Type 1 for Dummies

Let’s face it, we’re all dummies.  Sike!  Sidenote: I am bringing the word sike back.  It was cool in 1990 and it’s cool now.  Deal with it.

If you’re anything like me, you like the version of explanations that does not involve a lot of terms that also need explained, deeming the whole explanation needing to be re-explained.  One of the reasons I love my ophthalmologist so much (other than the fact that he wears a bow tie every day of his life) is because he explains things in such a cool way, and he helps me envision exactly what he is talking about as he is explaining what is happening inside my eyeballs.  So, when I try to explain it to others, I just use his analogies and imagery, and everybody gets it.

Explaining Type 1 is much the same. When someone asks me, “What exactly is type 1 diabetes?” I try to put it in a way that they can envision if they had to explain it.  I have to admit, even years after my diagnosis, I still couldn’t explain what it was and really didn’t have a full understanding of what was happening inside my body.  I was young and just didn’t care I guess.  I just knew it didn’t work and I had to take insulin to stay alive.  I even told my friends that I wanted to be an endocrinologist when I grew up and when one of them asked me what that was, I really had no idea, and I said it was someone who worked with the endocrine system.  So, as you can see, I’ve always had a way with words. 😉

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, type 1’s often get confused for type 2’s.  People just hear the word diabetes, and we’re all lumped together.  That is why type 1’s often get advice that is only applicable to type 2’s.  Short rant: if you don’t know the difference, are you really the one who should be doling out advice?  End rant. The truth is, they are completely different diseases that shouldn’t have the same name.  An autoimmune disease (Type 1) should not share a name with a non-autoimmune disease (Type 2).  Apples and oranges I say.

So what is an autoimmune disease?  Our immune systems are designed to defend against infections and other foreign invaders.  When there is some kind of trigger, whether genetic or environmental, our bodies go into attack mode to destroy what they perceive as the bad guys.  Think of our beta cells as Good Cop/Bad Cop from the Lego Movie.  He just has to turn his face around and he morphs into either good cop or bad cop.  In type 1 diabetes, when that “trigger” happens, our normally good cop beta cells quickly turn their faces to bad cop, and our antibodies think “look at us, destroying all the bad cop cells!” Then they break out into a rendition of “Everything is awesome…”  The trouble is, those bad cop cells weren’t bad at all, they just looked that way.  And now they are destroyed, never to be seen or heard from again.  Those perceived bad cop cells were the very cells that produce insulin, the hormone that signals different parts of our bodies to use our sugar for energy and storage.  Without it, sugar just builds up in the bloodstream and is unable to convert to needed energy.  Insulin is the most powerful hormone in our bodies, and every mammal on earth needs it to survive.  Now, if you haven’t seen the Lego Movie, then A.) this paragraph made no sense and “Everything is awesome” is not playing over and over in your head, and B.) shame on you.

So, next time someone asks you what type 1 diabetes is, I dare you to try to explain it without using Good Cop/Bad Cop.

Happy Monday everyone!  Enjoy your week before Easter and, as always, thank you all for your unwavering support 😉

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