Diabetes on TV and in movies is rarely anything close to accurate. Turns out, those media misconceptions can be real-life harmful. This week, Stacey is joined by Dr. Heather Walker, the co-author of (Un)Doing Diabetes: Representation, Disability, Culture and Dr. Phyllisa Deroze, who contributed a chapter called “Laughing to Keep From Dying: Black Americans with Diabetes in Sitcoms and Comedies.
Dr. Deroze & Dr. Walker both live with type 1 and both have difficult diagnosis stories that influenced their experiences with diabetes going forward.
This podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider.
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Stacey Simms 0:00
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This is Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms.
This week, diabetes on TV and in the movies is rarely anything close to accurate. And those media misconceptions can be real life harmful. Here’s one from the sitcom 30 Rock.
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 0:30
Tracy has diabetes there. And he does this skit where he replaces his foot with a skate. And he’s like I’m practicing for when I lose my foot to diabetes. And that is the thing. There was a diabetes diagnosis and the next scene, he’s already imagining himself with an amputation.
Stacey Simms 0:49
That’s Dr. Phyllisa Deroze, who wrote a chapter in a new book we’re talking about this week. The book is called (Un)Doing Diabetes Representation, Disability Culture. And it’s authored by Dr. Heather Walker, Dr. Deroze and Dr. Walker both live with type one, and they join me for a great conversation. This podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider.
Welcome to another week of the show, I am always so glad to have you here. You know, we aim to educate and inspire about diabetes with a focus on people who use insulin. This is our first show of 2022. So Happy New Year, everybody. I hope you’re doing okay. Still stressful days for everybody. But hopefully you can kind of come along with me every week, as we talk about what we’re finding interesting in the diabetes community.
And I say that because 2021, I decided I was going to focus on technology for the year, I was going to try to do as many episodes as I could, talking about new technology talking to these companies. And I did that although I gotta say the log jam at the FDA made that a little difficult, right? I mean, we thought we’d have a lot more new technology. And a lot of companies will not talk about stuff until it is FDA approved. So this year, I’m going to stay with that because the technology episodes are what you have told me you are the most interested in, in fingers crossed are going to have some approvals pretty soon. But I gotta tell you, I’ve also decided that I’m going to do shows on just whatever the heck I find interesting. I started this show seven years ago, this coming summer, and honestly, this might be the last year of it in this form. I mean, I love it. I love doing this but seven years is a long time for any project. I have some new things that I’m working on. I’m not sure how much time all of it is going to take. I’m not abandoning the podcast by any means. I want to hear from you too. As we go forward. You know, as the year goes by, I will keep the lines of communication open. We will figure it out together.
This episode does fall into the category of something I am fascinated by and I love to talk about and that is diabetes in media. And by the way separately. Both of my guests this week have bananas misdiagnosis stories, we get to that right out of the gate. Wait till you hear what one of their doctors ended up doing. I have never heard this happening before. It was pretty wild. And we will talk about the book I mentioned that it is (Un)Doing Diabetes Representation, Disability Culture. It is authored by Dr. Heather Walker and Dr. Dr. Bianca C. Frazer. It contains essays by other authors including Dr. Phyllisa Deroze a little bit more about the book in its public description. It says undoing diabetes is the first collection of essays to use disability studies to explore representations of diabetes across a wide range of mediums from Twitter to TV and film to theater fiction, fan fiction, fashion and more. In undoing diabetes Authors deconstruct assumptions the public commonly holds while writers doing diabetes present counter narratives community members create to represent themselves.
And just a little bit more about my guests. Dr. Heather Walker is Associate Director of qualitative research at the University of Utah health. She was diagnosed with type one at age 11 in 2001, and Dr. Phyllisa Deroze began blogging at diagnosed not defeated almost immediately after being misdiagnosed. She found out later with type two diabetes in 2011. And now she has been correctly diagnosed with LADA. Dr. Phyllisa Deroze is also the founder of Black diabetic info after the interview, and it’s a pretty long interview. And that’s okay. They have a lot of great stuff to say, I’m going to come back I want to tell you about something that happened to me. It’s not quite diabetes in media, but it is diabetes jokes. So I want to tell you how I handled something in a Facebook group. But I’ll come back and do that after the interview.
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze, Dr. Heather Walker, welcome. I’m so happy to talk to you both. Thanks for coming on.
