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A Thin Line

At the Friends for Life conference, there are always a number of celebrities here.  This year, they include Crystal Bowersox, Jay Hewitt, Charlie Kimball, Kendall Simmons to just name a few (I’m sorry (not really) there are no hyperlinks, but I’m typing this on my tablet and they are just too cumbersome to insert).

I think it is fantastic that these individuals take the time to visit with the folks here, meeting real people who have reached the pinnacle of their area is a great spot of inspiration for all of us here.

These individuals have achieved things that are incredible for any person, let alone a diabetic.  The did it despite their diabetes.

Despite their diabetes.

That is one of those thin lines.  “Despite your diabetes” seems to be how they are portrayed in the media… Almost like they were given an extra couple of strokes in a round of golf.  That has always bothered me, that perception by the public.  I certainly don’t want pity, but at the same time we all deal with things on a day-to-day basis that suck.

Here at FFL, there is more of a “He/She is diabetic just like you!  They did it and so can you!’  That is an important lesson and as we learn more and more and the tools become better and better, it becomes more and more possible.

As our kids achieve more and more, we run into another thin line.

This line is the one where the diabetes community needs inspiration from these individuals and yet the community must still portray diabetes as the serious and deadly condition that it truly is.

We see these incredible individuals testifying before Congress, testifying about the serious nature of diabetes while they embody the the pinnacle of human endeavor. How hard is it to truly portray the serious nature of diabetes having achieved all that? Despite the seeming paradox there, I am grateful that they do it.

Why don’t we see more of the mothers who are diabetic, who struggle for months and months (or longer) to prepare for pregnancy and then bring a beautiful child into this world. They have accomplished something wonderful. Something that many believed, not too long ago, they weren’t supposed to do.

Despite their diabetes.

DIabetic parent’s in general can bring an extra set of worries to the family. Will we stay healthy enough to be able to provide for them. Will an employer have any type of health insurance or life insurance. Will we be able to provide for our children’s future? Will we be able to give them a better life than we had.

Will we give our children or grandchildren diabetes?

We seem to hear a lot about how terrible diabetes can be, at least on the physical aspects, for children.

Once we “grow up”, we will still have the physical burden of diabetes.  Plus the “normal” day to day of life, work, family, taxes. Plus the extra burden of the financial aspects of diabetes; the refills, health insurance, appointments.

Then we can add in all the worry that all those “things” can bring.  The incredible physical, mental, and emotional stresses that diabetes seems to bring along with it doesn’t stop parents from loving their children, wanting them to be safe, happy and healthy.  To have it better than they did.  Being a role model for being a good person, for persevering to overcome and live a life.

Despite our diabetes.

These are the people who can tell you about both sides of those thin lines… the thin line we walk between inspiration and showing how to cope. And also showing it’s ok to be upset about it from time to time.

Because of our diabetes.

Disclaimer:  I personally paid for all expenses involved in attending Friends For Life, including plane tickets, registration, hotel, and food.  I was not asked to blog about the event, and all opinions are my own.

© 2012 Scott Strange, Strangely Diabetic and

  • Very well said, my friend!!!

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  • Mike Hoskins

    Love the message here, Scott. I like all the stories being shared, whether it’s the “regular folk” or those who’ve accomplished great athletic or celebrity feats. All important in the greater scheme, but you’re right that there is a fine line between that “bad” diabetes and positive manageability.

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  • This is a tricky one for me.

    I’m not as awesome athletically as the folks you mentioned–and that has nothing to do with diabetes–but I get the “Look at what you’re accomplishing despite/with/because of diabetes!” compliment all the time. I recognize that diabetes is a factor (and the one that’s least in my control right now) but it’s not the biggest part of either my results or my motivation. That would be the part that comes by putting in day after day of hard work, even when I don’t want to and when diabetes presents a challenge. (The pros and the elites feel the same way, too, of course.)

    Sure, I think about diabetes sometimes when I’m training and racing, partly to make sure I’m doing the right thing to achieve my best performance, but often it’s with the mental image of beating this disease like a piñata when I need a little bit of extra motivation.

    Perhaps people are reacting to the fact that I *am* out there day after day doing what I need to do to compete. People (including myself) can find so many reasons for not doing so many of the things that we know we should. I think it’s natural for people with and without diabetes to want to acknowledge our accomplishments as worthy of a little extra attention because *we didn’t give in* to whatever impediments or excuses might come our way.

    So, as much as I dislike hearing this despite/because business as part of a compliment and wish that people would just focus on the accomplishment, I think I finally get where people are coming from. (Thanks for prompting me to think about this more!)

  • Scott Strumello

    There is indeed a fine line, and too frequently, that line has been defined by individuals WITHOUT diabetes, hence they have depicted a disease that is not serious and is a minor inconvenience.  Unfortunately, when that happens, there is no imperative to CURE the disease.  My friend Deb Butterfield once wrote an eloquent article entitled “Perceptions vs. Reality” which can be viewed at .  In that, she wrote that “By showing the world only the happy face, and not the tragic disease beneath, we are endorsing the prevailing philosophy of tolerating, rather than curing, diabetes.”  She felt that in order for policy makers, philanthropists, employers, and the public to feel compelled to cure diabetes they need to see diabetes as MORE than a mere inconvenience but entirely managable disease.  As she wrote: “In order for this disease to be cured, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way diabetes is viewed. We need to close the gap between the perception of diabetes as a controllable condition and the reality that it is one of the world’s oldest, deadliest, and most pervasive diseases.”  Thanks for calling attention to this fine line!

  • Celine Parent

    I do some things because of diabetes.

    I do other things despite diabetes.

    And I do some things just to spite diabetes.

    But at the end of the day, I’m willing to bet that everything I can do with diabetes I could do without diabetes so really, it’s other people’s perceptions of what I can or cannot do that I’m overcoming….not my diabetes.

  • shannon

    yeah, it’s totally a thin line, even just in convos with friends and family members, you know?

    i love what you said about parents with diabetes. it’s a lot to deal with and i think of my own daughter as an adult in the future, if she decides to have kids (she told me after she was first diagnosed that she thought she would adopt, but we’ve not spoken of it recently).

    anyway, thanks as always for something to think about. 🙂

  • Very thought provoking post, Scott. Thank you!

  • Such a wonderful tone, here. It drives me crazy when people act like I’m some sort of invalid – “Oh, you’re diabetic but you did ____?!” but it’s important to acknowledge that dealing with this disease is a lot of work. I think I’d be happy if people just noticed that I put a lot of myself, a lot of effort and time and thought, into self-care – like people being impressed with a big project I’ve done.

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