Saturday, 5 April 2014

What Do Type 2 Diabetes and Designer Dogs Have in Common?

Ah, my recurring D-words — Dogs and Diabetes!

The post title should really be "What do having Type 2 diabetes and having a designer dog have in common?" ... but that would have been too wordy, and too have-y.

Anyway, I shall get to Part I of the answer anon (yeah, it's going to be a 2-post topic) ... but first, aren't these shoes colourful? I balked a bit at the trend when I bought my last pair of runners (now demoted to dog-park status), but when Freddie and I visited a Big Shoe Sale the other day, I kinda got into the flashiness. (More in a future post on the desire for solid runners!)

OK! On to D-word #1 ...

There are plenty of ways in which Type 1 diabetes is more challenging than Type 2: more intractable, more invasive, more time-consuming (often it feels all-consuming), more likely to strike a fatal blow in the middle of the night, etc. And yet ... there is a particularly nasty challenge that is unique to Type 2: the widespread belief that this condition is the responsibility, the fault, of the person dealing with it ... that if he/she would only exercise more, eat better food, start taking better care of him/herself, for pete's sake, then he/she either wouldn't have the condition at all, or would have a much easier time managing it.

Dumpster Deco

I confess: I've shared in that belief to varying degrees over the years. Ever since my diagnosis with Type 1 (at the barely-adult age of 21), 99% of first-time conversations about my diabetes have involved my making it very clear which kind I have. Sometimes I first have to explain that diabetes comes in more than one flavour, but I always make a point of explaining my diabetes in terms my listener will understand: the kind that usually hits when you're a kid, the incurable autoimmune kind, the kind where you have to inject/infuse insulin or you die, the Bobby Clarke / Mary Tyler Moore / Nick Jonas kind ... hell, call it "the bad kind" if you like. That's what I've got, I tell people.

NOT the old, fat, out-of-shape-person kind.* Not the kind your grandmother who took pills and died of a heart attack had. Not the preventable kind.** And I make these assertions with a muddy mixture of defensiveness, pedantry, and even — dare I say? — pride.

Not the flashiest of the flash, but check the price: $160 down to $70!
(dingy dog-park shoes next to Freddie)

Now, for most of my diabetic life, people who understand there are different "flavours" have generally assumed I have Type 1 (making my twisted T1 pride unnecessary); others have expressed enough bewilderment over my youth/eating habits/apparent fitness level that I've felt justified in offering a 30-second Diabetes for Dummies primer.


However ... the times they are a-changin'.

Teacher Talk

Now that I'm no longer 21, or 31, or even 41 ... now that 51 is no longer imponderably far in the future, I'm starting to see (or maybe just imagine) glimmers of that It's-your-fault assumption when I tell people I have diabetes. And, weirdly, I've found myself responding not only with a stronger-than-ever desire to set the record straight but also with a powerful sense of guilt by association.

Maybe all that chocolate I've eaten over the years has reached a critical mass in my conscience; maybe I'm becoming more empathetic as I age. Whatever the reason, I'm starting to feel what it's like to be blamed for an illness.

In short, it sucks. Even if Type 2 diabetes were entirely attributable to the behaviours of the T2 diabetic — it's not — blame and guilt are not very effective motivators of change. Quite the opposite, I'd venture to guess.

But is that always so? Can a guilty conscience sometimes do some good ... or at least raise some useful awareness?

Maybe? Sometimes? In any case, a sense of guilt recently inspired me to do some dog-related good — or, rather, to try. Which brings me to D-word #2 and its connection to the business above ...

Stay tuned for Part II, in which all shall be made clear!

A post featuring shoes must have footnotes!

*Sadly, the "old" part of this description is losing relevance as increasing numbers of kids find themselves with a T2D diagnosis. Yikes.

**Research has started to show that the development of Type 1 diabetes is not an inescapable genetic path. Of T1 diabetics who are also identical twins, only 30-50% of the twin siblings develop T1D — a surprising (to me) statistic, which suggests environmental factors are at work, in addition to the genetic predisposition. There's some further info embedded in this article on Type 1 diabetes. (Thanks to Sam P. for the link!)


  1. Fascinating! I have 2 brothers with Diabetes - the other is susceptible to Gout. I, on the other hand, have to watch my sugar intake, and ensure that I eat - although I've been told I'm in danger of developing T2, I'm doing all I can to avoid it.
    I love how you deal with it, practically. And you speak of it the same.
    Do my dogs sense something's wrong? Nope! They accuse me of being a hypocrite when I'm not really all that sick - but they will stay with me. Not sure if something were to happen, though.
    I do so look forward to your posts! I'm going to put one on here very soon....
    Thank you, Heather!

    1. Thanks, Tony! As you of course know, dogs are great for maintaining their humans' activity level (especially the number of dogs you have!) ... and activity is pretty useful for keeping the T2D gremlins at bay ...

      Looking forward to your next report from Canine Central!

  2. Great read and your photos are stunning.

    1. Thanks so much, Beth! That makes my morning. :)

  3. Tough topic to breach.
    I do believe that a lot of the time the stereotype is true. Let's face it, a LOT of the type2 diabetics out there have it as a result of poor lifestyle choices. No, not all but most of them.
    I also feel the need to always reiterate that I have Type1. It's never "I have diabetes" it's always, "I have type1 diabetes".
    I do understand it must be hard for those people that live healthy but have shitty genes and still get type2. That must be really difficult. We judge too much.

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