On Oprah: A Diabetes Song and Dance

by Leighann on February 5, 2010

If you are like me, you’ve wished a thousand times that there were two distinct terms for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The problem as I see it is that when generalizations are made, misinformation is disseminated to the masses.

What difference does it make when 90% of diabetic people are Type 2?

For me it’s twofold.

First, a child might not be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the first sign of symptoms because most people only know the risk factors of Type 2 diabetes.

Second, outsiders judge parents of Type 1 children thinking that it is their fault for doing this to their child.

The reality is that my child was a healthy, active, thin child who ate a largely vegetarian diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. She rarely ate candy and was never served juice at home. She had no family history of diabetes. She had no risk factors.

And yet there she was at three years old losing weight while drinking an entire half gallon of milk in one day.

(Read our story of diagnosis.)

So when Oprah aired the show “America’s Silent Killer” featuring Dr. Oz on February 4, I hoped that they would dispel some of the myths of Type 1 diabetes.

In my opinion, they would have done a better service to viewers by spending the first 5 minutes being very clear about Type 1 diabetes, the causes and symptoms and then spending the rest of the hour on Type 2.

The majority of the show was about Type 2, but the experts merely said “diabetes” generically throughout the show.

I could give you a play-by-play of the show (I took notes), but I will only point out a few points that caused me concern.

Dr. Oz: “The amount of insulin you have to take depends on how bad your diabetes is.” (6 minutes)

I’m no doctor, but the amount of insulin a Type 1 diabetic needs once the honeymoon phase is over seems more a function of age and size. A five-year-old child needs considerably less insulin than a 30-year-old, both a lower basal rate and lower insulin to carb ratio.

I liken his statement to comments that a patient who uses an insulin pump must have “bad diabetes.”

No. Patients who use pumps to deliver insulin often have better control (if ever we are in “control” of diabetes).

Time bomb.

Dr. Ian Smith was appalled when one of the church ladies tested at 122.

The 122 that they show on a meter at the church actually looked pretty good to me. If all our numbers were 122, I think we’d do a happy dance.

Our daughter’s target range is 100 to 200. Young children often have a higher range than adults.

O: Can you always reverse it or does there come a point where you can’t reverse it anymore?

D: Almost always you can reverse it… (31 minutes)

Type 2, Dr. Oz. You cannot reverse Type 1 as much as we would like to.

I get asked time and again if my daughter will outgrow her diabetes. No, she will not. But wouldn’t that be something?

Know someone at risk?

The good news is that Walgreens stores around the country are giving free blood glucose tests February 5 through 18 as part of their Diabetes Wellness Event.

The face of diabetes:

Though the producers of the show thought that scare tactics, including showing an amputated limb, would cause people to take notice, there is another face of diabetes.

Vibrant children who have long lives ahead of them. Children who are not lazy and did not eat their way to diabetes.

Children with bright futures like Q.

I could only hope that Oprah would do a show highlighting children with Type 1 diabetes who live normal lives despite the adversity they face every minute of every day.

(If you are reading this by e-mail or feed reader, you may need to click over to view the video.)

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 CALpumper February 5, 2010 at 12:54 am

Great post. Very valid points.
I was 6 when diagnosed. I am 31. I still live with and manage Type 1 Diabetes.

I would Love to see an episode highlighting those living well while managing Diabetes (any type). We need more encouragement and support, not fear, blame or guilt.


2 leighann February 5, 2010 at 6:00 am

Exactly. They should have an uplifting show. They could reference this one stating “Here’s the bad.” And they could proceed showing people who are doing it right (or doing their best) and say “But here’s how great your life CAN be if you take care of yourself.”


3 Bennet February 5, 2010 at 9:02 am

You Go Girl!


4 Heidi February 5, 2010 at 10:08 am

Excellent post! I didn’t see the show, but now I’m wishing I did. It sounds as though they had good intentions, but Oprah and Dr.Oz did a disservice to the type 1 community. As you pointed out, they should have made the distinction between the two types of diabetes, and after commercial breaks, they could have reminded viewers that they were talking about type 2 and not type 1. It’s bothersome because Oprah could have really made a big difference for those of us living with type 1. She could have disspelled the myths. That’s why we need to keep doing what we’re doing.

