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You Don’t Look Like You Should Have Diabetes.

“And this, too, please,” I said, sliding the opened and half-consumed bag of gummy candies across the counter, my hands shaking.

This low was bad.  The symptoms were very visible, with unsteady hands and knees that were buckling out and sweat beading up on my forehead despite the 40 degree weather outside.  I knew I was the color of a cotton ball, with the mental capacity of one as well.

My Dexcom had gone off about ten minutes earlier and I picked around in my purse for the jar of glucose tabs that I soon realized were tucked neatly into the cup holder of my car.  Out in the parking lot.  (Useful.)

Necessity forced my hand to grab the way overpriced bag of candies off the shelf and consume a handful.  “Most expensive low ever,” I muttered, aware that coming up from this 45 mg/dL was going to cost me a pretty penny.  I needed to get out of the store and reassemble my wits, but lows don’t excuse shoplifting, so I made my way to the cashier to check out.

“Are you okay?” the cashier asked, probably because I looked half-removed from the planet.

“Yes, thanks.”

“These candies are open.  Do you want a different bag?  These have been half-eaten,” she said.

“No, it’s okay.  I ate them.”  I smiled in a way that I hoped looked reassuring but probably looked weirdly menacing.  “Low blood sugar.”

“Diabetes?”

“Yeah.”

She smirked.  “And here you are, buying candy.  Isn’t this part of the problem?  You don’t look like you should have diabetes.  Maybe you should stop eating candy.”

I would have rather been eating a banana, to be honest.  Treating with fruit is my preferred way to upend a low.  Or I would have rather had some measured glucose tabs so I knew how much I was consuming and could avoid the post-low rebound.  Fuck, you know what?  I’d rather not have been low at all, because being low in a public place is embarrassing and makes me feel vulnerable.

Let’s just round it out and say that I’d much prefer not to have diabetes in the first place.

“The candy is to bring my blood sugar up.  It’s to keep me from passing out here at your counter.”  It was hard to make the right words come out, but anger jumped ahead of hypoglycemia.  My voice was sharp, like the plummet on my Dexcom graph. “What does someone who should have diabetes look like, anyway?

She didn’t look at me.   And I was glad she didn’t.  I popped a piece of the candy into my mouth, my attempt at a PWD version of a mic drop.  I don’t look like I should have diabetes?  Maybe that’s the point.  Maybe she needs an education on what diabetes does look like, instead of viewing my disease as a punchline, one that society judges unabashedly.

All of a sudden, I can’t wait for November.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Katie Sterner #

    Mic drop, indeed! I wish I was as quick-tongued as you in situations like those.

    10/27/15; 10:33 am
  2. Minnesota Nicee #

    A few years ago I went to a hand clinic to have a trigger finger evaluated. The PA and I were chatting and I told him I had db and he replied, “I do too”. DOn’t ask me why, but I blurted out, “gosh, you don’t look like you have diabetes”. Go figure.
    Also, a few years ago, we were having our local db Saturday meet up and a new person was coming. Another member (M) and I had gotten there early and were scanning Panera to see if anybody else was around. There was a man sitting by himself near us and I said to (M) – “maybe that’s him”. (M) said, “nah, he doesn’t look diabetic”. If we are in the habit of looking at other pwds that way, how do we view ourselves?
    (M) thought we should take out our meters and put them on the edge of our table, in plain sight, and then talk really loud about testing our blood. Finally I simply walked over and asked if he was there for the meet up. He was.

    10/27/15; 10:48 am
  3. Katy #

    Mic drop!
    Kapow!

    10/27/15; 11:53 am
  4. ria #

    what would a “diabetic” halloween costume look like ?
    I can’t wait for Nov., either……all of that half priced candy ! ( jk)

    10/27/15; 2:23 pm
  5. Andy Winslow #

    Nice response. Better than what I could come up with without a low. I’ve had people I work with ask me similar questions or make similar statements. “Why did you let that happen?” I don’t know, seemed like a good idea at the time…

    10/27/15; 7:12 pm
  6. Sarah #

    This perfectly timed and well written article sums up exactly why this “disease” is hell AND why we shouldn’t even bother educating the public. 99% of them will never, ever, get it. Or get it right. Diabetes is simply an easily managed disease of sloth people who simply eat too much sugar! And it’s funny at that!

