Finding the right word
I hate that word. It conjures up images of the lungs of a chain-smoker, or the liver of an alcoholic. The kind of images that are shown to grade-school students to teach them to take care of themselves.
Or images of someone who caught some nasty virus or bacteria and now struggles to do the things many of us take for granted. Someone who, when they board a train, people tend to migrate in the opposite direction, afraid themselves of catching the affliction, which is quite visibly apparent. Some just can’t bear the sight.
Or maybe it’s just the alliterative similarity to words like “death” or “dying”. It has a connotation of someone who is sick, or even sickly. Someone whose existence, at that moment, is hard to justify living.
Search Google Images for the word “disease”. The results are not pretty.
The word as an “ick” or an “eeeeww” factor to it.
But diabetes is a disease, and it is none of those things. It’s the body’s inability to produce or use a necessary hormone, so that hormone has to come from external sources. After that, everything’s fine.
Of course, it’s not that simple. The big challenge is figuring out the proper amount of that hormone, and getting it in our body, to the right spot, in the right amounts, at the right time, so as to mimic the non-diabetic body’s natural response. Science hasn’t quite brought us to achieving that “how” yet, but the “what” is quite clear. And with the tools we’ve got and a bit of effort, we can come pretty darn close.
There are some of us who go about life appearing quite healthy, complication-free. People see me, and before they learn of my diabetes, they have no idea of this extra life-baggage that I carry with me. They say I look perfectly healthy. Certainly not diseased.
Sometimes, I read about another word to describe diabetes: condition. That word is certainly more gentle-sounding, and for me is easier to say and hear, but it’s not quite accurate. A condition is a term that makes a very broad generalization. Someone may have a heart condition. Others may have a skin condition. But does that mean anything? No. Dick Clark suffered from a stroke, not a “brain condition”. Michael J. Fox has Parkinson’s, not a “tremor condition”. Diabetes is a very specific circumstance that has a very specific cause, effect, and treatment. (We don’t understand why it happens, but we do know what it does and what we have to do to about it).
When I blog, sometimes I struggle to come up with the right words. But there are two recurring themes that give me trouble. First is whether or not to use the term “diabetic” (you’ll see I used it a few paragraphs up, but rarely else on this blog). In general, I find it acceptable as an adjective but not as a noun, but I’ll discuss that another time. Second, is to find another term to describe diabetes.
Is diabetes a disease? The truth of the matter is that, yes, it is. A terminal one at that. This disease is not contagious and it’s not (visibly) ugly, but the connotation of the word sure suggests that.
It’s why I hate to use that word. But I’m not sure what else to call it.
Any suggestions? I’m at a loss for words.