Sugar-Free Poetry

It’s not often you read a book that’s written especially for you. But a new book called No-Sugar Added Poetry[1] speaks directly to people with diabetes, because it’s written by 26 people who live with diabetes every day.

These poems are touching and sorrowful, and at the same time intriguing and informative. I have been a diabetes writer and educator for about seven years, but this book showed me more than I knew about the every day, every minute relationship people have with diabetes. The poets reveal the thoroughness with which diabetes becomes part of you and changes your life. To be honest, they gave me new insight into how thoroughly multiple sclerosis has affected my life.


The poems are broken into four sections: After Diagnosis, Loss, Healing, and Acceptance. One of the first Diagnosis poems is “Partial Definition,” by J. Davis Harte, who was diagnosed with Type 1 at age 4. It begins,

“It became her before
She became herself,”

which I thought was a powerful way of describing the impact of a diabetes diagnosis on a child.

Most of the poetry is by people with Type 1, but there is a fair sampling of poets with Type 2 and other types. Because few are professional writers, the quality is uneven, but some of the work has great power, because it is so immediately in the moment. “Three A.M., Fifty-Four Milligrams Per Deciliter” by J. Goodman describes a late night hypo episode, from the inside. It starts:

Am I awake? am I? am I gonna die?
dumb tongue, tongue dumb, must wake, must wake,
my hhhand, my hhhand, is shhhake, is shhhake

Some poems reveal emotions most of us would rather deny, like Katherine Marple’s “Needle Disease.”

“I don’t want to be your friend”
a 15-year-old’s childhood
crumbles around her as
she’s reminded that she’s different.

“I’m not ready to let you go”
a 37-year-old’s wife
begs the complications,
the seizures and the infections
to Stop Slow Stop
But, despite her pleas,
he’s slipping away.

It’s not all about pain and loss. There is humor, anger, and wisdom. Diabetes bloggers like Kerry Morrone Sparling[2] and published poets like Amylia Grace[3] contributed moving pieces.

No-Sugar Added Poetry is the inspiration of Dr. Sohair Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian pediatric endocrinologist. She’s also an amazing photographer, judging by the pictures on her Web page[4]. She must be an exceptional doctor, because she took time to participate in the social networking site[5] and made poetry a big part of it. She encouraged a poetry contest, which became the basis for the book. She contributed four poems to the “loss” section as well.

Under leadership of the Diabetes Hands Foundation, which sponsors TuDiabetes and its Spanish-language sister[6], several volunteer editors selected these poems from the hundreds of entries in the poetry contests. They obtained money from Roche Diagnostics[7] to produce the book.

It’s really worth reading. As Kerri Morrone Sparling wrote, “This book is proof that something truly beautiful can be born from adversity.”

You can order the book from the Diabetes Hands Foundation[8].

I’m preparing a talk called :Sex Secrets of People with Diabetes” for the Diabetes Educators national conference[9] in Las Vegas. I’ll be speaking on August 4 and signing books on August 5, if you’re going to be there. If you have any sex secrets you’d like me to share with the educators, post a comment here or write me at [email protected][10].

  1. No-Sugar Added Poetry:
  2. Kerry Morrone Sparling:
  3. Amylia Grace:
  4. her Web page:
  7. Roche Diagnostics:
  8. Diabetes Hands Foundation:
  9. national conference:
  10. [email protected]: mailto:%[email protected]?subject=Diabetes%20sex%20secrets

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David Spero: David Spero has been a nurse for 40 years and has lived with multiple sclerosis for 30 years. He is the author of four books: The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House 2002), Diabetes: Sugar-coated Crisis — Who Gets It, Who Profits, and How to Stop It (New Society 2006, Diabetes Heroes (Jim Healthy 2014), and The Inn by the Healing Path: Stories on the road to wellness (Smashwords 2015.) He writes for Diabetes Self-Management and Pain-Free Living (formerly Arthritis Self-Management) magazines. His website is His blog is

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