    If you tell someone you have cystic fibrosis, or even cancer or heart disease (which can be lifestyle caused in some cases) usually they say nothing, “I’m sorry”, “How can I help”, or even some kind words of support.

    This almost never happens with “diabetes”, even for the poor kids with T1.

    It’s the main reason why I have never accepted this “disease” from day 1, and the same reason I typically hide that I have it. I have autoimmune insulin deficiency or Autoimmune Polyglandular Syndrome should anyone bother to ask.

    I too am prone to massive sudden unpredictable lows and literally carry two test kits, 8 juice boxes, and a full bottle of glucose tabs on my person 24/7. My kit sleeps beside me in the bed. I test at least once an hour, more if I’m out, doing something important, or fluctuating. This has helped minimize my lows but they are still embarrassing, dangerous, and scary when they do occur. In one way, if I pass out in public I might be safer than home, assuming the right action is taken. Sadly I dont think we will ever be to the point this occurs. “Diabetes” will forever be known as a disease of “eating sugar” and few people would make the connection that a diabetic is dying in from of them from lack of sugar…

    I’ll just go back to my day dream of a cure.

    Keep fighting T1s, that’s all we can do. It’s a daily battle and no one can save your life but you. We need to live 20x as healthy as anyone else to do half as well. That’s just how it will always be. I don’t expect a cure anytime soon (maybe prevention tactics) nor do I expect pubic perception to change.

    When I was a kid “diabetes” wasn’t caused by sugar and was “possibly” viral (T1). Now sugar DOES trigger (T2) diabetes, so what do you expect the public to believe. The myth ginalky became fact.,..

    10/27/15; 7:41 pm
  7. Sarah #

    Finally 🙂

    10/27/15; 7:42 pm
  8. Erica #

    I frequently get told I “look amazing and (said person) would never think I had diabetes. Um thanks?

    Your response was much nicer than I would have been.

    10/27/15; 11:35 pm
  9. BOOM!
    I both love this and “lowthe” this. <– see what I did there? (trying to stop using the four letter h word.)

    10/27/15; 11:59 pm
  10. Thanks Kerri! You were far more polite than I would have been in that situation.

    10/28/15; 12:12 am
  11. Vicki #

    Kerri,
    You know I am a super-fan of SUM, so I write this with all the love and admiration in the world.

    I am on the cashier’s side of this blog. But, before you flame me, let me explain. I am not a diabetic. I am the SO of a T1D. We met late in life. I love him, diabetes or no.

    What I knew before I met him was, diabetes comes from a lousy diet, not exercising, not taking care of yourself, and eating too much sugar. That’s right, diabetes is based on sugar. Yep, that “sum’s” up my entire knowledge base. That is what I learned on TV.

    The reason I did not know more is, the T1D’s I know hide everything. They hide the blood, the test strips, the pumps, the pens, the needles, the pain, the symptoms, the A1C tests, the ED, the burnout, the frustration, the complications, the low’s the high’s, the counting carbs. Everything.

    When was the last time you saw someone take a shot in public? Or have pump tubing hanging out of their clothes? Or test in public? Anyone? (Besides Kerri, who in my book rocks!) I did not know anything about diabetes, until I met my T1D, and even then, it took months before he even shared he had diabetes. We (non-diabetics) don’t know what we don’t know. If everyone that had diabetes. Any type, publically managed their disease, then maybe more cashiers would offer orange juice with the half opened bag of candy.
    Let the flaming begin.

    10/28/15; 10:37 am
    • Dude, NEVER a flame war here. (Not on my watch, anyway.) I appreciate that you shared another view of this situation. Thank you. And I agree that being more public about diabetes-related things helps heighten awareness, but the thing that struck me about this lady was that she expected me to be something different, to present myself in a less-than favorable way because I had diabetes. This is the thing that pissed me off. Not that she didn’t understand the nuances of diabetes, but that she viewed me – judged me – and anyone with any kind of diabetes, as “less than.”

      I hope that helps explain my frustration with that lady. I don’t make a hobby out of being mean. But I’d be lying if I said her comments didn’t piss me off.

      10/28/15; 12:58 pm
  12. Rachel #

    Mom of a Type 1 diaagnosed at 9 months 3 weeks and currently 2 1/2 years old

    If you’re ever at Target when this happens just shout “Are Rachel and Franky here?” We probably are and I carry extra juice boxes and candy so that I can treat the lows of a whole gaggle of T1’s. I feel like being a D mom is in part being prepared to hand off a bit of sugar or a test strip to anyone that’s around. We all need each other and I may not have the faulty pancreas but I have the management side for now and a big bag of snacks to boot.

