Honesty: A Diabetes-Friendly Policy

Here’s how being open about diabetes helped real-life folks like you stay healthy and content.

Beth Shapouri

Have you been keeping your diabetes a secret? You’re not alone! One English study suggests as many as one in three people with diabetes have concealed it at some point in their lives. Here, three people with diabetes discuss the downsides of deception—and how “coming out” has made them healthier and happier.

Catherine Vancak: “I hid my diagnosis from fellow dancers”
“I did everything to hide my diabetes from my ballet company. I tested my blood sugar in dressing rooms and wore long sleeves to cover my pump. I didn’t want to be the dancer stuck in the back for fear that I might get sick if I had a bigger role. It was so stressful—my legs would shake.”
My turning point:
“I was given a soloist position at another company. I didn’t have the opportunity to run away and test on my own schedule, so I decided to educate my directors, choreographers and fellow dancers.
Why I’m happier and healthier:
“To my surprise, being open about my diabetes got me more challenging roles. It was such a relief.”

Brett Griswold: “I kept my secret for years!”
“I used to hide my diabetes from everyone who knew me other than my family. I was tired of comments like, ‘He must eat too much sugar.’ I would drink a regular soda instead of diet. I’d even deny it if someone suspected.”
My turning point:
“A few years ago, some friends in my diabetes community helped change my view of diabetes as something that makes me different and special.”
Why I’m happier and healthier:
“[After opening up about my diabetes], it was no longer my crutch. Instead, it became a way to pursue a happier and more successful life. Now I make my living as a diabetes care specialist.”

Karen Graffeo: “I kept it from my boyfriend!”
I was ashamed to have a chronic illness, and I wanted to escape from the everyday burden. I was on multiple daily insulin injections, so at work I would go to the bathroom when I needed to inject or just delay my injections. I wouldn’t follow my eating plan because I wanted to eat like everyone else. I even kept it a secret from my now-husband for the first three months of our relationship.”
My turning point:
“I was hospitalized with my first case of diabetic ketoacidosis in 2003. I decided to start taking better care of myself—and that included telling my closest friends.”
Why I’m happier and healthier:
“I’m able to cope with the disease much better because I can lean on others for support.”

April 2013