It’s diabetes awareness month, and to commemorate it and raise some awareness, I set out to discover some of the difficulties people with diabetes experience.
Diabetes is a condition that affects a person’s ability to regulate their own blood sugar. If not managed properly it can have serious consequences including death. Diabetes Canada states that 11 million Canadians have some form of diabetes, which is nearly one-third of the population. There are three types of diabetes: type I, type II and gestational diabetes.
I decided to speak with a friend of mine, *Bobby Bedford, who has type I diabetes. Lately, he’d been talking about needing to reduce his expenses a little because his new blood sugar sensor that doesn’t require him to prick his finger, as it is inserted under his skin, won’t be covered by his student health and dental plan.
I asked Bobby to sit down with me and share some of his experiences and his knowledge about diabetes.
Do note that every diabetic person’s experience will be different depending on whether or not they are insured and the degree to which their insurance covers expenses. Variables like how they test their blood sugar and whether or not they have an insulin pump also factor in.
Bobby estimated that he was spending about $300 a month to cover his expenses. This may not seem a massive expense but it certainly adds up, especially for low-income people. And this is an expense that is not at all optional. If you don’t pay, you die.
And that’s just it, diabetes is very serious. The very morning I asked Bobby for an interview, he informed me that he could have died that day because he had woken up with “catastrophically low” blood sugar.
In fact, just after our interview he began to act very strange, he was disoriented and couldn’t think straight, he even began to doze off. He checked his blood sugar and found it to be dangerously low, so he went to get some cranberry juice.
Bobby tells me that he needs to check his blood sugar at least six times a day. He’s checking it every time he eats, every time he wants to do any form of physical activity, and before he drives.
Managing one’s blood sugar is vital to avoiding complications related to diabetes. Diabetic people need to be aware of their blood sugar and adjust accordingly, they also need to be very attentive to their lifestyle as eating healthy and exercising contributes to safe blood sugar levels.
He went on to talk about a place called Camp Easter Seal, a camp that caters to diabetic children and their families. There are doctors, nurses and pediatricians onsite who help the children manage their diabetes away from home. It provides an inclusive place for kids to experience summer camp without fear of risking their lives to the challenges of managing blood sugar levels.
“You can send your kid to go and do all the summer camp things like sing campfire stories, sleep in cabins, go camp out overnight in tents, go canoeing and all that stuff,” Bobby said. “I think that’s monumental, I did that for four-ish years.”
Bobby believes that the biggest misconception about diabetic people is that they are obese.
“If I tell someone I have type I diabetes and they’re like ‘Oh, you don’t look like you’d have it,’ and it’s like, well, what does that mean?” Bobby said.
Diabetes awareness month is becoming increasingly important as Diabetes Canada currently predicts that by 2027, 32 per cent of Canadians will have diabetes, the current number being 28 per cent. This month is all about working to spread information about diabetes and to help bring the diabetes epidemic the attention it needs.
*To respect the privacy of the individual interviewed, their name has been changed.
Graphic: Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor