Communications expert Kerry Doy was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 13. Here, to mark Diabetes Week, she explains why language matters when discussing the condition.
Why? Why? Why?
This was my favourite question as a child and I would regularly drive my parents insane desperately trying to get as much detail as I could on anything and everything that interested me.
It’s something that has stuck with me into adulthood. I’m naturally inquisitive. I ask the questions nobody else will. And I often put people on the spot.
I also expect straight answers. Clarity, precision and transparency.
All this was cemented when, at 13, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
Suddenly I had a million new questions to ask. And often finding the answers wasn’t simple.
All occupations are plagued by technical language but the medical profession is one of the worst.
Doctors, having spent many years immersed in the biology of human health and disease, often overestimate the health literacy of their patients.
So, they talk about your beta cells (responsible for the production of insulin, amylin and C-peptide), BG levels (the measurement of glucose circulating in the blood), GI (glycemic index) and the use of insulin - a hormone which causes most of the body's cells to take up glucose from the blood.
For a child, big words and acronyms can be daunting. But I wasn’t put off. Instead, I set about finding out everything I could about the condition.
I have outstanding support from the Diabetes Centre at Ipswich Hospital and, thanks to a host of doctors and nurses who never flinch at my “Why? Why? Why?” I now have a thorough understanding of diabetes which has allowed me to make informed decisions about how to manage it. It has also helped me educate others.This week is Diabetes Week and their campaign - Language Matters - is focused on the words we use to communicate diabetes.
Words have the power to build or lower our self-confidence and unfortunately, sometimes friends, family and complete strangers, say things without thought.
Since my diagnosis I have received all kinds of unsolicited dietary advice, as well as pointed (excuse the pun) observations about injections.
I take each comment as a great opportunity to explain to people about what life is like with diabetes. I relish them asking questions.
After all, as a PR professional, I know how important it is to pick the right words and communicate clearly, concisely and effectively.
Talking about diabetes can be tricky, awkward, difficult, funny, and everything in between. But if we never ask “why?” we can’t expect to understand.
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