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Tengo Lo Peor October 23, 2012

Posted by laosita in diabetes.

“Estoy diabético,” said the man seated next to me, to the flight attendant.

I am so all over this! I had extra insulin, infusion sets, needles, syringes, tape, strips, lancets, glucose tabs and snack bars.

But all he needed was a glass of water at exactly 11 a.m. To take his pill.

“¿Tiene tipo uno o tipo dos de diabetes?” I asked, trying not to assume.

“Ah, tengo lo peor,” he answered.

Peor equates to worst. Thinking he would explain himself more, (I’ll save you from the Spanish rendition for now), I said I have diabetes, too, and use an insulin pump. Oh, he said, I’ve never had to use syringes.

Uh… I totally win who has it the worst in this conversation. (Note: Good diabetes does not exist. Therefore, worst diabetes does not exist. Do not use good, bad, worst, easy as diabetes descriptors.) We chatted a bit more; he was diagnosed about 50 years ago and strictly adheres to his medication strategy.

While very excited to meet a person with diabetes in the wild, this conversation confused me. The idea that another diabetic held the belief that a ‘worst’ type exists as a way to describe your condition, and that the distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 is not clear, made no sense to me. Even if this gentleman spoke only with his doctor about his diabetes, a doctor surely can explain the different types of diabetes, and that a ‘worst’ type does not exist. Right?

On the other hand, if this gentleman was diagnosed sometime in his teens, would a doctor bother to explain the different types of diabetes? Nobody had that conversation with me when I was 3. Or 13. Or 23. Without social media, health magazines, medical journals, diabetes educators, if you don’t have regular Internet access or a computer, would you know the differences between what you live with and what other people with a condition of a similar name might live with? Would it make any difference to how you manage your own care? Or how you interact with others?

I did not use the plane ride with this gentleman as an opportunity for education, in part because of the language difference, but also because whatever knowledge he did have was working for him. And he did not ask, not about how I manage Type 1 diabetes, not about my pump, not about my CGM.