What Really Scares Me This Halloween

October 30, 2015

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Halloween’s calling, and my heart’s in the right place—for a person living with Type 1 diabetes, that is.

You see, despite my compliance to carb-counting and almost hourly blood tests, I’ve deep-rooted affection for this holiday of camp and kitsch and candy. But just like Cinderella (my all-time favorite princess-in-waiting if not Halloween costume), I dread the clock that’s counting down to zero hour. In my case, this has nothing to do with glass slippers, but rather the inevitable onslaught of well-meaning yet largely uninformed (and, therefore, irksome) questions about living—and eating—with diabetes.

“Fran, how can you stand having so much candy around?”

“Doesn’t Halloween totally depress you?”

And most astonishing of all: “If I were you, I’d just gorge on Snickers and then shoot up!”

See what I’m talking about?

In truth, any person with diabetes worth his or her salt has no reason to get waylaid by a bowl of candy corn. Today, we have all the necessary tools to monitor our blood sugar and adapt our meal plans at will. Plus, the wide variety of insulin suspensions and oral drugs at our disposal are top of the line. (Mind you, this is not my personal PR campaign for diabetes mellitus, which is the formal name of this endocrine disorder that impacts the metabolic system.)

I’m not sugarcoating it when I tell you that I made my peace with diabetes years ago. Put simply, my disease does not define me. Still, diabetes does put stumbling blocks in my way, such as on days when, no matter how closely I’ve followed my treatment regimen, my blood sugar refuses to cooperate and, thus, I’m not feeling my best. On those days, I figure out what I need to do—insulin-, food- and exercise-wise—and do it.

Speaking as a lifelong sucker for silver linings, on those “off days,” I remind myself that having diabetes has kept me a lot healthier than I might otherwise have been because it has taught me to respect what my body can and cannot do. Diabetes also reminds me on a daily basis to be very patient—not only with myself but with other people, too. Patience is such a potent force for good, especially in the workplace. In fact, I’d put patience right up there with a 401K plan and a business casual dress code.

The simple truth is that, when you have diabetes, you must take care of your condition pretty much every hour of every day, 365 days a year—and twice as much on a confection-laden holiday like Halloween. There’s simply no getting away from it.

During my many years in media – most recently as a senior editor at PARADE responsible for much of the health and lifestyle coverage – diabetes occasionally was my crowning glory because it gave me a platform from which to speak truth to power. I’m talking about the times when, at desk-sides, lunches and dinners, I had the opportunity to speak up to top executives from pharma companies—and their handlers—about what they no doubt thought were impactful publicity campaigns for their new diabetes drugs and supplies but which I knew were poised to backfire simply because the ideas behind the campaigns were tired, uninspired or off-base.

Those of us who are lucky enough to be working in healthcare PR are often at the forefront of breaking technology and potent new medications. What a fabulous opportunity every day brings us to educate the masses and to help people live longer, better, healthier lives! And on a more personal note, I’m always on the lookout for even the slightest chance to educate my friends, my colleagues and the world at large about living well with diabetes.

For that reason, when Halloween rolls around, I find that the scariest spirits looming around are not The Walking Dead but rather The Uninformed—i.e. people who don’t know much about diabetes and, therefore, hesitate before inviting me to join in on all the fun.