The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.

William Osler

Maybe it’s because I spend 90% of my days writing, or because I like to talk, or because I manage the images that people have of brands, or maybe it’s something entirely different, but I’m really sensitive to the way that people use words. So sensitive in fact that I can become physically uncomfortable when people use words poorly or in a way that is misrepresentative.

I’m especially sensitive to the way the people use words to describe me, or my broken body. In the same way that I don’t like the word “sugar” being used to describe diabetes, I don’t like the word “disease” being used to describe diabetes.

Not that the word disease isn’t scientifically accurate, it does appear in the medical definition of Type 1 Diabetes, I just don’t feel like I have a disease. I don’t feel like I’m sick. Most of the time I don’t even feel like I have a “health condition.”

If anything, I feel like I survived organ failure (which is how a relative of mine described type 1 when I was first diagnosed). Most of the time I feel healthy.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of catching diabetes (type 2) from my grandmother. I didn’t know that it wasn’t contagious. I feel like using the word “disease” makes it sound like diabetes is contagious or makes one worthy of ostracism.

At the end of the day though, no matter what I feel like, I have an autoimmune disease.

I’m diseased. <——- I don’t like that way that sounds. 

As I write this, I have to wonder if use of the word “disease” portrays diabetes of all types as a serious medical condition, worthy of trying to cure…

6 thoughts on “Diseased

  1. I immediately knew I was going to comment on this about halfway through. My first thought in my head was, “I use the word disease as much as possible”.

    I think I do this because I want to reaffirm to others how serious it is. As a newly dx’ed adult I get a lot of “but you’re better now right?” or “you just take a pill and you’re good?”

    If I take a good hard look at the language I use, I think I purposely keep pumping out the “autoimmune disease” “disease” “fatal consequences” talk because I want to be validated by myself AND others (working on the latter part) that my struggle is real and that despite how I look on the outside (strong and always active), that the internal mental battle for me is tough.

    On the flip side, I can see quite clearly what you are saying, respect it and at the same time agree if that makes any sense at all. I don’t like that sentence either: I’m diseased. Yuck.

    Thank you for sharing again. Looking forward to the next post 😀

    • I was dx’d at 22 and people still ask if I’ll ever “grow out of it.”

      It’s amazing what I learn about myself when I start writing about my mental hangups! Because it is important to convey how serious diabetes is. I also use the word “chronic” a lot.

  2. here in Canada, a diabetic can apply for the Disability Tax Credit. I have been diabetic since 1974 and when I found out about this tax credit, I couldn’t bring myself to apply for it because of the word “disability”. I certainly did not think of myself as “disabled”. It took me almost 4 years to actually apply for this tax credit, and only because my endocrinologist and the ladies at my diabetic education centre convinced me that I deserved it! words like “diseased” “disabled” “chronic”, they all sound bad, but it is what it is!

  3. I hate that term, disease, too. Every time I hear it, I envision that side-by-side photo of a “healthy” lung and a “diseased” lung, from the high-school health class where they taught us the perils of smoking.

    My pancreas may not work right, but it’s hard to imagine it black and shriveled like that picture. There’s got to be a better term.

  4. Pingback: The language of diabetes | ProbablyRachel

Leave a Reply