Unknown Speaker 4:50
Stacey Simms 4:51
So let’s start if we could, I mean there’s so much to get to and I was so excited to see you both at friends for life and see the presentations that you were doing but which You mind kind of backing up a little bit and kind of letting people get to know you? We could start just tell me a little bit about your diabetes diagnosis story. And Phyllisa, let me let me ask you to start with that if I could.
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 5:12
Um, yes, I was diagnosed shortly after getting my PhD in English literature. I had moved to North Carolina, I experienced the classic symptoms of hyperglycemia. I had seen a physician who didn’t check my blood sugar told me that I just needed to drink Gatorade because my electrolytes were off. A little later I was in the hospital. Blood sugar didn’t register. Finally, I think first reading was like 597, or something like that. So I was told I had diabetes, and what type didn’t get clarified until I was discharged. When I was discharged. I was told that I had type two diabetes, and I lived with that diagnosis for eight long years, it was inaccurate, I was misdiagnosed. I live with latent autoimmune diabetes in adults. And I was correctly diagnosed and joined the T1D group in 2019. I get this
Stacey Simms 6:06
question. Every time I speak to somebody like yourself who was misdiagnosed like that it happens so often. How do you live with what is really type one for all that time? I mean, I can’t imagine you felt very well.
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 6:20
I did. Okay, after diagnosis, I had a pretty long honeymoon phase, I actually lived about three years with just diet and exercise. I think one thing in the T1D community is that we don’t talk enough about honeymoon phases and people who have latent autoimmune diabetes and adults, because so much of the common knowledge about type 1 diabetes is that everyone is insulin dependent. And that’s not necessarily true, everyone will become insulin dependent. And that’s an important message, because I never thought to have test done until I went into DKA. Again, so I myself didn’t know that it was possible to have type 1 diabetes have a long honeymoon period and be misdiagnosed.
Stacey Simms 7:09
Yeah. The more I learned about Lada, it is so similar, but it’s so different. There’s a lot more to it, I guess, is what I would say, than I had realized for sure. Heather, what is your diagnosis story? When were you diagnosed with diabetes?
Dr. Heather Walker 7:21
So I was diagnosed at 11. And I also sort of have a misdiagnosis story. So I had diabetes, and I was in what I assumed to be a honeymoon phase for three months before my diagnosis actually came around. Because I was seeing a physician at the time who looked at me, skinny white girl, whose parents were really afraid because she kept losing weight, who was just about to hit puberty, and he thought eating disorder. No matter how many times I told him, I was eating everything in sight and drinking everything in sight. That’s still what he firmly believed. Luckily, at about three months after I started coming in to see him for this and for the symptoms, he went on vacation, and I got to see his pa instead. And his pa John, you know, it’s so funny. I don’t even remember his last name. But just he’s just warmly John to me, right? He just looked at my chart, and he knew right away, it’s like, oh, you have diabetes, you know, so calmly, and I remember that freaking me and my mom out. We were in the appointment. It actually was my dad. But still, the first thing that we did was went and got me a doughnut because I think my dad was like, alright, well, maybe this is it. You know, he’ll never eat another doughnut. Yeah, like, we really don’t know about this, we don’t know what’s gonna happen. And so they didn’t do a glucose tests on me. They just drew blood. So we didn’t know right away anyway. And then it was like, you know, the next day, they called and said, You need to come to the hospital and for US history.
Stacey Simms 8:45
I’m guess I’m gonna get ahead of myself a little bit here. I don’t want to start drawing conclusions too early in this interview. But it is interesting how both of you were misdiagnosed. Somebody else made an assumption, because of how you present it to them. I’ve got to imagine. So Heather, let me ask you. And then Phyllisa, I want to ask you the same question. But other how has that stuck with you? I mean, you you kind of set it so matter of factly they’re like, Hey, he assumed I had an eating disorder. Did you kind of carry that with you?
Dr. Heather Walker 9:11
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think I got a huge chip on my shoulder. From that. I mean, there’s something about you know, being 11. And being in a world that already doesn’t take you seriously, and then have a life threatening disease thrown at you. And your doctor doesn’t believe what you say, even before diabetes. And Stacy, I’ve heard on episodes of your podcast you talking with with teens about or people who were teens with diabetes, about how fast it speeds your life up, right? Like you don’t really get to have a childhood you don’t really get to be a teenager and like, you know, carry on with reckless abandon because you just can’t because there’s all these safety things that you need to take into account. And so, but even before diabetes, I was kind of like that, like I was, you know, a 30 year old and a 10 year old body. I’ve been the same Age since then until now, but that, for sure gave me a big chip on my shoulder. It made me want to like, look into everything and see as it’s happening to other people is like what’s going on with this diabetes stuff.