    10/30/15; 11:43 pm
  13. Lana Fischer / Diabully #

    Kerri, I know all the shit I pulled on my blog (in your name) makes it hard to believe that I actually DO care about you and respect you as a human being, but believe me when I say, it’s true. Sometimes I get fed up with the carelessness of otherwise intelligent people and end up bashing them on my blog. Go figure; I think it’s how I cope LOL Or, maybe making a public spectacle of people just might steer them back in the right direction; who fucking knows anymore *sigh* Anyway, I just wanted to say, I read your blog sometimes (I read lots of diabetes blog, don’t let it go to your head LOL) and sometimes, JUST sometimes some of the things I read scare me. I don’t know the first thing about you; I don’t even KNOW you really exist. All you are to me is a “picture” of a type 1 diabetic woman I think exists because I follow online. That makes you real to me. So, assuming we’re all real and this really is happening to us, then it can get scary to think that someone who’s real who exists and who you’re growing to like more and more (for God only knows what reason) is making careless mistakes that can hurt her (and her family). I don’t want you to hurt, Kerri; and even though I know you’re a grown woman and have scads of experience and know better, I feel the need to say this: 1) those glucose tabs are NO better for you than candy. There is NOTHING natural or good for you in those glucose tabs, it’s sweet chalk, and you will NOT benefit from them, even to save your life! I bashed Dr. Shara Bialo on my blog for treating her lows with glucose gel (that may have contributed to her retinopathy over the years), and now here I am getting on YOUR case for eating those God awful glucose tabs, which are NO better! They have the same ingredients as fucking Sweet Tarts; still think they’re better than the banana?! And 2) always, always, always carry a fresh fruit with you everywhere you go. I realize the glucose tabs are easier and more convenient to carry, and they take the guesswork out of counting carbs; but believe me when I say, you’re better off eating an extra carb of natural banana (that’s been grown in artificial pesticides LOL) than you are doling out the precise amount of carbs via glucose tabs! You get a lot more than you bargained for with glucose tabs, it’s pure poison. It’s toxic, plain and simple. I like that you’d rather treat lows with fresh fruit, I blog about it all the time. I even asked Dr. Rosedale what HE thinks of treating lows with fruit as opposed to fruit juice and candy — he never bothered to answer. Something tells me he’s scared. After all, the ADA does recommend juice or hard candy, and who is HE to go against the ADA, right? LOL Please be careful and mindful with the snacks; you were fucking lucky your low happened in a store full of candy. It could have happened 10 million feet in the air. And please, of all things, do NOT feel ashamed of getting a low in public and having to treat it. As long as you carry that banana with you wherever you go (not just with you, but ON you, in your pocket, in your bag, the one you never take off your arm!), no one will ever question your lows! And even if they do, fuck them! If they HAD type 1 diabetes and lows, they’d shut the fuck up and let you save your life! But Kerri, next time, if you’re going to reach for something … reach for at least a piece of whole wheat bread… or even a bag of popcorn. I know when you’re 40 mg/dl, you don’t have time or the rationale for these things; that’s why you can’t let yourself be caught in these situations. Screw the cost of the candy — treating low sugar with processed sugar is costing you your life. I’m not perfect myself. I once forgot my snack and ended up going low standing in line at Walgreens waiting for my meds! I grabbed the popcorn. I never forgot my banana, again! And Kerri, if you DON’T have insulin resistance, even the whole damn banana won’t raise your blood sugar too much. I did NOT do this for the backlink, so if you’d rather not publish this, I will understand. I did it for you because I really DO care. Please be more careful in the future. Oh, and trust me, even though I say shit shouldn’t bother you, I’d be the first to punch that bitch right in the nose! (If I had been there.) Take care of yourself, woman! 🙂

    11/2/15; 12:39 am
  14. Lisa #

    I’m sorry, but what a bitch. She shouldn’t have said anything, PERIOD. I’ve been scary low in public, when my daughter was 2 years old. It was at Kohls and the only thing they had was a chocolate bar, a $4 chocolate bar. My world was spinning and I was stumbling about the store, from back to the front, and I’m sure they thought I was intoxicated. It was completely unnerving. I feel ya, and I don’t blame you one bit for what you said. You go Keri!

    01/9/17; 10:13 am

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