Nadine Pedersen, the mother of a type 1 diabetic teenager, spoke to CBC's The Early Edition about breaking stereotypes around the disease and stopping sugar-related jokes.
I drove my 13-year-old son Hudson, who lives with Type 1 diabetes, to school Wednesday morning when we heard a quip on CBC Radio about how Diwali candy diet causes diabetes.
Hudson and I looked at each other and groaned because these kinds of comments are so common and they are so offside.
It is a common mistake for someone to make a not very knowledgeable joke. It only makes you sigh.– Hudson Carpenter
Ever since Hudson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of eight, we've met people who believe his health is due to a poor diet.
In fact, type 1 diabetes is not nutrition related. It is an incurable, life-threatening, extremely challenging autoimmune disease.
People develop type 1 diabetes after their immune system has been attacked, and kill the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Without insulin, people die because their bodies can not turn food into energy.
Living with Type 1
To survive, Hudson has to prick his fingers several times a day and perform blood tests.
He is connected to an insulin pump 24 hours a day and his arm is equipped with a continuous glucose monitor.
Hudson has to calculate the carbohydrates in all the things he puts in his mouth to get the right insulin dose.
We are often in the middle of the night on the way to prevent low blood sugar or high blood sugar – both can be deadly.
It's kind of scary because you might fall asleep and never wake up, and that's every night.– Hudson Carpenter
On one of the social media accounts I keep running to make me aware of diabetes, I occasionally post pictures of blue candles.
These candles mark the death of children who have died of diabetes. Sometimes these children die if they have low blood sugar in the middle of the night. Other times it is because their symptoms of type 1 diabetes are diagnosed as influenza.
These kids end up in a coma and never come out.
As you might expect, these stories are not very funny.
Reinforcing the misinformation
People make diabetes jokes as a reflex without really thinking about what they say.
They do not know that with these jokes they maintain misinformation about a really complex and difficult disease.
Some people believe it's "OK" to joke about diabetes because they associate Type 2 diabetes with overweight people – and Fat Shaming is one of the last areas where people seem to feel they are could make fun of others and make fun of them.
Of course this is also unacceptable. It is also inaccurate – people can be thin and active and still develop type 2 diabetes.
There is no time to break the stereotypes surrounding diabetes.
Insensitive comments and jokes about diabetes are extremely common in our society. If you listen to her, you notice her.
Hudson and I notice her all the time.
With files from The Early Edition