Thursday, November 14, 2013

Just the facts, Ma'am

Today is World Diabetes Day.  It's Dr. Banting's birthday, and in 1923, he won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of insulin.  Every day since February 17, 2011 insulin saves Brooke's life.  So we celebrate.  Dr. Banting, I'm glad you were born.  Thank you for saving my daughter's life.

Diabetes is a complicated thing.  I get that.  There are lots of different kinds of Diabetes.  There is lots of misinformation out there about Diabetes.  Doctors and patients and researchers are learning new things about Diabetes every day.  It's hard to keep up.

I'm not bitter.  I used to believe some of the myths, sometimes I still do.  I learn something new about Diabetes every day.

I'm sharing some good information about Diabetes.  It's the best information we have today.  Not because I'm condescending, but because I want to educate.  All of the points are real life questions or comments that people who know and love our family have brought up since Brooke's diagnosis.  They asked because they care and want to understand.

**The explanations I'm about to give are the most basic ways I can think of to give helpful, relevant information.  I know that Diabetes is not as cut and dried as I am about to make it seem, but for non-Diabetics, it's some good working information.**

Q:  Does she have the bad kind of Diabetes?
A:  There are several different kinds of Diabetes.  The two most well known kinds are Type 1 and Type 2.  Type 1 is an auto-immune disease.  Brooke has Type 1 Diabetes.  She was born with antibodies in her blood that attacked and killed the cells in her pancreas that produce insulin.  You must have insulin to live.  Her body doesn't make it's own insulin, so we have to give her insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is basically defined by the fact that your body makes it's own insulin, but for some reason your body doesn't use the insulin it makes effectively.  There are many reasons why your body doesn't use the insulin it makes.  Many.  It is not just weight, exercise, and diet.  It is not just a fat person's disease.  Remember the cholesterol commercials with the beautiful, athletic, otherwise healthy looking people?  They looked perfect on the outside, but then their cholesterol number would come down and make them trip or spill or something.  Think that, except with Type 2 Diabetes.  Anyone can develop Type 2 Diabetes, even skinny, active people.

Q: Did she get it because she ate too much sugar?  Got too fat?  Has family members that are too fat?
A:  No.  She got it because her pancreas quit making insulin.

Q:  Will she eventually grow out of it?
A:  No.  The cells in her pancreas that she needs?  They are dead. DEAD.  One doesn't grow out of dead.

Q: Can't she just take a pill?
A:  No. What Brooke needs is insulin.  If you were to ingest insulin through pill or liquid form, your stomach acid would destroy it before it got to your cells to do its job.

Type 2 Diabetes is sometimes treated with pills, because a pill can help a body use the insulin it already makes.

Q: Should she eat that?
A:  My snarky answer to this question is:  Should you eat that?
My kind answer to this question is:  Type 1 Diabetes treatment does not require being on a diet.  We can all agree that it has been suggested for all human kind to eat healthy and exercise regularly.  These suggestions apply to Brooke as much as they apply to me, or you, or the next door neighbor.

BUT, it may seem like she is on a diet because what you see us doing is counting carbs.  The fact is that Type 1 Diabetes treatment does require varied insulin dosages.  We have to give her certain amounts of insulin depending on the amount of carbs she eats.  The only reason we count carbs is to have a number to put in our math equation to figure the insulin dosage she needs.Yes, we do complicated math every time she puts food in her mouth.

Go ahead, let her have the cupcake!  I can do the math.

Q:  I have a friend that cured his Diabetes with this health supplement.  Don't you want to put Brooke on it too?
A:  This one is tricky, y'all.  Because, yes!  Of course, if there was a cure for Diabetes I would want Brooke on it.  But the hard facts are...there isn't a cure.  There just isn't.  I know that you just want to help because you love her.  I know that Dr. Soandso said it could be done.

But here it is:  Brooke's body doesn't make insulin.  Humans need insulin to stay alive.  The part of her body that makes insulin is dead.  A cure would be figuring out a way for her body to start making the insulin she needs again so we wouldn't have to inject her anymore.

Here is what I think happens with all these "supplements".  Brooke's diet is as balanced as any normal 10 year old, and lets say that an average day is 150g of carbs.  Doing the math would tell you that she would need about 10 units of insulin a day to cover the food she eats.

So, let's say that we started one of the supplements and replaced a normal meal or snack or whatever with the supplement.  Because the supplement is lower in carbs, her carb intake goes down, and her average intake is 120g of carbs a day.  Using the same math, that would reduce her insulin intake to 8 units a day.

She is still taking insulin, just not as much.  Reducing the amount of insulin needed is not a cure.  It just means she is taking less than she was before because she is ingesting less carbs than she was before. 

And also:  Insulin isn't bad.  All the normal people make insulin inside their bodies every day.  The insulin we give her saves her life.  It is not our goal to "get her off of insulin".  Unless of course a real cure is discovered, her body starts making its own insulin again, and she doesn't need to be injected anymore.  Then I'll make your head spin with how fast we "get her off the insulin".  

OK, your eyes started glazing over several paragraphs ago.  I'll stop.  If you ever have a question and want an honest, as accurate as possible answer, just ask.  I won't judge or make fun or get snarky.  I know you're just curious.  And I want to get good information out there.  It will help us all.


Su Wilcox said...

I LOL'd a bit at the "bad diabetes". Is there a good kind? :)

Jenni at talking hairdryer said...

Yeah, I never know how to answer that question:)

Mrs. Verner said...

Good explanations. Yes - I've heard it all over the last 18 years too. People don't seem to realize that their bodies use insulin too - it's just that their body does it automatically without having to use a syringe or a pump or any math calculations.

I laugh at the snarky answer part - because I say the same thing. Everyone always says - you're diabetic you shouldn't eat that. But like you said - should anyone?