Diabetes: Calling a Myth a Myth

perfume The frustrating ‘diabetes’ fairy-stories would fill volumes.

Diabetics shouldn’t eat sugar – else they will turn into a pumpkin at midnight.

Diabetics brought it all on themselves – and the magic mirror always tells the truth.

Diabetics always have big, unhealthy babies – and the goose laid another golden goody….


But today’s myth is more belivable, even to the educated, than one about a frog turning into a prince.  This makes it dangerous.  It’s comparable to the princess and the prince living happily ever after:  unlikely when you think it through, yet real people still expect their relationships to work out that way.

Here it is:

Being Diabetic should Never, Ever stop you from doing Anything.

Yes. Myth.  There will be readers whose wrath is already melting their screen as they read: plenty of diabetics evangelise about it being true. If you read my previous posts carefully, you’ll find me evangelising, too.  Walking alone, bivvying at night, for hundreds of miles; trekking in the Himalayas; working long hours; supporting my family; night shifts.  Driving; climbing; running.  Having perfectly healthy babies. Bah! to the golden goose. I can do anything ‘normal’ people can do!  Yada, yada, yada.

And yet, just last Saturday, diabetes stopped me from:

1) Getting Pizza

I can eat pizza, but it’s a pain. The high fat levels make it hard to predict.  So I avoid it.


2) Playing Hide and Seek outside the museum with my children.

I’d hypod and had some sweets but I needed more.  So instead of following the kids outside, I took them to the museum cafe and treated them to cake.

3) Driving home straight away afterwards

I wasn’t hypo now, but my levels were under five.  I had to wait half an hour to be legal on the road.  It was frustrating because the kids were ratty.


4) Going for a run

A rare opportunity, kids in bed, potential babysitter….. and my levels were still swinging around like a pendalum and it would have been stupid.


I know what you are thinking.  I have control of my diabetes.  If I had done the maths for the pizza; carried enough hypo sweets or even not had a hypo in the first place; taken more care before I wanted to drive or run, then I could have done all those things. Remember the wording of the myth in the first place:

Being Diabetic should Never, Ever stop you from doing Anything.


Let me quote author William Horwood, complementing a character who wore her parents’ wealth ‘like a very good perfume: it was there, but subtle and inconspicuous.

A ‘Good Diabetic’ would wear her diabetes like that.

Having the right kit close at hand, not scrabbling for it or loosing bits.

Testing the recommended amount without interrupting anything.

Calculating the carbs being served at dinner without so much as breaking off the conversation.

Administering insulin at the right time, without grossing fellow diners out.

Anticipating the next few hours’ activity without starting an inquest.

Calculating a successful insulin dose; avoiding highs or lows.

Living a normal life, but with a glucometer and an insulin pen in her pocket.


I’d like to say I did that, but my life is every bit as complicated, distracting and hectic as everybody else’s.  I have other things to thing about at meal-times.   Like: trying to feed Toddler, stop Tiddler escaping his high chair, getting food on the table.  Dare I admit that my insulin doses are sometimes a guess?

A friend’s sister will always refer to me as ‘the stupid diabetic one’. Came to visit, had to inconvenience the local doctors’ because I’d left my insulin at home, then hypod out walking the following day. Makes me sound horrific, but I was second-trimester pregnant at the time. After fourteen straight, succesful days locumming (ten hour shifts with on-call), I’d diven my friend to see this sister in the lakes. I walked double figures of miles both of those days.  You could have viewed this as an achievement, yet in her eyes and mine I had exposed myself as a ‘bad diabetic’.

The reason it hurt is that I used to be like her –  before I started holding proceedings up myself, I was the sort who got mildly irritated by people like me….  I walk mostly on my own now, so I can work it around my sugars (and I can outpace most people).

But I digress: back to last weekend. It made my kids museum trip less fun and made me feel inadequate, because of course it’s my fault:

Being Diabetic should Never, Ever stop you from doing Anything.

And that’s where proportion comes in.

When we get our diabetes wrong, it will inconvenience us – and others around us.  Real damage can occur, which is why we have a responsiblity to make sure that our sugars are above 5mmol/l at work and when driving a car.  Also to remain capable of childcare.

Outside of that, if all I wanted to do was poddle to the shops and read a book, diabetes would not stop me from doing it.  But I want to do lots of things:  eat an exciting diet, take the kids to exciting places, exercise, be spontaneous……

If you can take your normal life, add insulin and not need to take it easier sometimes, then maybe your life wasn’t exciting enough to start with.

Being Diabetic doesn’t stop you from doing Anything but it sometimes stops you from doing everything at once.  And that’s OK….

Isn’t it?



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