Monday, 9 August 2010

Horror Stories vs. Happy Endings

Media attention is a good way to create more awareness about diabetes in the general public. So when I learned that RTE 1 was airing a programme dedicated to the disease I thought “great!”

I quickly changed my mind when I read the programme synopsis in advance of viewing it. We were going to hear the stories of 3 people, one of whom had passed away since filming from diabetes complications, the second was visually impaired and had limb amputations and the third was only a couple of years diagnosed.

I thought to myself “it’s going to be grim and depressing” and decided I was going to be disappointed with the programme. I really didn’t want to watch other peoples’ misery and think that it could one day be me.

Now that I have watched it and heard all of the stories, I heard the message. To me it was loud and clear, “take care of your diabetes or else you will end up like those in the programme”.

I asked myself would I have heard that message from someone who seems to have good management of their diabetes, who didn’t have any of the long term complications, or was young, fit and vibrant?

I think the answer is no.

So, yes we would like to see more inspirational people with diabetes who have good stories to tell us but we also need reminders of what can happen if we choose to ignore our diabetes.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Moments of Inspiration

Meeting Steve Beriault.
I had the pleasure of meeting a man by the name of Steve Beriault on Sunday the 11th of July in the Limerick Strand Hotel, where he came to share his personal experiences in living with Type 1 Diabetes.

Steve is a 59 year old Canadian, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was 2 years old; he has lived with it for 57 years.

He was diagnosed in the “boiling the glass syringe to sterilise it” era. He was in his early 30’s when he received his first Blood Glucose Meter. Before this he had no way of knowing what his blood glucose numbers were at any time and there were no HbA1c’s tests either.

His achievements include; cycling across Canada in 1975, kayaking halfway across Canada, completing five 5K walkathons and raising $100,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) as a double amputee.

Diabetes threw everything it had at him; diabetic retinopathy, kidney disease resulting in a kidney transplant, and neuropathy leading to both legs being amputated below the knee but he still comes out fighting. Of all of these tortures he says that “you want to make the best of what you’ve got in life and live it”.

He maintains that if you have diabetes you need to become a warrior and that diabetes is your enemy. He goes on to say that the worldwide diabetes population comprises almost 240 million persons. About 24 million (10%) are Type 1 diabetics. Imagine if one could mobilise those 24 million as an army in this war with diabetes. This army has huge potential to raise the funds needed to research a cure and to create awareness & education programmes.

I’ve never thought of diabetes as my enemy; I’d rather think of it as a more of a friend, so to speak, because having enemies can be exhausting and eventually you get tired of fighting. However, I like the analogy and after listening to Steve I am ready to take up arms and fight. Maybe if the researchers heard from us, the people they are trying to cure, more often they might become more inspired too.