Diabetes Forecast

You're My Type

By Sara Sklaroff, Editor at Large ,

Without my friends, I would be less healthy than I am.

I realized this the other day when it occurred to me that my friend Jessica had found me an excellent personal trainer—with whom I have worked out for almost two years now—and also suggested a smartphone app that has helped me improve my diet significantly. Other friends have been walking partners, bicycling coaches, and, of course, crucial emotional supports.

I made these updated friendship bracelets for my friends with type 1, using materials from my local hardware store—a nod to all the hard work that my pals do to manage their diabetes.

But when I stop to think about it, Dayle, my friend with type 1 diabetes, is the person who has taught me the most about staying healthy with this disease. She's the one who encouraged me to get a continuous glucose monitor, which has transformed my diabetes management. She has also been a tireless sounding board for my questions and concerns, even though my type 2 is in some ways very different from her type 1—at least for now. This is a progressive disease. When I talk to Dayle about how she lives with type 1 and insulin, I am aware that down the road that might be how I live, too.

And yet too often, there is a tension between people with type 1 and type 2. You can see it played out in online forums, in the unguarded comments of the safely anonymous—mostly type 1s (or their parents) expressing their anger at type 2s. They believe that type 2s have brought diabetes upon themselves with unhealthy behaviors, unlike those who experience the seemingly random lightning strike of type 1. Type 2s, on the other hand, often seem oblivious to the severity of what type 1s experience. And in the culture at large, the two are constantly conflated—to the detriment of all.

Truth is, the two groups (as well as women with gestational diabetes and people with the other, rarer types of diabetes that don't quite fall into these main categories) need each other.

Type 2s need type 1s for the urgency of their cause. It may sound crude to say it, but from a public relations perspective, the general public seems much more receptive to the plight of a cute kid with type 1 than to the situation of an older person with type 2. Type 1s, meanwhile, need type 2s for their sheer numbers. When we talk about the epidemic of diabetes in this country, it is mostly because of the millions of type 2s. Without type 2, diabetes becomes a much less talked-about (and less researched) disease.

And, of course, we need each other because of the many ways in which our experience is very similar. We can learn more from each other than we often realize, as the generosity of type 1 friends like Dayle has shown me. But mostly, we need each other because the obstacles we all face are greater than either camp. In a battle this big, there's no need to take sides.



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