Stacey Simms 10:13
Phyllisa, I’m curious for your experience too, because as you you kind of already said something interesting, which was like, Well, I didn’t know how were you supposed to know? Right? The doctor supposed to know.
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 10:23
Right. What’s interesting is that when I was told that I needed to look into LADA because I had given a speech in Dubai to a roomful of doctors from the MENA region, Middle East and North Africa. And I was simply telling them my diagnosis story, very similar to what I share with you is a little more in depth, but pretty much that was the basics. And you know, I’m 31 years old at the time. And so during the q&a, some of the physicians from Tunisia, they raised their hand, and I was like, yes, they were like, well, your story kind of sounds more like LADA than type two. Are you familiar with it? And I said, not really. I mean, I know Cherise Shockley has it, but I don’t know any more details than that. And it was at the lunch afterwards, one of the physicians came up to me and she said, you really ought to look into seeing if you have a ladder, and don’t stop until you get the answer. And that kind of haunted me like, don’t stop until you get the answer. But I just thought it was a simple request. So I asked my Endo, I got told no, I asked three months later, if I had ever been tested, the answer was no. Well, can I get tested? No. I saw a second opinion. No, you have type two. So I definitely think their view of me being an African American woman living with obesity played a lot into the constant denials. It took me over a year, another decay episode, and begging my gynecologist to run type one antibody testing for me in order to get it. So it wasn’t easy. I literally had to not stop until I get the answer.
Dr. Heather Walker 12:11
For Phyllisa, it was your OB they finally gave you the testing you wanted?
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 12:15
Yes. Because I told her, I can’t get an endocrinologist to run this test. I know I’m in decay, a I’m losing weight rapidly. And she listened to me and she said, Okay, she said, I don’t do endocrine, I do you know, OB GYN. So we were literally on her computer on Google trying to find the codes to request the testing. And so she was calling around, what do I put in to order this? And I remember when she called and she said, Listen, you know, this is out of my field. But come get these results, because your endo was going to need to see them. That was all on me. I got the results. I just remember seeing the get 65 should be below five. And mine was greater than 7500.
Stacey Simms 13:05
Oh, I’m almost speechless. I mean, I’m not I’m never actually speechless. I came in less than that happened. But the idea that you have to work so hard to get those answers, I’ve got to assume just like with Heather, that had to inform not only your experiences going forward, but the way you help other people because you both are extremely active in the community. You You’re both very prolific writers, you both have, you know, studies and presentations that we’re going to talk to, but Felicity, that whole experience with somebody else saying, Well, I think you have lotta to I got to get answers for myself to finally getting them. When you look back on that, how does it inform how you talk to other people about
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 13:43
diabetes? I tell people definitely to be way more assertive than then imagined. Like, I honestly did not think it would take me constantly asking for the results. I thought it was like a simple test. I mean, you’re testing my cholesterol, you’re testing my a one C, like you’re already getting a vial of blood, like just check off one antibody. So I thought it was something simple. And it turned out it was not, which was very frustrating for me. Because like in that I realized my education level didn’t matter to them. I was literally like you are African American living with obesity. And that was what I believed to be their motivating factor to deny me testing. And what’s so problematic about that, in addition to everything else you can imagine is as my physician Wouldn’t they want to know that they’re treating the right condition. Yeah, I’m asking so my records actually have a note from my endo saying, Melissa asked multiple times for type one antibody testing, and I denied it
Stacey Simms 14:55
literally says I denied it in your file.
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 14:57
Stacey Simms 14:59
I’m just sorry. I got to ask, did he show that to you as an apology? Or did you sit there in the room while you made him write it?
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 15:05
What I did was I refused to leave the appointment. I love it until there was this moment of record, like, I need you to recognize that I have been asking you for over a year for this test. We just need to come to that because it was like, Oh, you need insulin, let’s go. And, you know, I was kind of being escorted out of the room. And I said, No, I’m literally not going to leave this chair until we have this conversation. And so I didn’t know that my endo would put it on my records. But I definitely refused to leave until that conversation was had, they did apologize. And there was a note and my files.
Stacey Simms 15:47
It just didn’t have to be that hard. This could have been an episode in and of itself. Want to make sure to get to that the research or the publications that sparked my interest here.
