It Can be Embarrassing – by Helen May

I have always been an advocate of not hiding diabetes whilst not making a big thing about it at the same time. This means I have not been worried about injecting in public, but I am unlikely to get up on stage to explain it to a large room. However, there are times when diabetes has a different idea.

I am not talking about being ashamed of the disease or worried that someone may think I am a drug addict because I am injecting myself. Whilst I hate how my pump causes a bump in most of my outfits, I don’t worry about getting it out (unless it is stuffed in my bra) and dialling up a dose when I eat.

As I was diagnosed with Type 1 when I was an adult, I have never had to endure the awkwardness of a pump alarm going off during a very quiet exam. I have never had to explain why I am looking at my blood glucose on my phone during a test. But, business can throw us one or two situations when having diabetes is less than ideal.

I have reasonably good hypo awareness but, as my lifestyle is very variable, hypos can happen at any time. Once, we had just started a large departmental meeting; all of us were seated around a long table listening to our manager going through the agenda for the day. Then I felt a hypo coming on.

As I was sitting near the back, I was able to test my blood glucose without anyone noticing. However, the rustling of my dextrose paper attracted some attention. Basically, my colleague asked me to pass the sweets around to everyone and share. To be honest, after I had explained what was happening, I think he was more embarrassed than I.

It seems embarrassing diabetes events only occur in business meetings. Or perhaps, business meetings are when I am most sensitive. Knowing this, I try to take a blood glucose reading before a meeting starts so I can make necessary adjustments. On one such occasion, I had just arrived in the office on a frosty morning.

As a result my fingers were cold. When I pricked my finger for a blood glucose test, no blood came out. I tried another finger; still no sign of any blood.

The meeting start time was fast approaching so I shook my hand vigorously to get the blood flowing. And boy, did it flow. It decided to come out in a splatter effect all over my crisp white shirt. Thankfully, there was no sign of a hypo. However, my clothing looked as if I had just walked through the set of a slasher movie.

Amazingly, no one commented. I stood in front of a room of colleagues and customers and no one commented. It wasn’t because the blood was insignificant or because it looked like an unusual print: it looked like blood splattered all down my shirt. Perhaps, they were too embarrassed to comment. Or perhaps they thought it was the blood of the last person to mention my attire.

Most of the time diabetes is hidden. In a previous blog, I have written how you can spot diabetes when you tune in but, to the uneducated, it mostly goes undetected. However, just like a child who is asked to sit quietly in the corner, every so often it has to remind you (and those around you) that it is still there. I say “like a child” but perhaps I mean like an embarrassing Dad who decides to dance at their teenage daughter’s party.

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