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D-blog Day: 6 things I want people to know about diabetes

Today is D-blog day, part of Diabetes Awareness Month, and the topic for this year is "6 things you want people to know about diabetes". Here's my contribution.

1. Diabetes is hard. Every time something passes my lips, it requires a mathematical calculation as to how much carbohydrate it contains and how much insulin I need for this, dependent on how active I've been, what I've previously eaten, what my blood sugars are now, how active I intend to be, when I plan to next eat, whether or not I'm stressed or am likely to be, whether or not I have some sort of bug or virus, what time of the month it is... When I get a high blood sugar reading, I know it's because I haven't given myself enough insulin, and I beat myself up about this. When I get a low blood sugar reading, it's because I've given myself too much. When my blood sugar is on target, my immediate thought is, "Yes!! Score!" but then, quick as a flash, comes, "How long will it last?" Worrying about hypos and highs 24/7 is draining. Even when on holiday, the calculations, self-scolding and worry are with me all day, every day. Diabetes is extremely hard, and oh-so-tiring.

2. Yes, I can eat sugar - in theory. But in reality, there are all sorts of foods which cause my blood sugars to spike and I find it easier to avoid these foods than to try to calculate a dose for them. Baked potatoes, for example. Or fruit smoothies. Or even just some fruit - grapes I can only have a few at a time, along with a starchy meal. Also white bread is a no-go zone. Sweets are absolutely out of the question for me. But, oddly enough, chocolate doesn't seem to cause too much chaos. The crazy thing about diabetes is that everyone's "don't touch!" list will be different. I might be okay with chocolate - but the next person you meet who suffers from diabetes may not be.

3. Diabetes is not caused by being overweight or overeating or underexercising. Type 1 is completely unrelated to these things, and the evidence suggesting a link between these things and Type 2 is just that - a link. Not everyone who suffers from type 2 diabetes is overweight. There is a greater link between genes and diabetes than there is between an unhealthy lifestyle and diabetes.

4. No, I cannot have a pancreas transplant. My diabetes (type 1) is caused by my immune system attacking the insulin-producing cells in my pancreas. Therefore, a transplant is about as much use as a chocolate teapot. My immune system will just attack the insulin-producing cells allover again, and the temporary insulin production would actually cause me more harm than good.

5. The blood testing, injections and set changes are easy peasy in comparison to everything else that goes along with having diabetes. I would love if it were simply a case of 4 injections a day and all is well. So please don't tell me you don't think you could do the injections. If it's the difference between life and death, of course you could. And it kind of upsets me that you might think diabetes is as simple as that. I wish. I really, really wish.

6. Diabetes does not define me. It is a huge part of my life, and I spend every second of the day thinking about it, but I am so many things other than a diabetic. I am a woman, a daughter, a wife-to-be... I am obsessed with my house being clean & tidy, I'm addicted to handbags, I practice yoga, I love to dance, I'm a bookworm, I adore pop music, I like Christmas & love summer, and I have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else - to be happy and healthy, to live in comfort, to bring up my own children, and to grow old with my partner.

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