Literature and Medicine
Diabetes is one of the common non-communicable diseases in the world. According to Lessem and Pendley (2017), there are approximately 371 million people living with diabetes today. Out of these, about 30 million live in the US. It is important to mention that there are two types of diabetes. Type I diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks the cells that make insulin (Petite, 2018). On the other hand, type II diabetes results from the body’s inability to absorb insulin.
Thus, in type II, the pancreas is overworked by making excess insulin for the body’s usage. Due to fatigue and failure to meet the body’s high demand for insulin (caused by poor absorption), the pancreas stops making as much insulin, and one is then diagnosed with high blood sugar. This essay looks at how diabetes has been documented for non-medical individuals over the decades. Examples will be drawn from the poem Diabetes by James Dickey.
Documentation of Diabetes
A lot of research studies have been done on diabetes. Both medical and non-medical studies have been conducted for the various elements that are associated with the condition. However, much of the documentation that has been done has been on diabetes type II. One of the reasons this might be so is the fact that type II diabetes is more common than type I diabetes. Despite this, it is interesting to note that Information, Education Communication (IEC) materials rarely give patients enough information on pre-diabetes (for both types I and II). Looking at the literature, one can argue that diabetes has been documented simply as a manageable condition but not as a preventable and treatable (pre-diabetes) one.
Research shows that pre-diabetes is a treatable condition. As the name suggests, it is the period when the pancreas starts to stop making as much insulin as before due to fatigue and the body’s failure to absorb the needed insulin. At this phase, diabetes can be reversed.
One can argue that the lack of knowledge and information on pre-diabetes has led to the rise of diabetes not only in the US but all over the world. Also, the fact that medical staff does not advise patients at-risk of diabetes on the importance of catching the condition early; thus, frequent testing, is worrying. It can be argued that proper communication of the pathology of the disease is needed and can be presented as a form of public health education.
It is also important to point out that documentation of diabetes is mainly scientific. The realization is crucial as it suggests that only people at-risk, living with diabetes, or medical staff are motivated to read and find out more about the condition. On the same note, there are very few films/movies on the condition. Interestingly, there are many films that depict characters living with conditions such as HIV/AIDs, cancer, and other similar terminal conditions. However, very few have characters dealing with any type of diabetes.
Diabetes as a Lifestyle Disease
Doctors and other medical professionals often advise patients to change and monitor their lifestyle choices when they are at risk of getting diabetes. Indeed, lifestyle choices come out strongly in instances where diabetes has been documented in a non-medical sense, such as in films and poems. The poem “Diabetes” by James Dickey is proof the stated premise is true. The poem narrates how an individual’s life changed when he was told he has diabetes.
According to the poem, the individual knew that his diagnosis meant he would have to inject himself every day (with insulin) (Reynolds & Stone, 2001). Also, the individual knew that diabetes had something to do with sugar (Reynolds & Stone, 2001). The fact that these two things have been mentioned so briefly validates the argument that the public does not have much information about diabetes.
On the same note, the individual states (through the poem) that moderation and exercise will help him manage his condition (Reynolds & Stone, 2001). The two stated ways of managing diabetes are lifestyle choices. It is interesting that the patient only realizes the importance of the two stated elements of lifestyle after being diagnosed with the condition. Again, this goes to prove that the public lacks enough knowledge on a preventative measure of diabetes. As stated, there are some people who are more prone to getting diabetes than others. Such individuals would be warned about some of their lifestyle choices if they had proper medical-seeking behavior. More often than not, however, many patients find out they have diabetes later on, just like the individual in the poem.
From the poem, one can note that the change in lifestyle is not easy for the affected. It is also not easy for his family. The affected states that “…of time with new fury. Sleep could give me no water, but my own. Gangrene in white, was in my wife’s hand in the morning…” (Reynolds & Stone, 2001, p. 200). The statement highlights the patient’s anger and frustrations over his new diagnosis. It also showcases his fear. It can be assumed that he was advised to stop taking white bread as it has a lot of sugar.
However, his wife serves that for breakfast in the morning. His fear prompts him to see the bread as a form of gangrene. On the same note, the wife does not seem to have adjusted to her husband’s condition. One can argue that she (the wife) is yet to know of her husband’s condition as the poem does not state whether she was informed. On the other hand, it is also possible that the wife intends to serve (or eat herself) the white bread but serve her husband something else. This brings in the concern of whether a whole family should change its diet and meal preferences in favor of a member living with diabetes. Again, there is a big literature gap towards this predicament.
In conclusion, there is significant documentation of diabetes, its symptoms, and management protocols. However, this documentation is mainly scientific. Having said that, there is little non-medical documentation of the condition. More so, the non-medical pathology of the disease is non-existent. In cases where diabetes has been documented in the form of a film or play, it has mainly been associated with poor lifestyle choices. However, better lifestyle choices are often advised after a patient is diagnosed with the condition. This denotes that preventative measures are often not communicated properly. Overall, there is a large gap in the literature for the layman on the condition, its pathology, and its preventive measures.
Lessem, S. E., & Pendley, R. P. (2017). QuickStats. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, 66(19), 517.
Reynolds, R., & Stone, J. (Eds.). (2001). On doctoring (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Petite, S. E. (2018). Noninsulin medication therapy for hospitalized patients with diabetes mellitus. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 75(18), 1361–1368.