This past weekend I spent a morning fundraising for Connected in Motion, an organization that provides support and education for adults living with type 1 diabetes. I realized that this was the first time I have been out in the public advocating for my disease.
I greet a woman approaching my table with a smile, “Good morning! I am raising funds to support a charity that helps adults living with type 1 diabetes!”
The woman stops, blinks, and replies, “You mean juvenile diabetes?”
“Urm….well yes, it used to be called juvenile diabetes, but you can be diagnosed at any age,” I reply.
“Oh, I thought you could only get juvenile diabetes as a kid or teenager,” she says, insisting on using the now outdated term.
Another man approaches my table with similar sentiments, “Adults? I thought you only got that as a kid!”
“Well, you can be diagnosed at any age, and of course it is a lifelong disease with no cure, so the kids who are diagnosed eventually grow up,” I explain.
“Have you tried halting your milk consumption? I read there is a strong link between milk and diabetes,” says another well-intentioned woman matter-of-factly, as if my not drinking milk will magically cure me overnight. I honestly didn’t know how to respond to that one.
It felt good to share information about my disease with people who were otherwise completely oblivious, but at the same time I was amazed that people don’t know many of the basic facts about it. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised; after all, before I was diagnosed, I was probably just as ignorant as they were! It really drove home the point that being an advocate for myself and others with T1D is vitally important.
After hearing all the news coming out of the United States about health coverage and pre-existing conditions, it is so important that we share information about T1D with others, especially those making policy decisions! How can we expect policies to reflect our needs if the people making them are unaware of what those needs are? I am always amazed by how awesome the T1D community is when it comes to advocacy and being a united voice for our disease. As a Canadian, I am fortunate to have health coverage and I just hope that the US can figure their stuff out and not leave thousands of people having to literally choose between life and death!
“Wow, what a great cause! I can think of, like, 5 people off the top of my head who have type 1 diabetes!”
“Excellent work, my dad has diabetes so this is really needed.”
“I’ve been Type 1 for 13 years, this is great! Thank you!”
There are so many people affected by T1D. I met a few fellow T1Ds over the course of the weekend (honestly the first diabetics I have ever met in real life!), and I was blown away by how positive they are. As crappy as having this disease is, I feel very fortunate to have such a large community of positive, strong, vibrant people around me for support.
I think being diagnosed was both the best and worst thing that could have happened to me. I have finally found a cause to be passionate about and it feels immensely satisfying to meet and speak with others to share information, clear up misconceptions, or gather tips for diabetes management. Hopefully, one day, there will be a cure and the T1D community will no longer have to worry about carb-counting, bolusing, or long-term complications. Until then, I will continue to lend my voice to the many and spread awareness about T1D!
To learn more about Connected in Motion, visit www.connectedinmotion.ca.
To support my fundraising efforts, visit give.classy.org/cimshaleen! Thanks!