Diabetes Forecast

Random Acts of Diabetes

By Sara Sklaroff, Editor at Large

While it's true that I am somewhat of a professional "person with diabetes," there are plenty of people in my life who don't know about my disease. I've never discussed it, for example, with my next-door neighbors, my daughter's teacher, or the woman who cuts my hair. It just hasn't come up.

And yet a barista at the Starbucks I visit once a week knows I have diabetes. So do a security guard at the Swedish Embassy and a bartender for a local catering company. Random? Sure. But sometimes it makes sense to tell strangers about your diabetes.

Sick of having the same conversations about your diabetes again and again? Me too! So I made these handy "diabetes business cards," covering several of the most common diabetes-related situations. Print your own cards here.

In the case of the barista, she came to my aid one day when I had forgotten my wallet but knew I was heading for a low. I didn't tell her about my condition at the time, but the next week, when I tried to pay her for the free drink she'd provided (and she refused my money), I explained how important her help had been. She in turn told me about some of the people in her family who have diabetes—and a little friendship was born.

The security guard was even more crucial: I was serving as an usher at a friend's wedding, and during the ceremony I began to feel quite bad. I made my way—as quietly as I could in clop-clopping heels!—toward the reception food and drink and sat on a bench to check my glucose. The guard happened to walk by, and I appealed to him for help. I told him my blood sugar was dropping, and he knew immediately what I meant. When the catering crew objected that they weren't set up yet, he quite fiercely told them: "She has diabetes, she needs juice!"

Telling people about your diabetes can feel risky. The reactions of others are unpredictable, and even those that are meant kindly can be surprisingly odd, invasive, or even insulting. How many times has someone new to your diabetes tried to give you advice based on misinformation and stereotype? It's enough to make you never want to talk about it at all.

But sometimes it can mean sharing a connection. Several years ago at a rather fancy party, the bartender tried to give me a crazy chocolate-syrup-ice-cream-alcohol concoction. "C'mon, live a little!" he urged. Out of exasperation I shouted over the DJ, "I have diabetes! I don't wanna use the carbs!" His face fell and he began to apologize. He looked miserable. "It's OK," I told him. "It's not your fault that I have diabetes."

He paused, and smiled, and handed me the glass of water I'd asked for.



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