Right back to our conversation and right was like kidding about the diagnosis stories, and then her doctor putting in her chart that he was wrong. Oh my god.
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Now back to the interview. And we are moving on to Dr. Walker’s book. Heather, tell me about the book that’s coming out.
Dr. Heather Walker 17:14
Okay, I’m so excited to be talking about this. So you might hear that excitement in my voice. So it’s awesome. The title of the book is called undoing diabetes representation, disability culture, that’s a full title. And it’s going to be released very soon, by the end of the year, we hope it’s a collection of essays that looks at diabetes in a new way, the volume or the volume as a whole. You know, it points out that all the stereotypes of diabetes that the public really buys into are like maintained through a lens of individualism, our society looks at diabetes as a problem of the individual person right of their choices. And so to respond to that public tendency, right to like focus on the individual, all of our authors in the book do the opposite. So in the collection, they ask questions like, What do individualistic stereotypes reveal about the social conditions for the diabetic person? So it like flips it on its head? And also what do they conceal, right? What is stereotypes hide? What do they prevent us from seeing? And how do these like harmful narratives, these harmful assumptions, these stereotypes that just break down our community? How do they reinforce ideas that the public already has, for what constitutes like a normal or a good body, which is just like, as a person who’s living with diabetes, this makes me so excited. And then I’ll just add one final thing about the book, which is our collection is really unique in that we use disability studies frameworks to unpack all of these questions. What are disability studies? So this ability studies is a field of study that looks at the social conditions of disability. So how is disability perceived in society? How is it represented on the screen, and all of those types of things. And so we have frameworks in the field that we use, it’s kind of imagined, like a camera lens, right? That’s kind of like a framework and the camera lens has a filter on it. And so when we look at this movie, or this film, we’re looking at it through a specific lens with a specific filter. In our book, all of our authors are looking at different types of media, through these disability studies, frames or lenses, and sort of seeing how they operate in society and what they do, and then poking holes at what it does. And every chapter is brilliant, and Phyllisa is going to talk about hers, but as a volume, like I could not be more proud of this collection and all the work that it does. And all of like the change and the shifts it’s going to make for readers.
Stacey Simms 19:43
It’s so interesting to me because of the mediums that you use so let’s let’s ask Felicity if you want to if you could talk about what you presented friends for life, what you talked about you were looking at TV shows, right and not unfortunately not more current ones which sometimes get it right.
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 19:59
Um, yeah, I was the title of my chapter is laughing to keep from dying black Americans with diabetes in sitcoms and comedies. So I was looking at television shows as well as movies, and focusing on how those representations make meaning of diabetes within African American communities. Part of this started, when I thought about the first time I heard you have diabetes, and I was in the emergency room, my first thought was, I’m going to die. Like that. Was it? Like, I just thought like diabetes meant death? And when I started unpacking that, to find out where did I get that messaging from? Because no one in my family has diabetes. I didn’t personally know anybody with diabetes. It really came from television and film, and of course, our media. And I thought it would be really nice to look at some of these classic movies and TV shows that are very popular in African American communities to see what story is told when you focus on the diabetes characters.
Can you talk about some examples?
Yeah. So for example, like Soul Food is one of those classic staple in African American film, a memory just like the color purple is something that people cite quotes from all the time. But when you look at Soul Food, it really stems from Big Mama who has diabetes. We understand this because she burns her arm on a stove. And a couple of things later, she passes away, she has an amputation and then a stroke. And she’s no longer with us. The Big Mama character also comes up in Tyler Perry’s plays and his films in his television shows. And again, these are staple matriarch characters who have diabetes. Now Madea lives on because that’s a part of, you know, Tyler Perry series, but she has diabetes Boondocks I look at and of course Blackish. So blackish, I would say is probably where we first see the the image turn, where we first see a character with diabetes, checking their blood sugar, and all the other stuff we don’t. And so what that tells us is that diabetes is going to cause either a slow death or quick death, perhaps an amputation, if you’re familiar with 30, Rock. Tracy has diabetes there. And he does this skit where he replaces his foot with a skate. And he’s like I’m practicing for when I lose my foot to diabetes. And that is the thing, there was a diabetes diagnosis, and the next thing, he’s already imagining himself with an amputation. So when we look
Stacey Simms 22:59
at something like this, what do we take from it now? I mean, we you can’t go back and change those representations. What do you want us to kind of learn from them.
