Even though it’s the right day, the title of this blog doesn't continue with 'the 5th November' (as you might have been starting to sing in your head). Instead, the next line is 'remember, remember... all the basics of living with diabetes'. We're referring to those small actions and timely interventions that can make the crucial difference between diabetes fitting neatly into your life and you constantly feeling you're backpedalling to keep up with it and pick up the pieces.
Take blood testing for example... yes, it is a pain, can be messy, inconvenient, embarrassing even, but without it, maybe you get an embarrassing hypo, an inconvenient thirst or the annoying call of the loo every 5 minutes. You get the idea?
To celebrate World Diabetes Day this month, we will be publishing a brand new book with reminders of all these essentials, revisiting the basics of diabetes and answering some of those often heard questions-to-self 'why am I doing this?' or, more often 'how did I end up in this situation?' If you've ever experienced this, we may be able to help you - just watch this space and our website for more info on when this useful addition to your diabetes bookshelf is available!
And importantly in this blog, we also want to ‘remember, remember’ something else: World Diabetes Day itself. It's a day supported by the International Diabetes Federation and celebrated around the world on 14 November, the birthday of Frederick Banting. Banting was a member of the Nobel prizewinning team who discovered insulin back in the 1920s. Blue is the colour of the WDD symbol, and many countries, towns and cities light up their most iconic buildings in blue to mark the occasion. It's a day to reflect on what's needed in diabetes care here and now.
With so many days and weeks set aside for different conditions these days, it's easy to think this is just another one, albeit with a good gimmick. Here's why we think it's important...
In the 1920s, the treatment for diabetes looked simple: insulin transformed people from emaciated remnants of humanity to vital beings, restored like the biblical Lazarus to their families and to life. Many of those who were first treated with insulin went on to have long and fulfilling, even pioneering lives, like Elizabeth Hughes Gossett, who died in her 80s after over decades on insulin, and Robin Lawrence, the famous doctor and founder of the British Diabetic Association, still thriving as Diabetes UK.
A few years down the line and for very many more people with diabetes, however, the picture was not so rosy. From the miracle of restoring life, the ravages of long-term high blood glucose levels became clear. Lost limbs, blindness, kidney failure and miscarriage and stillbirth rates spiralled upwards among those with long-term diabetes. It became clear that there was much more to diabetes than taking a daily injection of insulin and preventing hypos at all costs. Landmark research studies followed, showing that these catastrophic complications CAN be prevented and careful surveillance of their health both for and by people with diabetes must be taken, throughout their lives. In addition, it’s now known that Type 2 diabetes itself can be prevented through specific identification and intervention among those at risk.
It's great to say that modern day diabetes care can offer this care and prevention. Unfortunately, though, modern day diabetes care is not everywhere and not for everyone. Some governments still ignore the vast problem of diabetes among their people and some people still miss their care appointments. Focussing on education and campaigning, and highlighting the tragedies of missed diagnoses and lost working lives, are all important features of World Diabetes Day, as well as celebrating the successes and massive strides forward that are made by dedicated scientists, health professionals and people with diabetes themselves each year.
So don't forget to remember World Diabetes Day and maybe mark it with something special, however small, that signals your commitment to spreading the word. We've put together some ideas to start you off...
• Tell someone (anyone!), a single fact about diabetes, or your own diabetes,
to raise awareness about it and its impact
• Dress in blue for the day - and tell people why
• Make a small donation to a local or national diabetes charity
• Make some blue-iced cupcakes and take them to work or school
• Visit the World Diabetes Day website to find out more about diabetes worldwide and spread this information on your social networking site
• Make a commitment to yourself if you have diabetes, to find out more about a particular aspect, or get help with something that is concerning you about it
Whatever you do, it will make a difference. Oh, and another thing to remember… put 14 November in next year’s diary to do it all again!
World Diabetes Day