Six People You Need to Tell
By Melissa Conrad Stppler, M.D.
I don’t have strong feelings about sharing the fact that I have diabetes. In fact, whether or not I tell someone depends largely on my mood. On occasion, I’ve revealed the fact when I’ve felt (wrongly, I know) that I needed an excuse to decline some unwanted food or beverage offering. At other times, I feel protective and private about my medical history, despite my sharing parts of it in this column.
While one’s level of openness and disclosure is an intensely personal matter, sometimes telling others about your diabetes only makes sense. This is particularly true if not telling might have adverse consequences for your health. Everyone’s medical situation is different, and the breadth of your own need-to-know list may vary. The following six are only my suggestions for additions to the must-know list:
1. The lab/clinic office staff. My endocrinologist is based in a large teaching hospital, so when I have laboratory work done, it’s in a central blood-drawing laboratory that’s always packed. Several times I have arrived early in the morning to have fasting blood studies performed and have been faced with an hour’s wait. Since I take long-acting insulin at night, I got really uncomfortable one morning waiting for my blood draw. Finally, I told the receptionist that I have diabetes, I take insulin, and I was feeling ill since I was fasting. Her response: “Why didn’t you say so, honey? You shouldn’t be waiting, then! You’ll be next in line.”
2. Your coach, trainer, or sports partner. While I’m no world-class athlete, I do try to keep fit, and my exercise routine might include outdoor tennis in the summer sun or a new type of workout class at the gym. If I’m going to be doing something unusually strenuous, like playing tennis this past week in the even-for-our-hot-climate astronomical temperatures, I always let someone know about my condition.
3. Travel companions. Nowadays, I'm usually traveling for pleasure with my family, but if I’m traveling alone or with colleagues, it’s usually more convenient (not to mention safer) for me to just explain to them that I have to keep my insulin bag from overheating and will need to eat regular meals.
4. Happy-hour buddies. I’m not at all advocating drinking to excess, but most people with diabetes know that even small amounts of alcohol can play tricks with both your metabolism and blood sugar levels. If you’re going to indulge in alcoholic beverages, I think it’s only prudent that a companion knows about your condition.
5. The kids. This one is pretty obvious, but I try to do more than warm them about the dangers of touching my syringes or medications. I try to share age-appropriate details about diabetes with my kids so they’ll understand my need to make healthy food and lifestyle choices. It’s also fun when they support me in my choices and remind me to choose wisely!
6. The pharmacist. As an M.D., it’s easy to just assume that I can make proper choices for over-the-counter medication purchases. But pharmacists know a lot more about the preparation and composition of what’s on the shelf than most doctors. Your pharmacist can guide you to the OTC preparations that contain less sugar or that may be most appropriate for your condition.
dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.
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