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 23:08
But I would ideally like for the film industry, to change their portrayal of characters with diabetes, I mean, all characters, not just African American ones. But last year, there was the release of the Clark Sisters first ladies of gospel biopic on lifetime. The Clark Sisters are like a staple in African American culture. They were these gospel singers that were absolutely phenomenal. The Lifetime movie of them ended up being the highest rated Lifetime movie and four years. This comes out last year, the mother has diabetes. She is seen not taking her medication, not caring about her diabetes. And of course, there’s all these tragedies that happen. And the thing is, when we don’t see African Americans using CGM technology, insulin pump technology, we don’t see checking blood sugar. What happens with those messages is that it becomes the common assumption. So when someone goes to the doctor, the doctor may think, Oh, well, black people don’t check their blood sugar. And so then that begins to impact the individual prime example. I was in a setting once. And a woman said, Oh, I didn’t think black people ate vegetables. What? Yes, yes, literally said this. And I was just so floored, but I thought, okay, she didn’t think black people ate vegetables. And so I’m wondering like, what images you know, is she being fed? Right? Yeah. came from so the thing is, is we have to look at our television and our film, not just as sources of enjoyment for some people, but also as information that provides an understanding about certain people. So literally in all of the films and television shows that I look that there were probably two that showed the African American character with diabetes, actually living a rather fruitful life. Outside of that it was amputation and death. And so when someone is diagnosed with diabetes, like I was, and I didn’t know anyone with diabetes, instantly, the first thing I thought about was death and dying. And that association that comes with it, when I hadn’t seen people living well, with diabetes, I just want to say this. When I was first diagnosed, I went to Barnes and Nobles sat down in a bookstore with one of Patti LaBelle cookbooks, and I flipped to a page and she said, in this book, I had diabetes, but I wasn’t going to let diabetes have in me, and I cried, right there in the Barnes and Noble, because that was the first time that I had ever seen or read or heard someone who looks like me diagnosed with diabetes, and they were determined to continue living their life. Like if you want to see that image, where do you go? Because our television and our films are not that place. And that’s also the fertile ground for which black diabetic info on my website started and my blog, because I didn’t know where to go for that. Like, I got it in Patti LaBelle cookbook, and I cry. But then where can I go to see it again? Yeah, didn’t have an answer. Heather, I
Stacey Simms 26:53
want to come back to you and ask you something I saw you posted about on on Twitter. A couple of months ago, Pixar posted a teaser for their new movie turning red, which I think comes out in the spring. And there’s like a split second shot of a kid wearing some kind of what looks like diabetes device. It’s, you know, an insulin pump or a CGM. And they confirmed it. I actually talked to somebody behind the scenes at Pixar and fingers crossed, we’ll have them on the show in a couple of weeks. But it is a diabetes. I’m so excited. But it is a diabetes device. But you were pretty adamant about one point, would you mind sharing that? And why? Sure.
Dr. Heather Walker 27:30
So when I saw that, you know, I came late to the show. Let me preface with that, right. Like, by the time I saw that trailer, the community was abuzz. Like they everyone was so excited. And what I saw was, Oh, my goodness, we see a character with type 1 diabetes. And as someone who is completing a chapter for a book of essays on representations of diabetes, you know, my antenna went up when I saw how the community was claiming that. And I just thought to myself, This is not a representation of type 1 diabetes, this is a representation of diabetes, because people with type two can and should have access to those devices as well. And so for the type one community to be exclusive, in this moment, in this grand opportunity for all of us to celebrate together, really sort of broke me down in a way, you know, I was like, Why? Why can’t we just keep this open? Why can’t we make this a win for everyone? Instead of saying, quote, unquote, type two people don’t use these devices? And I think that the reason why it was like it was like a jab in my heart is I think that that claiming does something in society, right? It, it functions to show us that large groups of the diabetes are the type one community feel like, maybe type two diabetics aren’t using that technology, because they’re the ones who don’t care. And they’re the ones that the stereotype is about. And so that shows me that we have pockets in our type one community that buy into the stereotype just like the public does.
Stacey Simms 29:06
I’m looking at the description of the book in terms of the different mediums you use Twitter, to TV to film to theater to fiction, fan fiction.
