“Take better care of yourself. Stay away from sweets!”
People with type 2 diabetes have heard it all, but unfortunately, what they may often hear is the hurtful and wrong-headed idea that they did something to deserve the disease. For example, while most Canadians are now aware that good nutrition and physical activity can delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes, in many cases, they don’t know that genetics and living environments are also significant risk factors. “There are increasing numbers of studies that show associations between the risk of diabetes and neighbourhood walkability, poverty and food security,” says Dr. Jan Hux, chief science officer of Diabetes Canada. “These are things that aren’t within an individual’s control.”
In other words, it’s as if some people begin the race toward better health on the starting line – and some start miles away from the stadium, carrying their own weight in cement blocks.
Tim Clark has experienced this first hand. He grew up in foster care on a farm because his biological parents were unable to care for him. At home, he says, “We worked hard and were taught to eat what was put in front of us. Not a lot was known about nutrition back then.”
In school, he was always fit, playing basketball, hockey and soccer. But after finding himself out on his own in grade 12, Mr. Clark had to survive on the cheapest food available. With no time to play sports because he had to work after school, he began to gain weight. In 1997, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Some 20 years later, Mr. Clark is still fighting, 24/7, 365 days a year, to manage his blood glucose (sugar) levels and his health – along with the emotional impact of living with this disease.
“When someone breaks a leg, we don’t admonish them to maybe not fall into a hole to save money for the health-care system,” he points out. “Why hold people to a different standard when they face type 2 diabetes? Let’s just treat it and work hard to make life better for the generations ahead.”
Help End Diabetes today, including the stigma and misinformation associated with the disease. How? Join Diabetes Canada’s End Diabetes movement in support or with a donation at enddiabetes.ca.