Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mary Tyler Moore and type 1 diabetes

Mary Tyler Moore apparently has written a memoir about not only her life, but also about having type 1 diabetes.

Moore is a celebrity from my mom's generation, not mine, so in those days being diagnosed as diabetic meant something different than what it means today. Still, I am a little disappointed in the message she is sending to the world.

Moore says matter-of-factly and with no self-pity that with type 1 diabetes, there is little chance for spontaneity in life. She chooses not to use the newer glucose monitors and insulin pumps that can reduce the burden by taking automatic readings for the patient and deliver a dose without a syringe. Instead, she still prefers using finger pricks and test tapes to measure her blood sugar and a syringe of insulin whenever it's needed.

"You've got to always plan," she says. "It is a fact of life that if someone invites you out to dinner you have to think, 'What are they going to be doing when they serve you dinner? How quickly are they going to get it on the table from the time I arrive? When should I take my shot? What should I eat of what's available?' "

I think I must have a different disease than Moore, because I've never found being diabetic to be a hinderance to spontaneity. I don't find my diabetes to be something to worry about when I go out to eat or eat at a friend's house. I take a shot before dinner when I know what I'll be eating, and right after dinner or after each course if I don't, and then check my blood sugar an hour or two later to make sure it's coming down the way it should.

That may sound like a burden to a non-diabetic, but to me it's about as much of a burden as, say, stepping on the scale or brushing my teeth. In fact, as I may have mentioned before, sometimes when I watch a movie and the characters sit down to a meal, I actually think, Oh, she forgot her shot, before I remember that not everyone does that!

The other thing that annoys me in the above passage is the way it makes it sound like CGMs and insulin pumps are connected, and that Moore is refusing a miracle of modern medicine as some kind of act of nobility. Uh, sorry, but continuous glucose monitors do not automatically cause a pump to bump up your insulin. CGMs are not 100 percent accurate and need to be backed up with a finger stick before making any corrections.

But the article gets worse, as it goes on to talk about how she is nearly blind and recently got gangrene on her thumb after slamming it in the door. And this after the article has already painted her as a model diabetic. Finally it goes on to talk about how she didn't take care of herself when she was first diagnosed, but it doesn't make a clear connection between that and the problems she is having now. There's probably a whole bunch of readers who walked away thinking that diabetes is a debilitating disease and a death sentence.

I personally feel turned off from reading the book, after seeing the way this article has portrayed diabetes. Maybe I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and read the book anyway, but I can't help but think they've done diabetes a disservice in using its shock factor to try to sell her book.

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