Dr. Heather Walker 29:13
Yeah, we have a chapter, whatever author of your chapter covering a segment of fan fiction, and it’s wonderful and actually, that author and she discloses in her chapter as well, so I’m not outing her. She also lives with diabetes herself. And I’m pretty sure she has a physical science PhD. So this genre and this discipline is new for her and she just like, Oh, she did such a great job having us understand how diabetes is being pulled into fanfiction. Alright, we
Stacey Simms 29:46
now should have set this up better if you’re not familiar, and I’m going to do probably a terrible job of describing this. If you’re not familiar. Fanfiction is stories, poems, pictures, it’s fiction, written by people who are Fans have a genre or fans of a certain bunch of characters, and then they kind of make up their own stories using the established characters most of the time. So in other words, you love Harry Potter, you write yourself into Harry Potter or you write a different adventures that the characters might have had. And it’s accessible to pretty much everybody. Is that how I feel about fanfiction? Yeah, I
Dr. Heather Walker 30:18
think it’s kind of a, you know, once you get into it, you know where to look. You can probably Google it. And you know, I’m not even really in the world of fanfic, full disclosure and transparency. But I feel like I want to beat now that I’ve read, I’ve read that chapter. So
Stacey Simms 30:34
these are characters people are writing about that loop with diabetes, or they are the just bringing diabetes into exactly as it sounds. It sounds silly, as I’m saying it out loud. Like I’m explaining it. I’m trying to, you know, hit it over the head to the to find a point. But just to be clear,
Dr. Heather Walker 30:48
yes. So I think in the pieces that this author talks about in their chapter, it’s situations where the characters themselves do not have diabetes, and the fanfic authors write them having diabetes. Oh, so they add that to their character.
Stacey Simms 31:04
You know what we were doing that a long time ago? Because I don’t know if you know, Heather, and Phyllisa, but Bob, the builder definitely has diabetes, because why else? Would he have that big belt around his equipment? Because that’s where his insulin. So anytime we saw somebody on screen with that, he was like, Oh, he’s got diabetes. I didn’t mean to interrupt Heather. But that clarifies it for me.
Dr. Heather Walker 31:23
Oh, yeah. That’s a perfect example. Right is imagine that we had a fanfic author who loves Bob the Builder when they were a kid. And now they’re writing the whole story about Bob, the builder and his diabetic life. It’s wonderful. The book itself,
Stacey Simms 31:37
is this something that’s accessible to people? And I asked that I mean, is it more of an academic book, tell me a little bit more about that.
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 31:43
So one of the things that I like about the book is that it’s assessable. For a large reading audience, if you are a casual reader, you can get through it, if you are an academic, you can get through it. So it’s not laced with academic jargon. But again, we are using theoretical frameworks, but in a language that is accessible to everybody. So that’s one I definitely enjoy about the collection, is there something in there forever?
Stacey Simms 32:13
And that’s a great point, because I think we do get a little nervous about academic type books, Heather, right. I mean, it’s, it can be a little scary and off putting it away.
Dr. Heather Walker 32:21
Yeah. And I’ll just add, you know, we have, so we have several authors who are like myself, and Phyllisa, who are scholars and community members, which is very nice, and just like really brings it home. And so, you know, you kind of know, as a community member, that you’re going to get authentic pieces by people who are living with this, in addition to having a couple of us who are scholars and committee members, we do have chapters from community members, from activists who don’t have their hand in academia at all, and they’re writing about their personal experiences. And, you know, they’re still talking about representation in different media, but they’re doing so from their lens existing in the community existing in the world with diabetes. And if nothing else, although I, I would also say what, you know, Melissa said was true, all of them are accessible, but especially those that are coming, you know, from the mouths of babes that are coming from our community members, who, who many people who do pick up the book already know,
Stacey Simms 33:20
before I let you go, let me let me pose this question to each of you in kind of a different way. And that would be you know, full. So you mentioned blackish, being a bit of a turning point, the show where people are shown, you know, a character shown checking blood sugar. I’m looking back over the last year and thinking of a more accurate depiction of diabetes, or at least type one with the Babysitter’s Club on Netflix with we’ll see with Pixar is turning red, but with Greenland, you know, written by someone who’s married to Greenland, the movie Written by someone who is married to a person with type one, do you think things are getting better? And and I would ask you, as well to include the black community, because we don’t talk about that enough. You know, I mean, I’m trying to think if all of those I mentioned they did not feature people of color. Do you think it’s getting better? I mean, what would you like to
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 34:06
see, I would like to see more diversity as we get better in the American film industry. When I look at all the films that I studied, type 1 diabetes is grossly under represented like none of these characters have type 1 diabetes, which again, if you think about myself, 31 years old, being diagnosed, I never knew type 1 diabetes could be an option. I’m still not seeing African American characters using technology wearing CGM. Often when I’m out in public. People are asking me about my devices. It’s the first time you’re seeing them. I’m explaining insulin pumps. And so while things are getting better, I would say within shows, television shows and films that are popular within African American characters. Progress is about Very slow on that. And
Stacey Simms 35:01
Heather, from where you stand. Could you share a little bit about what you think is going on in media? Are we getting better?
