We’ve all heard this one: A picture of something really decadent, the Cronut, the unicorn Starbucks drink, whatever, and someone says, “Diabetes on a plate/in a cup!” Hahahahahaha hilarity ensues, right? Because it just tickles the ribs. Diabetes is a really funny word, and that old dude with the white mustache calling it “dia-beetus” in that commercial a few years back just made it even funnier.
But did you know that in the U.S., diabetes is responsible for more deaths each year than both AIDS and cancer combined? Do you make jokes about AIDS and cancer too?
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Did you know that the number one reason why people get limbs amputated is because of diabetes complications?
Is it funny when you see people who have had their limbs amputated?
Did you know that diabetes is among the leading causes of blindness and kidney failure? Do you laugh when you see blind people walking by?
Did you know that for almost 80,000 Americans, diabetes is the main cause of death each year? Would you chuckle at the funeral of a person who lost their life to diabetes?
Did you know that almost 10 percent of the population (around 30 million people) in the U.S. has some form of diabetes right now, and that 84 million people over the age of 20 have prediabetes (meaning they are developing type 2 diabetes), and most of them are not even aware of it? Would it be kinda hilarious if you were one of those unsuspecting people?
Did you know that the risk for developing type 2 diabetes is 50 percent higher among black and Hispanic Americans than their white counterparts? Is that level of inequality extending to overall well-being and funny?
Did you realize that there are multiple kinds of diabetes? Does that make it funnier?
Did you know that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease not linked to diet or lifestyle and cannot be prevented, and that average age of onset is 14? Is it comical to think that people, even little children, can get a life sentence to this disease even if they are extremely health conscious and active?
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Did you know that every single person needs insulin to survive, and people with type 1 diabetes can’t produce any of it for themselves and therefore rely on insulin injections to live? Do you giggle when you have to get a shot?
Did you know that insulin is so cost-prohibitive that young Americans with type 1 are literally dying because they can’t afford enough of it to stay alive, even though there is absolutely no shortage of insulin supply in the U.S.? Are the tears of their loved ones something to mock?
I’m sure the vast majority of people reading this wouldn’t think any of these things are funny. I’m sure if you were to put yourself in the shoes of the parents who set several alarms for every few hours during the night, so they can wake up and go prick their child’s finger to make sure their blood sugar doesn’t drop dangerously low in their sleep, you wouldn’t think diabetes is very funny.
I’m sure if your brother or sister had to give themselves four to 10 injections per day just to stay alive, you wouldn’t giggle when you saw them drawing back the proper amount of insulin in the syringe.
I’m sure if you yourself were struggling to keep your blood sugar levels in range all day every day, if you were literally taking on the job of an organ that is supposed to work seamlessly and without any conscious effort, on top of doing all the regular things that life demands of you; if you literally never had so much as a minute’s break from doing that, if you could never go on a vacation and forget that diabetes is with you, demanding your attention, demanding your constant engagement, demanding your vigilant action — threatening you with blindness, organ failure, neuropathy, amputation, taunting you with the number of years it could take off your life — I’m sure if this was your experience with diabetes, diabetes would cease to be funny.
No one food/drink can “give” you diabetes, no matter how sugary or decadent it may be.
Not everyone who has diabetes has it because of their lifestyle or diet.
Not everyone who has a poor lifestyle or diet has or will have diabetes.
Diabetes doesn’t only affect old people.
Some days I might want to laugh about it, but unless you are personally coping with it, too — unless you are also fighting this battle with it 24/7 — I don’t want you to.
Diabetes is not an appropriate punchline.
Diabetes is not your joke.
Thanks to the American Diabetes Association for these stats.