I’ve been focusing a lot on the fitness aspects of the Pound By Pound Pledge Drive, but I wanted to take the time to talk a little about the thing I’m trying to raise awareness of, the organization I’m trying to support, and what I’m hoping they achieve.
In a world faced with all sorts of problems, it makes sense that we might feel overwhelmed by them all clamoring for our attention. There’s a war here! This disease has become an epidemic over here! This group of people is suffering injustice! In the case of diseases needing to fundraise for prevention and research efforts, celebrities are often called upon to raise awareness, helping to shine a light on causes that are inherently not sexy. Things like cancer and AIDS are not pleasant to think about, but add a celebrity wearing a cool bracelet and fronting a Walk or a 5K, and suddenly people are dying to talk about it and wear all the gear. It’s a very lucky thing indeed when a cause has lots of celebrity support.
It does, however, cause the strange phenomenon of the Disease du Jour. It seems like there are times when certain diseases get a spike in popularity, and while it’s awesome whenever people decide to get involved in making the world a better place, it’s a little weird that certain diseases being popular means that others are being ignored. There are times when everyone’s writing checks or hosting events to support AIDS Walks or Breast Cancer Research – worthy causes both! – while other causes are woefully underfunded. I wish there were a way to spread the love a little better.
There ain’t nothing sexy about diabetes. In fact, the reason it deserves all the support it can get is one of the very reasons why it’s not a “sexy disease.” Because so many people have it. So many people have it, in fact, that’s it’s not even special anymore. What’s more, it isn’t caused by anything related to sex, nor can a sexy slogan like “Save the Boobies” be attached to it. Type 1 (previously known as Juvenile Diabetes, because it’s the kind that gets diagnosed when you’re a kid) is caused by genetics, and Type 2 is caused by genetics as well as lifestyle choices that tax your pancreas (ie: overeating lots of sugary things).
There’s also the fact that the complications of diabetes aren’t commonly known, because they aren’t talked about as much. When you think cancer, you think chemo and baldness. When you think AIDS, you think of movies like Philadelphia or plays like Angels In America. There are clear pictures in your head. But how many movies or TV shows can you name featuring diabetics? It took me a while, and you know what I came up with? Stacey McGill in The Babysitters’ Club! I remember reading that series when I was a kid, and loving it, in part, because one of the characters was diabetic, and my mom had that, so I could totally relate! But yeah, that’s pretty much it (though if anyone knows of any others, please leave them in the comments below!).
Anyway, regarding diabetes, it can lead to kidney failure, it’s one of the leading causes of blindness, and it can possibly lead to losing extremities. But those things don’t generally pop into people’s heads, because most people just don’t know, or talk about it.
One of the coolest things that happened when I started the Pound By Pound Pledge Drive is that people started coming out of the woodwork via tweets and Facebook messages telling me “my dad is diabetic, so I’m so excited to support your efforts!” or “my aunt is diabetic, so I’m really happy to see you taking this on.” I started this in honor of my diabetic mother, and here were all these other people, some of whom I never knew had a connection to the disease, grateful and pleasantly surprised that I was doing something to raise awareness and funds, because they weren’t used to it. They weren’t used to seeing someone regularly talking about the American Diabetes Association on their social media feed, and it felt good to know that I was serving an underserved area on the Making the World a Better Place front! I’m no celebrity, but if I can cause a ripple in my personal social media network to make people more aware even if only a little bit? That’s pretty awesome indeed.
The American Diabetes Association is the country’s largest diabetes support and advocacy organization. They work toward supporting research efforts to find a cure, helping people with the disease find the resources they need to cope day-to-day, providing advocacy for those with diabetes, and working to educate the general public to prevent diabetes. That’s a lot of worthy work! Because it isn’t just about a cure, it’s about supporting people who already have the disease right now. Some of them can’t afford the medications they need or the supplies to test their glucose levels regularly. Those newly diagnosed might not even know where to start with regard to their care. Some diabetics are overwhelmed by the life changes caused by needing to be so mindful of everything they eat and what their blood is doing every day, and need support adjusting to that. The ADA is there to help them with all of that.
They’re also there to help you prevent diabetes through education. Do you know if you’re at risk? You can start by taking this short quiz on the ADA site! I scored 3, which means I’m at Low Risk…right now. But I know that my family history doubles my chances of becoming diabetic (not only did my mom have it, but my grandmother on my father’s side, and my sister had gestational diabetes), and the fact that I’m Latina also increases my chances. The things I have going for me now? My age, and the fact that I’m increasingly physically active. As long as I make healthy living a priority, I might never have to worry about getting the same diagnosis so many people in my family did. So, you know, you might want to look into it, too! And while you’re at it, you might want to support my efforts to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association, to aid their work in helping others do the same.