Dr. Heather Walker 35:07
Yeah, I think Phyllisa what you’re speaking to right is incremental ism. It’s like we are getting better slowly, like painfully, slowly, bit by bit. I mean, I’m inclined to say yes, only because the number of representations that we’re seeing are increasing. But, you know, I’m hesitant at the same time to say yes, because we still have to ask, okay, if we even if we have more representation, are they representations that are doing good for diabetic people in society? Right, like, not necessarily, Are they accurate? Or are they you know, a direct portrayal of what people experience? But what is the public taking away from that representation? Like, what are they leaving that with? And if we have a lot more characters all of a sudden who have diabetes, but the audience still thinks, Okay, well, diabetes is still what I thought it was, right? It’s like overweight people over eating, making bad choices not exercising? If that’s what they’re leaving with, then the answer, of course, is no, we’re not making progress, even if we’re having more characters. And what I find is, what I think we would need to make really big change would be to centralize a character with diabetes instead of making them a sub character, right? Yeah, like for the baby sitters club. And Stacey is not a new character with diabetes is has old, right, like we’ve known that Stacey has had diabetes for a long time, it just wasn’t being produced at the quality it’s being produced at. So that’s not really even a new one. But we do have new ones, like there’s a just a year and a half ago, or so there was a new series called Sweet magnolias. And one of the characters there has, or is about to be diagnosed with diabetes, and it’s the same, it’s the same story. It’s like, you know, if you don’t fix your habits, you’re gonna get diabetes, and you’re gonna die like your mom and all these fear tactics. And so and I really want to be hopeful, Stacy, I really want to be hopeful and say, Yes, we’re headed in the right direction. But I just don’t know i We need people in the writers room with diabetes, and other health conditions and disabilities, to have a direct voice and call things out before they’re produced.
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 37:19
I agree 100%, we have to be in the room. Because some things they don’t make sense. For example, blackish, you do see him check his blood sugar. However, once he puts the strip in the meter, he starts talking to his wife, and anyone who knows how to use a meter knows that you have about 30 seconds before you have to put a drop of blood on that thing, or else you’ve lost it. So even little things like that.
Stacey Simms 37:46
I had indicated that was the last question, but I got one more. And that would be and II feel free. Either one of you jump in? Or both? What can the community do? You know, sometimes I feel like, you know, I stopped correcting people online a lot of the time unless it’s really egregious, you know, but if they make a joke, or there’s a hashtag diabetes with dessert, or things like that, like I’m tired, you know, and then you have no sense of humor, you know, gosh, what can we do to try to fix this? Or what can we do to to improve the situation?
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 38:15
I think, this research, this book, this podcast, these conversations are so important. So for example, prior to writing my book chapter, I didn’t see anything talking about the representation of African American characters in television and film. Whenever I talked about diabetes characters, there was maybe the one mention of soul food, but like, there was a dearth there. So this book chapter hopefully helped spark the conversation in wider circles. And so by talking about it more, and rallying around these things, hopefully, the attention like first recognizing that there is a problem, and then getting think tanks together to talk about them is probably the best plan of action.
Dr. Heather Walker 39:06
I love that. And I would just add, you know, I think what the community needs to prioritize is inclusion, right? Like, we need to give up on being exclusive, especially in the type one community, and we need to open our doors to people with type two people with Ladda. People with all like, there are so many different types of diabetes, that even saying type one and two is, is exclusive. I really believe that if we can do that, and if we can elevate the voices of people with diabetes of all types, who are also people of color, then we’ll make a lot of progress in our community because we’ll start seeing those perspectives that we’ve been missing that make us as a community really limited to our own perspective. To me, that’s the only way to do it. I love the idea of a think tank Phyllisa I think that’s brilliant, and just absolutely, and I’m sure you would agree needs to be diverse, right? Like it can’t Be a bunch of like, white people. I don’t know. There’s a lot we can do. There’s a lot.
Stacey Simms 40:08
Thank you both so much for joining me. This is amazing. I’m so thrilled to have you both on the show, you’ve got to come back on there. We just kind of scratched the surface here. So thank you for spending so much time with me.
