Community Table: Men’s Health Roundtable
Community Table is presented by the the JDRF-Beyond Type 1 Alliance, and made possible with support from sponsors Abbott Diabetes Care, Dexcom, Lilly, Mannkind, Medtronic, Omnipod, Roche Diabetes Care and Tandem.
During our ninth Community Table discussion, Beyond Type 1 sat down with a group of experts and community members to discuss how parents and caregivers of a person with diabetes can find support. Watch the discussion in full!
- Todd Boudreaux, VP of strategic partnerships at Beyond Type 1 who lives with type 1 diabetes
- Austin James, musician and teacher who lives with type 1 diabetes
- Dex Geralds, fitness trainer, fitness model and actor who lives with type 2 diabetes
- Anthony Green, professional basketball player who lives with type 1 diabetes
Partial transcript of the conversation below, edited for content + clarity.
At what point did you decide to share publicly about your diagnosis?
Dex: I started to learn more about diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes; I bought a book, Diabetes for Dummies. Once I became more comfortable with it, I started opening up and sharing, never really thinking that it would reach people. For me and, I guess, for a lot of people, just writing things down and getting it out makes me feel a lot better. When people reach out and share that they’re going through the same things, that comfort helps me stay in lane and continue posting about everything I am going through with diabetes and how I am living. Sharing became—I’m a big comic book fan—my superpower. Being able to share with people and help them with their journey has been amazing for my mental health and the fact that I can help other people open up and speak about what they’re going through has definitely been a treat.
In terms of relationships, do you share your diagnosis with your partner right away or do you wait to share?
Anthony: Early on, it was easy not to share because I wasn’t wearing anything at the time. It was all just put away in backpacks in my car. I could just hide it, go to the bathroom if you were out and just do it in there—do your whole test finger prick and give your dosage in there—and then go back to normal. As I got older and started wearing Dexcom G6 and everything, I was just flat out outright with it. It’d be just the leading thing—I wear this, it goes to my phone, this is what’s going on. I feel like it opened things up; it gives you a talking point and makes you feel more comfortable about yourself because it has a visual representation of what you’re wearing. It’s a part of you and it shows them that. It’s more than just what it is.
Austin: There’s an element of being ashamed of it at first, and I was really upset at the diagnosis. There’s that stigma around having diabetes: you must be eating poorly, you must not be exercising. It had nothing to do with that. I guess it chose me. As far as wearing the continuous glucose monitor (CGM)—having the FreeStyle Libre 2 on, it’s forced me to be more outgoing with diabetes. I get asked all the time, “Hey, what’s that thing on your arm?” “Oh hey, I think I saw that on TV.” I get to talk to people about that. Just being less ashamed. I’m proud of it. It’s a mark of honor. It’s like my tattoos. It’s part of me.
I think once you embrace it and I guess the whole topic of living with diabetes, that’s when you can affect change in other people and that’s why it’s important that we’re having these conversations so that men can feel more comfortable coming out about their mental health, about their diabetes. That’s the only way you’re going to really get through this thing is with that positive mindset.
Do you think that men tend to treat diabetes differently than women?
Dex: I definitely think men treat their diabetes a lot differently. With masculinity and the way our culture is, you don’t want to show any sign of weakness. You also want to be the bread winner or the person that others come to for protection. Some people might see their diabetes as something that shows that they’re weak or that they become a burden in their family. I think a lot of men are a lot more secretive about their diagnosis and how they go day to day with living with diabetes. I think this talk is super important because a lot of people are ashamed and maybe not doing the right things to manage their diabetes in the right way. I know for me, in the beginning, I struggled with it.
I try to tell people that you’re so capable of doing anything you want while living with diabetes and that it just shows you how strong you really are because you’re living with this chronic illness and you’re still making things happen, you’re still living day to day, you can still provide for your family, you can still be the protector of your family and you’re just showing how much strength you have because you’re able to overcome what you’re going through, which is tough because everyone who has diabetes knows that day to day things change. You can do the same thing, have really good blood sugar one day, and do the same exact thing the next day and just be really high and really low. In our society, things are changing but a lot of men are still afraid to open up about what they’re going through.
Any advice you have for boys or men out there with diabetes?
Austin: It’s a simple answer. It gets better. It really does, so just stay positive as much as you can. I know it can be hard at times, I know it can be really discouraging, but it does get better.
Dex: I think the biggest thing is just to ask for help and seek help. There’s always going to be someone out there willing to help you. It may be a little hard, but if you stay the course, eventually you’ll find someone that can relate and can help you, and that what we go through is day to day and it’s trial and error and there’s going to be bad days, there’s going to be good days, but just stay the course and keep pushing. Eventually, things will get better.
Anthony: Just ask for help, be open, be vulnerable with it. Also, my biggest thing is just trial and error and figure out what works for you. The help is great and all, but no one’s living the life you are. You’ve got to find out what goes for you and it may not work for you, but like Austin said, it’s going to take time. It’s going to be all right. You’ll figure it out, you’ll get into a routine and then you’ll be like why did I stress about it. It’s just a matter of just time and planning, working things out for yourself.