Happy November! It’s Diabetes Month! That means we get to clap our hands and spread the word of life with diabetes. Or diabetes prevention. Or prevention of diabetes complications. Or diabetes statistics. Or blah, blah, blah, diabetes, blah, blah. I have done this in some way, shape or form every year since I was diagnosed. But you’ll have to forgive me – I just can’t do it. Not this year. This year I’m just going to keep doing what I do. Why? Because I don’t need a PR hook to celebrate my life with a chronic illness.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “PR hook,” here’s the basic concept: It’s whatever makes your news interesting and timely. For example, few people will care about the specifics of Ebola – until there is an epidemic. With health observances, however, it’s a little more manufactured: a designated day, week or month when you get to say the same thing to the media, but can pitch your observance as the “hook” as to why they need to be writing about your observance.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I am glad that November can inspire people to raise their voice, wear whatever color they identify with, raise some much-needed funds, and cause a big fuss about diabetes. Because diabetes deserves a big fuss [*cough* and a cure *cough, cough*]. But I am not color-driven and I am not a fundraiser. I raise my voice when I feel the need – which has never adhered to an annual basis.
Many people don’t realize this, but there are some organizational politics involved in November, too. To “Big Red” it’s American Diabetes Month. To the folks at the NIH, including NIDDK and NDEP, it’s National Diabetes Month. Both of those names are extensions of each organization’s branding. Frankly, I don’t want to put too much thought into whichever term I choose to use.[UPDATE Nov 4, 2014, 2:40pm PST: A kind soul has reminded me that, in fact, it was President Reagan’s 1982 proclamation of November as “National Diabetes Month” that determined this name – not branding processes of agencies or organizations. Instead, they continue to use the term for the sake of consistency, as does the White House according to the 2014 proclamation!]
And speaking of well-branded organizations, there’s another point I’d like to make about Diabetes Month: the audience is so broad – type 1, type 2, friends and family, those at risk, etc. – that it’s nearly impossible to speak to all of them at once. I was reminded of this when I saw a new campaign launched recently about America Gets Cooking to Stop Diabetes… Well, folks, that clearly is not even in the realm of possibility when it comes to my diabetes. Sure, I can share, but that’s a particularly polarizing message and leaves too many of us out of the picture during a month that is supposed to “belong” to us?
Instead I am choosing to celebrate to the best of my abilities: to keep living my little life with my imperfect pancreas, to continue to post about this little life of mine, and to continue to do these two things once November is over.
I will admit that part of this may be due to the fact that I often find myself on the verge of diabetes burnout. And Diabetes Month can exacerbate that burnout. I’d rather keep steady and stay away from burnout.I say this in case anyone else out there feels the same way, and perhaps needs to hear that this is okay (it is!).
Abstaining from Diabetes Month is my own choice – I’m not against it, I just don’t think it’s worth mustering the extra energy right now to give it an extra spotlight. Maybe next year. Maybe not.
And, for what it’s worth, the month of November is also a hook for COPD, Lung Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Healthy Skin, Family Caregivers, Hospice Palliative Care, and Stomach Cancer. Cheers!