Today, my social media feeds are full of this screaming headline:

(Click for article)

As soon as I saw this, I threw my phone away from me and put my head back under the doona. Aren’t Fridays meant to be about celebrating a week well done and looking forward to the weekend?

Instead, I woke to far too many notifications about diabetes and death – words I really don’t like to see together, especially not so early in the morning.  Fortified with coffee, I took a deep breath and in I went, reading the article from top to bottom.

I’ve had a knot in the pit of my stomach all week. It moved in and made itself comfortable when the Australian PM started talking about easing lockdown restrictions. I’ve spent the last few days trying to work out how I can manage this anxiety in a sensible way, and not do what I really want, which is to build a cellar under our house, stock it with coffee, prosecco and Nutella, and move in there until sometime in 2030.

This article and the subsequent commentary twisted that knot tighter and pushed it in deeper. ‘I live here now,’ it seemed to be saying. And then added, ‘Get better WIFI; it’s patchy in here.’

The fact that the article raises more questions than it actually answers hasn’t helped. More details – details that may help to better understand exactly what is going on – won’t be published until next week. And so, without enough content to provide explanations, advice and information that might help PWD feel that perhaps it’s not all hopeless. Instead, The Guardian offered some throw-away lines about the associations and causes of type 1 and type 2 diabetes:

‘NHS England’s breakdown, published for the first time on Thursday, did not specify how many of the 5,873 diabetics who died had type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition not related to lifestyle, and type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked to being overweight. Fuller details will be published in an article in a medical journal next week.’

This just seems like an opportunity for people to appease people with type 1 diabetes, and point the finger and further stigmatise people with type 2 diabetes, instead of acknowledging that people with ALL types of diabetes might possibly find this news confronting. What is the relevance here to being overweight? If there is a correlation, please let us know and does it impact people with type 1 diabetes who are also overweight?

I am not for a moment saying that this sort of information should be hidden away or swept under the carpet. Of course, I want to understand how diabetes and COVID-19 interact. But there has to be a better way to get information to the masses without adding to the anxiety and worry. And definitely in a way that doesn’t sensationalise, point fingers and add to social stigma.

The article goes on to highlight the link between Alzheimer’s disease and deaths due to COVID-19, and as I read the quote from Alzheimer’s Research UK’s director of policy and public affairs, Samantha Benham-Hermetz, I wanted to reach into my MacBook and give her a metaphoric, and therefore socially distant, hug. She said:

‘This shocking news will no doubt bring even more worry and fear to people affected by dementia and their loved ones, during an already challenging time.’

I know that I and so many of my friends living with diabetes, and their loved ones, have been feeling worried and scared since this all started, and this article has the potential to add a lot more. The fact that this response was acknowledged out loud (and I think it’s fair to say that people affected by diabetes would be feeling the same as those affected by dementia) made me feel so grateful and heard.

Statistics are statistics, and data are important; I know that. But sharing data with the masses only works if it is done effectively and communicated in a way that doesn’t leave people feeling hopeless, but rather empowers us to make decisions that contribute to minimising risk.

My heart breaks for my friends with type 2 diabetes, and their families, who not only have to digest this headline and information, but also need to consider how the cavalier and simplistic definition of type 2 diabetes will now be interpreted by the general population who already are so quick to blame and stigmatise.

I live with diabetes, and I understand that I am high risk of complications, and so it seems, death if I get COVID-19. But mostly, more than anything else, I am a person trying to make sense of all of this and stay safe, healthy and sane – just like everyone else.

P.S. Hey – Guardian UK – I fixed this para for you:

‘NHS England’s breakdown, published for the first time on Thursday, did not specify the type of diabetes with which the 5,873 people who died were diagnosed. Fuller details will be published in an article in a medical journal next week.’