What’s in a name?
There has been much chatter in the Type 1 diabetes community this past week and it all stems from the complete catastrophe of a show that aired on Oprah starring Dr. Mehmet Oz. In a failed attempt to teach about diabetes, all that Dr. Oz managed to do was raise more myths and misconceptions when it comes to differentiating between the two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2.
This post will not be about his poor bedside manner. Or the awful almost cringe-worthy way he displayed a woman with Type 1 diabetes and her complications as a scare tactic for people ignoring their own Type 2 diabetes. Or the way he is so omnipotent in his own mind that he has the audacity to take on such huge diseases as Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes without having an endocrinologist right at his side as he spoke. No, this post is about quite simply a name. The inability (or ignorance) of Dr. Oz to use the name Type 2 diabetes when he is talking solely about Type 2 diabetes allows for too much confusion when it comes to my son’s disease, Type 1 diabetes.
Something that Dr. Oz said really stuck with me. He said, “the amount of insulin you have to take every day depends on “how bad” your diabetes is.” While I will not say whether that is true or not for Type 2 diabetes, I will say that is an absolute, unequivocal lie when it comes to Type 1 diabetes. All people with Type 1 diabetes take insulin to live. There is no such thing as good, bad, worse, severe, brittle, pre-, or a little Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is what it is. It is the body’s inability to produce its own insulin. Things are happening in a person with Type 1 diabetes body that stop the production of insulin. All cases of Type 1 diabetes require insulin from the minute they are diagnosed. There is no degree of ‘how bad’ that determines whether you take insulin or not.
You may be asking yourself why this bothers me so much. It bothers me because my son lives with Type 1 diabetes through no fault of his own, yet people still feel the need to spew their false understandings whenever they meet us. Strangers see that my son has an insulin pump and they are compelled for whatever reason to say, “Oh he must have bad diabetes.” Thank you Dr. Oz for continuing this myth. No, my son does not have bad diabetes, he has Type 1 diabetes. He needs insulin to live.
Or when yet another self-proclaimed expert on diabetes stops me at a food court and says, “You know your son wouldn’t have to take insulin if you didn’t give him that ice cream cone,” to that I say, thank you again Dr. Oz. If you had only pointed out that all people with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin regardless of what they eat maybe, just maybe, one single person could have been educated properly as opposed to being fed more misconceptions.
I know of no other disease that gets lumped with other diseases simply because experts are too lazy to use the proper terminology. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, does the doctor leave it at that? I would imagine a person receiving a cancer diagnosis would like to know if it were pancreatic cancer or skin cancer. I would also imagine that a person receiving a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer would be surprised to be asked from a stranger on the street if they planned on using sunblock to protect their skin now. Sure, aside from being awfully rude and presumptuous, it just doesn’t make any sense.
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes deserve the same respect. The people living with Type 1 diabetes, the autoimmune disease, deserve the proper name be used even more than the actual disease. The misconceptions that are hurled at my son (and me) are rude, presumptuous, hurtful and in 100% of cases outright untruths that make no sense.
So in answer to my original question, what’s in a name? Everything, Dr. Oz, everything.