret struggled when his classmates and their parents misunderstood his condition and how it came about. But that didn’t stop Bret from developing into a self-motivated individual. Along with his parents, he started the first youth camp for T1Ds, which still exists today in Pennsylvania. As he grew into adulthood, his passion for music and creativity flourished, and he became a founding member of the band known as Poison today. It took time for Poison to achieve success, but through hardship Bret persevered and took comfort in music as a therapeutic outlet.

It must’ve been difficult for Bret to admit to the world that he had diabetes, but after collapsing onstage at the Madison Square Garden in 1987, he had little choice but to share his story. Instead of dwelling on possible repercussions, though, he chose to work harder rather than give up. Poison’s popularity grew over the years as they found widespread commercial success, but Bret never forgot about supporting diabetes charities like JDRF and the American Diabetes Association. He even founded his own charity that supports youths with diabetes and helps them afford diabetes camps.

I can’t help but appreciate the fact that he’s devoted much of his life to being a performer as well as a philanthropist – neither are easy, and to do both and still manage to take care of his diabetes is something that I think is amazing. That’s why I say move over, Nick Jonas (though he has also done so much for diabetes organizations) – I’d like to meet who I consider the OG T1D philanthropist/celeb, Mr. Bret Michaels.

 

 

7 Questions People Always Ask Me About Type 1 Diabetes

Human beings are naturally curious creatures. So it’s never really surprised me when, upon discovering my T1D, people tend to ask me boatloads of questions about what it’s like. And it’s definitely not at all shocking that many of these questions are recurring.

I've missed you terribly!

Here’s a list of seven questions that I’m almost always asked when I encounter someone who’s just learning about my diabetes. You’ll notice a trend as you read, because even though there’s “no such thing” as a stupid question, this list kinda gets dumber as it goes on. There, you’ve been warned…

7. What does it mean when your blood sugar is high/low?
This is definitely a fair question. I never expect someone who is unfamiliar with diabetes to know the meaning of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. I actually kind of appreciate being asked this question, because it helps me spread awareness. The more people that know how to react in severe high or low blood sugar cases, the better, IMHO.

6. Why do you wear all of those devices?
Another decent question – I never mind explaining how my CGM and my pump work, but I do mind when people say ignorant things, like “Oh, are those patches to help you quit smoking?” *Eye roll*

5. Can you eat/drink [fill-in-the-blank]?
Ugh…I get why people ask me this, but it’s a little more tiring to explain. My answer is usually along the lines of: “I can eat or drink whatever I like, but I need to take insulin to account for it. So I try to eat a limited amount of carbs at a time, because that means I have to take less insulin, and there’s less room for error.” But even after that easy-to-understand explanation, the typical follow-up questions are “BUT CAN YOU EAT CAKE/COOKIES/ICE CREAM/ANY SUGARY FOOD?!” And that’s when I lose a bit of my patience, TBH.

4. Does it hurt when you check your blood sugar/give yourself a shot?
I mean, no? I’m not trying to be facetious or anything, but really, after 21+ years of checking blood sugar and giving myself insulin multiple times per day…there’d be a real issue if it hurt every single time. I concede that there are the occasional sites that sting, but it’s not nearly as bad as many people seem to assume.

3. What’s that beeping sound/ARE YOU GOING TO EXPLODE?!
Honestly…use common sense. What’s the likelier scenario here: That my devices have built-in alarms, or that I’m going to spontaneously combust?

2. How did you get diabetes/WHAT DID YOU DO WRONG?
This. is. such. an. ignorant. question. Nobody, myself included, did anything “wrong” that resulted in my diabetes diagnosis. I didn’t catch it and no number of lifestyle changes could have prevented me from developing diabetes. My immune system merely decided to attack and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells that lived in my pancreas. There’s no real answer as to how diabetes is caused, though genetics likely play a role in it. Don’t worry, you won’t “catch” the ‘betes by being in my presence.

1. Do you have the…bad kind of diabetes?
This question is THE WORST of them all because there is no good kind of diabetes! Gestational, type 2, LADA…none of them are favorable. They all suck. They all require constant care, regulatory medications, and endocrinology expertise. So please for the love of all that is sacred and holy, next time you hear someone ask this question, gently inform them that there’s no such thing as good/bad diabetes.

 

Spare a Rose this Valentine’s Day

So Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. Perhaps you loathe the holiday of love and celebrate it solo, or choose to use the day to express your gratitude for your close friends, in the style of Parks and Recreation’s invented holiday, Galentine’s Day.

If you’re in a relationship, you might have an extravagant, candle-lit, five-course dinner planned with your loved one. Or maybe you’ll keep it a bit more simple and say “I love you” to your sweetheart, with a thoughtful card, box of chocolates, and a dozen roses in hand.

Whether or not your scenario includes a dozen roses, though, consider this:

What if you received 11 roses in your bouquet, instead of 12? What if you knew that a rose was spared because the value of that flower helped support a child living with diabetes in a less-resourced country?

I bet you wouldn’t mind getting one less rose in that case.

SquareTag

This Valentine’s Day, please consider sparing a rose as part of your celebrations. Life for a Child is a nonprofit charity that created the Spare a Rose campaign. They’re able to support nearly 20,000 young people living with diabetes by using donations to buy them insulin, syringes, clinical care, diabetes education, and more. Anyone who’s familiar with diabetes realizes that access to care, education, and resources is critical to living a healthy and normal life. No one would want to deny another, especially a child, from having to forgo these resources because of the financial burden associated with them.

Spare a rose and save child this Valentine’s Day.