Over 171 MILLION people worldwide have Diabetes. That's a lot, right? Apparently 24 million of those people are in the US. Now, don't get me wrong, there are a lot of times where I feel completely alone in this; until very recently I haven't had contact with other diabetics and despite the prevalence of diabetes, our society know so very little.
Lance Armstrong started one of the most well known cancer charities in the US, if not worldwide. How many people have a yellow "Livestrong" bracelet? I know I do. And, when I was first diagnosed (and told I potentially had a bunch of other things going on: cancer, tumors, cysts and a heart problem) I bought and read all of his books. His story is inspirational, I am not doubting that. I'm just saying that he put his name on the name "cancer," and now everyone is SO much more aware of cancer research/funding/information.
Michael J. Fox started his own foundation for Parkinson's Disease. He is actually what inspired this blog, I'm currently reading his book, "Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist." Thus far I'm really enjoying his story. BUT, he used his star status to bring attention to Parkinson's Disease, not only in the general public, but in government as well. I'll be honest, I knew practically nothing prior to hearing of his diagnosis, but I found out more because I've always respected and loved him as an actor. I'm sure if I were a little older I would have payed more attention to Parkinson's with discovering Muhammad Ali's diagnosis.
Looking at Michael and Lance's wonderful work it makes me wonder what the celebrity diabetics are doing. Now, I promise, I'm not trying to knock any diabetic celebrities....well, maybe Halle Berry. Much like any other chronic illness one treatment plan doesn't work for everyone. Every Type 1 needs to be on insulin...unless you're Halle. But the dosages vary greatly from person to person. I'm 23, have high cholesterol and neuropathy. Not every 23 y/o diabetic has that, some have more, some have different complications, some have fewer complications. Some opt for pumps, some take daily shots. What I'm trying to say is: treatment varies greatly. But it's just the same with any other disease.
I wish there was a celebrity that openly promoted diabetes awareness. The celebrities I know of do not shy away from discussing their diabetes when asked, but they don't openly discuss. Perhaps this is because some people will assume you are less able to perform. Even as a former athlete, I can hardly imagine what it's like for Jay Cutler and Adam Morrison as they compete. When you have a bad game are people going to question your diabetes management? I get it completely.
The diabetic community is so divided. It was recently pointed out to me that diabetes doesn't even have a solid "color" to represent the diabetic cause...one charity calls it red, the other, blue. Imagine the power we'd have if we'd just unite. A celebrity taking ownership would be greatly beneficial I believe.
Another thought on why we don't have a "stand out" celebrity representing diabetes is that unlike Parkinson's and cancer, diabetes is something you can primarily live and doesn't usually require you to retire from your profession. Lance Armstrong had to stop cycling because of his critical cancer condition. Michael J. Fox performed for years after his diagnosis, but eventually had to stop, only after his "retirement" was he able to create a foundation and awareness campaign. If diabetic celebrities wait until they're too sick to work I feel they lose their appeal to young diabetics. I know I don't feel like I connect or identify with Mary Tyler Moore and Wilford Brimley. I think it's really great to know of certain celebrity diabetics...but how many people outside the diabetic community know they have diabetes? I would venture to say the numbers would be pretty low.
That brings up a whole other ordeal though...what will people think when you talk about your diabetes. I know on a personal level that you can get a variety of reactions: pity or they think you're sick all the time. So, again, I completely understand wanting to keep an understated profile about your diabetes. But, I really wish someone would put the fear behind them and try to make a change.
There are a slew of non-profits raising money for diabetes research and for diabetics...but how many can you recall? JDRF and ADA, right? I know these organizations were formed for the right reasons, but they've been overcome with internal politics. Not to say they're invalid organizations, but what about the others? What would it be like to be in a world with all the diabetes organizations working together? I'd love to see that. I'd also like to see a cure for diabetes. Oh so badly. It's selfish, yes, but I know a cure is possible, I'd like to see us fighting...fighting not to be overtaken by this pain in the ass disease and fighting to find a cure ASAP...I'm tired of the saying it'll be cured within the next 10 years...like they've said for the last 20 years.
I know the Jonas brother with Type 1 spoke in Congress. That's incredibly brave of him. While I do not at all blame him, he's dedicating his time and efforts into performing. How awesome would it be to have a celebrity not just put their face with an organization, but to really delve into the ins and outs of whatever organization they chose?
Who knows, maybe more of a celebrity presence wouldn't help at all. I honestly think it would, but I've been wrong before, it could happen again.
Please don't interpret this as we cannot accomplish anything without celebrity recognition, I just feel it would be greatly beneficial for our cause.