5 Times I Felt Guilty Writing About Diabetes

An Insulin Nation reporter who does not have diabetes learns to appreciate his pancreas, and the everyday bravery of those with diabetes.



I started writing for Insulin Nation first as an intern, then as a staff writer. As someone without diabetes, I’ve had several moments when I’ve grown concerned that I was in over my head. Diabetes is amazingly complicated.

Here are 5 moments when I’ve felt guilty about writing about diabetes:

A Short List
Back in January, I walked into the office of my new internship with my book bag, first-day jitters, and almost zero knowledge of diabetes. “Insulin” was a word that sounded vaguely familiar, but I decided to read through Insulin Nation a bit more thoroughly before plunging into the job.

I pulled out my notebook and wrote words I didn’t know, like “CGM”, “T1D” and “HbA1c”, along with their definitions. It was a sad list of the most basic diabetes phrases and I stopped after the fifth word. It felt like I would never figure it all out. While I’ve certainly expanded my medical vocabulary since then, I can’t deny my guilt when I have to Google something.

Piece of Cake
I went out to get pizza for my lunch break a couple days ago. On top of that, I got a piece of chocolate mudslide cake which, yes, is as ridiculous as it sounds.

I brought the food stuffs back to my cubicle space and demolished that pizza. I looked down at the brown square of cellophane-wrapped cake. Then up at my screen. Back at the cake.

What a luxury, I thought, being able to enjoy pizza and cake whenever I want to.

A Different Kind of Low
Generally, a lot would have to go wrong for me to have hypoglycemia, but that doesn’t mean I can’t experience a different kind of low.

One morning, I walked into the office after getting a donut, and discovered that whoever had served me decided to place the donut frosting-side down into the bag, so all I got was a naked circle of cooked dough. I was not happy and I wanted that frosting.

So I ripped the bag straight down to the bottom and tried to reapply the pool of chocolate spread, but with no success. Clearly, my only option was to lick it right off the bag…so that’s exactly what I did. As the sugary substance hit my tongue, I floated outside my body and looked at myself licking chocolate frosting from the bottom of a Dunkin’ Donuts bag. It wasn’t pretty. This was a new low in my life, and eating sugary foods was the problem, not the solution.

Nana Mame
One night when I was a kid, my grandmother, now 79 years old, was babysitting my siblings and me. Before we had dinner, she pricked her finger and told us she had to do it because she had diabetes.

Until I began writing about it on a daily basis, I, like many who are uneducated about the condition, didn’t realize there were two different types of diabetes. After writing about both for a bit now, I like to think I’m pretty good with the distinctions between the two. Still, I don’t know for certain if my grandma has Type 1 or Type 2. I’m a bit timid about asking, because it’s not something she seems to like to discuss, but I wonder if that is more my concern than hers.

A Customer’s Low
One night as I was working my other job as the manager of a movie theatre, a gentleman came over to the concession stand after it had closed and asked to buy a small soda. I apologized and said I couldn’t sell him anything. He said he had diabetes and needed to treat a low, so I immediately grabbed a cup and filled it up. He was very grateful and hurried off to his movie.

I was afraid of how differently I might have reacted if I had never taken on a job writing about diabetes. Obviously, I would’ve given him the drink because it was a medical issue, but I feel like I would’ve thought he was overreacting and being too demanding. I’m glad I’ve been educated about a very serious disease, and I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to help others learn about it, too.

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Travis served as a staff writer for Insulin Nation and Type 2 Nation in 2015. Previously, he was a staff writer for Insight, a high school newspaper, as well as a copywriter for The Emersonian, Emerson's yearbook.