Love, love, love the video! Q, keep on singing!


5 leighann February 8, 2010 at 9:59 am

Heidi- Yes, it would have been better to divide the show or only focus on Type 2 and make that clear. She could have done so much to dispel the myths about T1.

Q has a song in her heart, that’s for sure.


6 Michael Hoskins February 5, 2010 at 11:16 am

Leighann: That’s exactly the kind of show we need. Maybe this is something for the JDRF volunteers and staffers nationally to really start pushing for…. in response to this Oprah Nightmare, but also just foundationally. Wonder if Mary Tyler Moore or even Mr. Johnson would be able to find the time?? Hmm.


7 leighann February 8, 2010 at 9:57 am

Michael- Mary Tyler Moore was on Oprah in 2008 as a reunion for her television show. I think they did touch upon diabetes and her autobiography, but it was not the focus of the show. http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Love-Is-All-Around/slide_number/4#slide

I agree that they need to air a show showing the other side of diabetes. Not just a bunch of Type 2’s who are in denial or a T1 who lost a limb. They need to show Type 1’s who do what they have to each and every day to have the best life they can despite this disadvantage.


8 JaneJane February 5, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Thank you for your post. My husband is a type 1 diabetic who was diagnosed at 17 months of age. He will soon turn 45 and is active, fit and living a full-life free from complications thanks to diligent parents and doctors that taught him early on the importance of control and (more recently) to using a pump. He is totally reliant on insulin as he no longer produces any after being a type 1 for nearly 44 years… but that does not stop him from being a cyclist, guitarist and a downhill skiier.

I agree that showing only type 1 diabetics facing amputation, etc. is not putting the right face on this disease. I am so disappointed in Oprah.


9 leighann February 8, 2010 at 9:52 am

Jane- Maybe scare tactics only serve to keep people in denial. Showing that people can lead great lives, like your husband, could possibly get more people to seek treatment, rather than thinking it’s a death sentence.


10 JaneJane February 8, 2010 at 10:41 am

I agree that many people stay in denial rather than seeking treatment and, more importantly, we need to show that it is more than possible to lead very full and productive life with Type 1 diabetes. Yes it does require constant monitoring and the willingness to stick with a controlled eating plan as well as regular exercise. Honestly, my husband is healthier than a lot of other 45 year old men. He has never smoked, does not drink alcohol beyond an occasional glass of wine at special occasions, and goes to the gym 3-4 times per week because he know that this is crucial for him as a diabetic. I am sure that you beautiful little girl will live an equally full and healthy life with you by her side to guide her. Thank you so much for this blog post — and for posting the video of your little girl. She is so sweet.


11 Shamae February 5, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Love that vid of Q! What a cute little performer!


12 leighann February 8, 2010 at 9:50 am

She usually hits that last note, though, lol! I took that really quickly before we went to see the touring production of Annie. My mom made her that dress for the occasion. She loves belting out that song 🙂


13 Renata Porter February 6, 2010 at 4:28 am

Just letting you know that I put your post on my blog along with two others. I have asked that the readers write Oprah and sent message to Kerri and George to put a link on their sites to send a message directly to Oprah. Can you do the same?
I think it’s great that everyone is responding to these blog posts, but we need to send the message home to Oprah and Dr. Oz.
If you don’t mind my plugging my own blog, please go there to read a summary of the blogs out there and my recommendations on good reads. (and awesome comments)


14 leighann February 8, 2010 at 9:48 am

Renata- Check back Tuesday, I am linking to some of the posts about Oprah I have found this past week. Thanks for linking to me!


15 Cherise February 8, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Woot! I agree, oprah should do a show highlighting children with T-1 and also adults. Great job!


16 Will February 9, 2010 at 11:36 am

What you say about size and age having to do with the amount of insulin required is not neccesarily true. I am 15 and just recently got the OmniPod like your daughter and at the meeting where we were learning about it my rate was set to give me less insulin than the 7 year old we were doing it with.


17 Amy Kearley October 8, 2010 at 11:46 pm

How adorable is she?!? Center stage is exactly where she belongs!


18 kim July 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Why does a cardiologist thinks he knows everything about every disease out there? Ugh. I don’t watch Oprah, but if I did, I would make sure to miss any show that has Dr. Oz on it.


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