DBlog Week: No Colleagues with Diabetes


Today is the third day of Diabetes Blog Week. Its founder, Karen Graffeo, suggests that “now seems like a great time to explore the emotional side of living with, or caring for someone with, diabetes.” She asks: “What things can make dealing with diabetes an emotional issue for you and / or your loved one, and how do you cope?”

At M.I.T., where I work and teach, there are 11,380 employees, including faculty. There are 11,301 students. That’s 22,681 people in my community, and most of us are located on or around the Cambridge campus.

I know a lot of people at work, too. Of my friends and colleagues, I know people with a lot of chronic conditions and some with serious illnesses.

I don’t, however, know anyone at work who has diabetes, Type 1 or Type 2.

On the paved walkways among academic buildings, I’ve seen glucose test strips here and there, like Hansel and Gretel’s crusts of bread that leave a trail behind them. But I haven’t seen anyone test their blood glucose in the open.

I’ve told colleagues about my diabetes and insulin pump. People are interested. No one, however, has said that he or she has diabetes or mentioned to me a fellow employee who does.

Occasionally, I have worn my insulin pump on the outside of my clothes — loud and proud — rather than tucked neatly under my sweater or in my pocket. I want it to beckon others. It doesn’t.

Even though my brother Brian has Type 1 diabetes and my husband has Type 2, I do not have a friend or colleague in my day-to-day work life who injects insulin or wears a pump or counts carbs.

If 8.3% of the American population has diabetes (any kind), and 5% of that number has Type 1 diabetes, that means that as many as 1,882 people at M.I.T. have diabetes (any kind), and as many as 94 people may have Type 1. Like me.

Maybe 10 do. Or 5.

I don’t know any of them.

Through social media and people like Jessica and Mike, I know a lot of people online who have diabetes, but in my actual life I know very few. That is a lonely state.

I don’t know anyone with Type 1 whom I could have lunch with or go to the campus fitness center with.

I’d like to find my phantom colleagues or even students with diabetes. Where and how do I look?


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Deborah Kanter
9 years ago

Your essay speaks to such a simple truth: it can be so good to connect with people in our daily lives with diabetes. It helps me so much to feel less alone. For me it felt huge to meet people who were around my age with diabetes. For a couple years I had the colleague down the hall . . . with whom I could raise eyebrows at yet another office get-together featuring pizza and sweets.

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