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Diabetes and Fame

There have been quite a few celebrity diabetics in the news lately.  The stories usually mention that they have diabetes and my usual response to that portion of the story is “so what?”.  I wouldn’t vote for a someone simply because of their race, party affiliation, hometown or military record,  so why should I vote for a person simply because they are diabetic?

Somehow, that thought makes me feel like we, as diabetics, require some type “bonus”, like being spotted three strokes in a round of golf.  I just resent that whole concept.  I am not talking about things like the American with Disabilities Act or reasonable accommodations at your workplace or school, I’m talking about the stories that make it seem so “incredible” that these people could be so successful and have diabetes.  Those stories make it seem totally unheard of that a diabetic can achieve things.  Not to mention how so many folks seemed to just go gaga over them simply because of their diabetes.   

For example, when Bowersox and Michaels were recently in the hospital, there was a large outpouring of support from the diabetes community.  There’s nothing wrong with wishing people well, but would it have crossed any one’s mind if they weren’t diabetic?  Would the “Let’s Root For…” posts have occurred? 

And do I believe that they should take on some kind of advocacy role simply because they are diabetic?  Absolutely not, that is a personal decision and one we should not try to force or “guilt” them into.

The thought that keeps crossing my mind is that they are bringing additional attention to diabetes, which is OK, I guess, though I feel a bit like we are “using” their condition for our purposes.   

And that just bothers me at a very fundamental level.

Today’s snarky comment: If you are going to post something that may piss people off, the Friday before a holiday weekend is the perfect time to do it.

  • I agree. I thought a lot about this when Justice Sotamayor was nominated. I thought it was cool to have a diabetic in that position, but it certainly didn’t make her more qualified. I certainly didn’t oppose her, I just thought it was irrelevant. (The notion a few idiots floated that her D disqualified her somehow is beyond silly.)

  • I’m guilty of being particularly excited for “stars” with type 1 diabetes – I’ve seen how the children (and adults, parents, tweens, grandparents etc.) at the Children with Diabetes conferences are enthused when they meet celebrities who have achieved wonderful things living with type 1 (i.e. Will Cross making it to the summit of Mt. Everest) and appreciate that the celebs are willing to be open about the type 1 diabetes which perhaps minimizes some of the stigma some feel living with it.

  • I like the idea that people are starting to realize that not all of us look like Wilford Brimley. I’ve heard over and over again that I don’t “look” diabetic. What does a diabetic look like?Other than that, I honestly don’t care whether a celebrity (or any other person) is diabetic or not, unless they’re doing something to make the rest of us look bad.

  • I like the idea of famous people talking about a not so famous disese. My hope is it will get more attention, more education, stuff like that.If that bowersox chick sucked I would never want her to win just because of the D but I was happy that she almost won. More stars that talk about, the more people hear about it and that is good for us IMHO! Love the Snarky comment. LOL

  • I am also interested in hearing about persons with extraordinary accomplishments who also have diabetes, and I admit that I might root for them or pay more attention. (You use the term “vote” but I don’t think a political candidate’s diabetes would sway me one way or the other.)What I worry about are that there are so many of these stories of persons with diabetes climbing Everest, playing pro sports, winning Olympic gold, being a lead singer in an 80’s hair band, etc., that the public will get tired of hearing it and will assume that diabetes is not a significant disease. Remember, these people have extraordinary skills and talents. These famous diabetics may be reluctant to talk that much about the struggle since they want to be positive role models, and the reporters never quite understand diabetes very well anyway. So the worst you read about is that so-and-so learned he/she had diabetes in college, and now has to prick his/her finger before each inning. Big deal, huh?

  • I’ll echo what Ellen, Molly, and George pointed out on this. It’s not that they’re in these roles because they’re diabetic, but they are using these celebrity spots to dispel the myths out there and prove that diabetics aren’t restricted from these activities or destined for death from this chronic condition. It’s these people – Brett Michaels, Crystal Bowersox, Nichole Johnson, Nick Jonas, Charlie Kimball, Gary Hall, Kris Freeman, Will Cross, and many others – who become sort of people who kids can look up to and say “they’re like me, and they’re really successful.” It’s a lesson that they shouldn’t be judged out or judged in just based on their chronic condition. That’s why I celebrate their celebrity roles when they take on that kind of advocacy.

  • Scott K. Johnson

    I think this is a great discussion.While I agree with what many have said, I also want to point out that for me, diabetes sucks a hell of a lot of energy from me, so to be successful in life AND have decent diabetes management, I have to work pretty damn hard at both.