Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Definition of "worse":
comparative of bad or of ill
1: of more inferior quality, value, or condition
2a : more unfavorable, difficult, unpleasant, or painful
  b : more faulty, unsuitable, or incorrect
  c : less skillful or efficient
3: bad, evil, or corrupt in a greater degree : more reprehensible
4: being in poorer health : sicker
* * * * *
If this would have happened years ago, I might have agreed with her. I might have said, "Yes, it is. It's so much worse." I would have said that because I was naive.
I have this friend at work; we've known each other for four years now. She knows I have type 1 diabetes, and though I've tried to explain the gist of what that means (and why it's different than "the diabetes two" that her uncle has), I can always feel that she's still not quite certain. She tries, though - she does. She understands when I have to turn down the offer of going for a smoothie mid-afternoon, or when I decide to stay at my desk instead of going for a quick walk. She's aware that I wear a pump and a CGM. She knows about my second life as a diabetes advocate, and where I'm going when I take a few days off of work. (My work situation is weird. Even my boss didn't know I went to Florida two weeks ago, but that's mostly because he didn't ask.)
There have been a few times where she's caught me off-guard, because it turns out she was actually listening as I babbled on about All Things Diabetes. Then again, she sometimes jumbles up the logic, too. It's a mixed bag.
Earlier this week, she told me that she had been talking with - well, I actually can't remember now. With someone who had people with diabetes in their family. "You know what they told me, and I was going to ask you about?", she said. "They told me that diabetes one (I've tried to correct her phrasing here many times, to no avail) is a lot worse than two. Is that right?"
Years ago, when I had so little knowledge of what type 2 diabetes actually was (and I'm still very much learning, btw), I can assure you I would have agreed with her. I would have agreed because like so many other people who don't take the time to learn about something before they form an opinion about it, I had assumptions: that type 2 only happened to overweight people; that type 2 was something to be blamed for developing; that those people "had a choice", where I had not.
In short, I was an idiot.
The diabetes online community, and the storytellers within it who share their lives with type 2 diabetes, have helped me understand the other 95%. It's not a matter or better or worse - it's just different. One is metabolic; one is autoimmune. One has a rapid onset; one creeps up on you like a cruel fog. Type 2 can appear in young, healthy, athletic adults and children - and it isn't always someone's fault.
As much as the two types may be different, they are also so much the same. No matter your "type", the list of possible complications read the same. We all require lifestyle changes after diagnosis. We all have to check our blood sugars. We all deal with the emotional impact of our diseases; the sterotypes; the marathon of self-care.
When you look at the true definition of "worse", it's not as easy to attribute that word to one side or the other. No type of diabetes is "the good kind". I continue to learn that diabetes, in any form, is a hard-fought battle with odds that are rarely in one's favor. No one asks for this.
When my friend asked me that question, I had to pause for a second.
"No, not really. They're both worse."


  1. P.S. "they're" starting to see evidence of autoimmunity involved in T2 as well. (which, for me, makes sense since I have another autoimmune condition.)

  2. At Easter dinner this year, a relative with T2, turned down dessert to try to keep her blood sugar down. I thought to myself, "I have it pretty easy, I take insulin when I eat and when I'm high."

    It sucks all around to have diabetes, it just sucks differently.

  3. I am confronted with this statement a lot and I go back and forth on the issue. I have known several T2s and their conditions really vary. One friend who was diagnosed with T2 several years ago (having never been overweight and always active and a healthier-than-average eater) is able to manage his condition with diet and exercise. He doesn't need medication and rarely checks his BG. He just made a few changes and, for the time being, he's fine. I've known other T2s who require loads of insulin and have BGs that are far more difficult to manage than mine. T2 can be a very mixed bag. T1 is absolute - you need insulin to survive.

    I still think there is something about T1, especially for those of us diagnosed as children, that is worse in some sense. For many of us, it really is a lifelong condition. It is constant, and never something we can manage with just diet and exercise or oral medications. We are very dependent on insulin in the sense that, without it, we are dead pretty quickly. For many of us T1s, diabetes permeates every memory, action, and plan in some way. It can be all-consuming.

    But, at the end of it all, I have a hard time saying that I'm "worse" than a T2. I am (I think) healthier than the average person BECAUSE I have T1D. I eat healthier, exercise more, and am generally more on top of things health-wise than I'd probably be without T1. I never engaged in things that could be detrimental to my healthy (drugs, binge drinking, etc) because I knew I had this "thing" that required so much management and attention. T1 has kept me on my toes and I'm a better person because of it.

    Bottom line is that when confronted with this question I just try to tell people that T1 isn't really worse than T2; it's just different. It's a different condition with a different etiology adn a different method of management. Some folks get it, and some don't.

  4. Thank you Kim. You made me cry...in a good way.

  5. Your statement about having little knowledge about T2 (and still learning) is so reassuring to me. I've never fully understood it either, and since becoming active in the DOC, have been a bit embarrassed by that fact. But once again, I learn that it's not just me. Thank you for that.

    At a Thanksgiving dinner with my wife's family a few years ago, I got to talking with one of her out-of-state relatives. His response to learning which Type I am: "Ooohhh, that's the bad kind!". Considering the theme of the day, I still said "thanks", but with a heavy dose of sarcasm.

  6. I couldn't agree more. Both suck b#lls. Cal I say that here?

  7. Kim, this is beautifully said. I think I'll point people to this post if someone asks me to compare the two types. Love this.

  8. Someone said to me once that the worst type of diabetes is... diabetes. I kinda like that.

  9. excellent post, kim. i hope your reply sunk in with your coworker. i had a similar conversation with a friend's 14 yo kid last week. i told her that before my kid got diagnosed i also had a bunch of wrong info about type 2. but this friend has an uncle with MS, so i was able to share the autoimmune angle of both type 1 and 2 with her. anyway, yeah, great post. :)


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