After two or three months, Jennifer finally had to sit her family down and explain to them how their well-intentioned mantra of spiritually curing diabetes was making it almost impossible for her and her daughter to live with diabetes. After this conversation, the tension subsided, and the family was able to come together in helping her daughter live a full and happy life. Moreover, the family’s strong faith transformed from an obstacle standing in the way of accepting diabetes into an incredible tool for supporting one another and facing the daily challenges involved in managing the condition.
That conversation is a great example of how to address this kind of situation: Be direct, be thankful for the good intentions of the people who are trying to help, but be firm in stating your own needs and asking to be supported in the way you need to be supported.
For any family members, friends, and concerned acquaintances who are reading this, it’s important to realize that part of what is driving your resistance is your own anxiety. So before you mount an all-out offensive against diabetes, take a moment to reflect on how you’re feeling about your friend or relative having diabetes. You’re probably nervous and possibly scared or angry. If that’s the case, take some time to process your feelings, and work on coming to terms with your loved one having diabetes the same way he has had to come to terms with it.
Undiscovered, covered-up cures
I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, home to one of the largest communities of alternative medical practitioners anywhere in the United States. There are more acupuncturists in Boulder than there are mechanics. McDonald’s is the only place I know of that doesn’t use free-range, organic meat in their burgers. Everyone hikes, half of the population is vegan, and smoking is only allowed outside the city limits (OK, that last one is a joke, but it was the first city to enact a smoking ban in bars and other public places). It’s a very progressive place.
My family has a long history of using alternative medicine approaches, such as acupuncture, herbal supplements, and shiatsu massage, to name a few. And, like most people, we appreciate them for what they are. Though they are usually referred to as “alternative” medicine, the more appropriate term might be “additional” medicine. Acupuncture can do many things, but when it comes to diabetes (and many other conditions), it cannot replace Western medical treatment. Once your insulin-producing islet cells are gone, they’re gone. It’s too late for a preventive approach; it’s time for Western medical science to step and do what it does best.
Many of my concerned and well-intentioned friends and acquaintances (including a number of alternative medicine practitioners) failed to understand this distinction, however, and a great deal of unsolicited and sometimes dangerous advice came from this lack of understanding. I have no doubt that many people with diabetes have received this same type of advice, which I call “covered-up cures” advice, because it always sounds like one of those late-night infomercials where someone is trying to sell a book of cures that “‘they’ (whoever ‘they’ are) don’t want you to know about!”
I’ve been told I need to start eating nothing but wheat germ. I’ve been told that if I take 15 daily supplements and stop taking insulin, within three days I won’t have diabetes any more. I’ve been told that switching to purified water from a particular spring in the Alps will cure my condition. I’ve been told that if I reach a deep-enough state of meditative concentration, my diabetes will simply go away.
All of this advice has come from people who sincerely wanted to help. But when help is offered without a thorough understanding of the medical realities of diabetes, it not only fails to be helpful, it can be detrimental. Imagine if someone took the advice of not taking their insulin for three days with the expectation of being cured. Such advice could be downright fatal.