Dr. Phyllisa Deroze 40:18
It’s a pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Dr. Heather Walker 40:21
Yeah, this has been so fun.
You’re listening to Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms.
Stacey Simms 40:34
More information about my guests and about the book on diabetes all at diabetes connections.com. As you know, every episode has its own homepage with transcriptions and show notes and all that good stuff. The transcription started in January of 2020. And we’re working our way back here in there, hopefully filling in all the blanks. But right now, not every episode before 2020 has a transcription.
And I should tell you just I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. That Pixar movie that we talked about turning red. Since our conversation, they put out another trailer and it showed more diabetes gear, another child in the movie is wearing a Dexcom. So it looks to me I mean, really can’t tell yet. But it looks to me like one kiddo has some kind of pump. And another kiddo has a Dexcom. So as I said, I had a contact at Pixar. And I’ve got another one now. And it looks like there might be an actor, a voice actor in the movie who has diabetes. So we’re to sort this all out. And I should be able to have somebody on about this. I don’t want to over promise. But the folks at Pixar have been really receptive. So that looks like they won’t do it too far in advance because the movie comes out in March. So as we get closer, I’ll keep you posted for it.
And I had mentioned a story before the interview about not necessarily diabetes in media, but about jokes. And I don’t know about you, but years ago, I was on high alert for diabetes jokes, you know, I can’t eat that, or the the hashtag of my dessert is diabetes. And I don’t know, I got burned out. And I don’t talk about it as much. I don’t police it as much, certainly, but I couldn’t help myself last week, at Christmas, I’m in a group. It’s a very clever group. It’s called fatten the curve. If you want to join it. It’s a public group, a friend of mine in the Charlotte area started at the very beginning of COVID. Obviously, it’s a play on flatten the curve. And as you would expect fatten the curve is all about food. And it’s just become a place where people who cook and eat like to share their photos. And somebody posted around Christmas time, you know, it’s my diabetic coma, and then all of this food. So I kind of did the do I want to go to I want to do this, or I want to get this person’s face. So I just very nicely said, Hey, diabetes jokes are never cool. Not sure if you thought about that. But hey, the food looks absolutely delicious. You know, hope it was as good as it looked or something nice like that very casual and breezy. Just like Hey, dude, not cool. But moving on. And there’s a couple of other people in the diabetes community who have joined that group, but it’s not diabetes, it’s just food. But you know how it is when when Facebook shows you something people, you know, jump in. So other people commented like, yeah, Stacey’s right? Please think twice. And this guy apparently lives with type two posted like a non sequitur about his scientific studies and stem cells and all this stuff about diabetes. He did, obviously, not really sunk in I don’t think, but he didn’t respond negatively. And I just said, You know what, fine, I’m moving on, right?
But then a couple of days later, somebody else popped in, it was like, nobody can make a joke anymore. You’re too sensitive, and why we’re just too easily offended. And that’s when I was like, Alright, now I need to respond. So I very nicely, I think it was nice. You know, I wrote a response. And I said, Hey, you know, once the guy said he had diabetes, you’ll notice I didn’t clap back, I didn’t get nasty. We are all entitled to say whatever we want. But it’s important to understand that what we say does have meaning and impact. And as you listen, I know, you know, all this, I did the standard. When we joke about diabetes, we don’t do this with other conditions. We don’t talk about a cholesterol coma, or a high blood pressure problem when we’re eating big meals like this. Why is it only diabetes? And did you realize that actually, you know, the blame and shame that can be encountered here prevents people from seeking treatment or makes them feel like it’s all their fault, and nothing they do will matter. I posted all that waiting for the response. There was none, which I’m really glad about. Because I don’t want to argue I just it’s exhausting. But everyone’s not something like that pushes my buttons and I have to save something. Hopefully that group will just go back to posting yummy pictures of food because it’s been two years and we haven’t had any issues like that. I mostly post pictures of what my husband cooks. Because I don’t like to cook and what I do cook isn’t really Facebook, really.
So I guess we’re often running for 2022. We are back to the Wednesday in the news episodes. I hope you’ll join me for that either live on Facebook, YouTube or Instagram, or as an audio podcast which comes out on Fridays. Thanks as always to my editor John Bukenas from audio editing solutions. Thank you so much for listening. I’m Stacey Simms. I’ll see you back here soon, in a Couple of days until then, be kind to yourself
Diabetes Connections is a production of Stacey Simms media. All rights reserved. All wrongs avenged