Last week I had an interesting thing happen. I drive for a ride-share company in my spare time. It's a good way for me to save up for things I want to do, when most of my "regular" income goes to bills and day to day expenses. One evening, I picked up a lady. We started to chat and during our chat, I mentioned that I was currently driving to save up to attend Friends for Life this summer.
I shared with her that I had diabetes since I was a child and that I loved getting together with other people who lived with diabetes. One of the best parts of spending time with those with diabetes is having people around you who "get it."
As we neared her destination, she told me that she had Type 2 diabetes. That she had been diagnosed a couple of years ago, but that she didn't share it with anyone because of the stigma behind diabetes. Essentially the "you caused it" attitude that follows those with diabetes, especially Type 2. I was able to share with her about the D-OC, and gave her the #DSMA chat information for twitter. I hope that she takes some time to get out there. To understand that there are those out there who "get it."
What I took from this conversation was her fear. Her general shame about having diabetes. While I didn't get the impression she felt like the diabetes was her fault, it was apparent that she knew other people thought it was her fault. Full disclosure, this woman was not obese.
Then, yesterday, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (a White House role) made an absurd statement while speaking at Stanford University. He spoke about having a safety net for people who get cancer, but then stated "That doesn't mean we should take care of the person who sits at home, east poorly and gets diabetes."
This is by no means the first time I've disagreed with a politician. I do that on a regular basis and have for most of my life. But this is a direct attack on people that I love. I WILL NOT sit by and idly watch while someone in a huge position of power spreads misinformation about diabetes. I WILL NOT sit by and let some people (even those in our own community) say, "well I have T1. I didn't do anything to get that."
I have T1 diabetes. I have had this auto-immune disease for over 31 years of my life. I have friends with T2 diabetes. Many of them, in fact. Guess what? They didn't do anything to get T2 either. While it doesn't have the same auto-immune components that T1 has, studies have shown, time and time again, that there are genetic components to T2 diabetes. Proof of this is people that are not obese who get T2 all the time. Also, those who are obsess and never develop the disease. While lifestyle choices CAN play a role in the development of T2 diabetes, it is by no means the only component.
Misinformation is continually spread about diabetes, but I refuse to not speak up when I hear something. This is no different. The truth of the matter is that "some groups have a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes than others. Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, as well as the aged population."
Poverty has also been shown to play a role in the increases rates of Type 2 diabetes. A study in Canada even showed that the chances double or triple of developing Type 2 diabetes if the income is less than $15,000 per year.
So what does this mean to me? This means that misinformation being spread by people about diabetes is really an attack on the poor and minorities. It isn't funny to joke about getting diabetes when you eat something sweet. It isn't kind or true when someone suggests that lifestyle is the only factor for those diagnosed with ANY type of diabetes.
We're all in this together. Don't let the bullying continue. Don't let our friends be attacked. No one asks for diabetes. Some people win the genetic lotto and here we are because of it. We ALL deserve health insurance. We deserve to have access to affordable health care. And even IF lifestyle were the only contributing factor to developing Type 2, those people would STILL deserve affordable accessible health care. No one should be ashamed of their health diagnosis and I'm going to continue to speak out until no one else tells me they don't share their diabetes diagnosis for fear of judgement.
The American Diabetes Association released a statement today, regarding Mr. Mulvaney's statement. They said it well, and I share it here:
On behalf of the nearly 30 million Americans living with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association is extremely disappointed by the misinformed statement of Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, as reported by the Washington Examiner. Mr. Mulvaney's comments perpetuate the stigma that one chooses to have diabetes based on his/her lifestyle. We are also deeply troubled by his assertion that access to health care should be rationed or denied to anyone.
All of the scientific evidence indicates that diabetes develops from a diverse set of risk factors, genetics being a primary cause. People with diabetes need access to affordable health care in order to effectively manage their disease and prevent dangerous and costly complications. Nobody should be denied coverage or charged more based on their health status.
We are saddened by Mr. Mulvaney's comments, and we look forward to working closely with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services to dispel the erroneous stigma around diabetes and the millions of Americans living with this disease.