Open the door on diabetes and smell the fresh air

Loading my syringe and surprising my friend


Surprise transforms into curiosity, admiration, knowlege and understanding


 While in Burlington Airport a few weeks ago I saw a man feeding himself through a tube he was holding in mid air connected to his chest…and you’re embarrassed to take a shot or test your blood sugar in public? Get over yourself!

Scroll back: Last month I delivered three diabetes presentations, the last one in Randolph, Vermont, a sleepy little hamlet 60 miles from Burlington where more than 70 people came for the hospital’s Diabetes Day. I was the key-note speaker.

I love addressing patients no matter where in the country–one minute I am a stranger and one hour later I am a “best friend” and “confidant” for  their diabetes-life issues. I relish the momentary bond and treasure the invested trust.

But this is only in part a story about “we” diabetics. Leaving Burlington, I was socked into the airport for a three and a half hour delay due to fog and planes backed up at LaGuardia airport. I read a little, paced a little and finally on my way to board, I passed a gentleman, about 40 years old, who with his flannel shirt fully unbuttoned and his chest fully exposed, was feeding himself through a six inch tube entering his chest and curving upward in mid air. The tube had a funnel like opening into which he was pouring a liquid.

I had two reactions. The first was, wow, look at that, I’ve never seen that before. The second was, wow, he has no embarrassment about doing this and exposing himself in this wayHe is not leaning over a toilet in a dimly lit bathroom stall, he is completely out in the open managing a necessary part of his condition.

This made me think about all the people who hide their diabetes care. Do you take an injection covertly or skulk off to the restroom to do it where you can barely see? Do you not test your blood sugar while out because you’re embarrassed if someone sees you? Do you harbor feelings of shame, guilt, or worry for other’s comfort based on your behaviors managing your diabetes?

No one was gathered around this man, no one stopped to gawk and there were no huddled groups whispering about what he was doing. I dare say most people didn’t even notice. It may be hard to admit, but the truth about most of us is we’re so absorbed with ourselves that we don’t notice much what others are doing unless our attention is called there. 

One reason to come out of the dark managing your diabetes is you’ll do the things you should be doing more often and more frequently, like taking your meds and testing more, which will give you better control. Also, the burden you shoulder may not feel quite so heavy when it hits the light. The second reason is to educate the general public so diabetes gets the funding it needs and you get the respect you deserve. How’s anyone going to understand that diabetes is not a “piece of cake,” yes pun fully intended, or just a matter of avoiding sweets unless they see what we deal with? 

If you didn’t contribute last month during “Diabetes Month” to making someone more aware of diabetes, take your management out of the closet and into the restaurant, library, airport and school so others can understand what diabetes truly is and what your life is like managing it. Please note, I don’t mean you should be an exhibitionist or not respect the environment you’re in. I don’t hesitate to do what I need to do in front of friends, but I’m more discreet for instance in a business setting where such behavior is not the norm.

The long and short of it is if anyone notices what you’re doing at all, I’ll just bet they’re more likely to be surprised, sympathetic and supportive, as my dining companion Paul was above, than judgmental and irritated, and with that we all win. 



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