Romance my Pancreas, or Its Lack of Functioning


While diseases like cancer or Alzheimer’s are often romanced in current media, there is little woe given to type 1 diabetes, and much to my wonder. While type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, and therein, affects its host for a lifetime, you do not see Ansel Elgort injecting himself with insulin on the big screen.

Furthermore, most people confuse type 1 diabetes with type 2 diabetes, unless they or a relative is affected, or unless they practice medicine. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, and the country needs to take note. It occurs when the immune system destroys the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas.

There is nothing romantic or dreamy about having to inject oneself with insulin, often, four times a day. It is not exactly sexy to roll up your shirt, and stick your belly with a needle, or roll down your pants and reveal thy bum to the world, then stick a needle in it. Not everyone looks like Margot Robbie either, but they shan’t be ashamed.

Type 1 diabetes is not romantic. Pricking your fingers as many times as you inject yourself with a needle, (often times more), only to callus them, does not exactly call for a moonlit kiss with Ryan Gosling.

Though the moonlight does not show on type 1 diabetes in film, the absence of it raises attention. Type 1 diabetes has affected millions of people across time. Diabetes was first described by the Egyptians in 1550 B.C.E. as “sweet urine disease.” (The National Medical Journal of India). It’s been around for a long time, and still no press (or very little).

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes often include frequent urination, nausea, abdominal pain, confusion, loss of appetite and sweet or fruity breath. While there are treatments for the condition, there is no cure. Type 1 diabetes is treatable. It is manageable. It is survivable, but that does not mean that people managing type 1 diabetes do not suffer, that every night they do not go to bed thinking, “Will I wake up tomorrow? Will I catch that low blood sugar?” Not to say people with type 1 diabetes live awful lives; I should know. Most of us are considerably happy. We are empathetic and compassionate. Dare I say, we are, in fact, romantic.

We may not be wholly represented in current media, becoming sweethearts with Ansel Elgort, or canoodling with Ryan Gosling at twilight, but, we are 1.25 million Americans—strong, more worldwide. While the pancreas fails, the heart beats strong.

Type 1 diabetes is often an invisible condition, and is, therefore, disappointingly, neglected in entertainment. Not to say the condition deserves to be the butt of a joke, certainly not, but it does deserve to be seen in film, as a valuable story, or its existence recognized in characters of value.

Advances in treatment have paved the way for how type 1 diabetes is managed today, so why not advance the circuit of type 1 diabetes’ media presence? We all deserve a kiss after the initial prick-it and stick-it, after all.

Romance is not stationed in normalcy, but typically offers some version of drama. Producers should take note of the cinematic value of including characters with type 1 diabetes: risk of death, hospitalization and the daunting daily care. Harsh, but true.

The traits are here, and we are waiting for a hero or heroine to put type 1 diabetes at the center of romance, to conquer it as many of us do day-to-day, against all odds. After all, the confidence of a woman to pull down her pants or pull up her shirt to treat herself, and the empathy she has for the human race as a result of her experience, is undeniably sexy.

People with type 1 can be fearless. They can be ballsy. They can be warriors. They can even be the Katniss Everdeen. Much like any player in the game, they can be who they want to be, so why not be center screen, Hollywood? People with type 1 diabetes (T1Ds) wouldn’t mind a little limelight.

Read Julia Flaherty’s “Living a More Convenient Truth— 12 Years In”

WRITTEN BY Julia Flaherty, POSTED 02/02/16, UPDATED 09/21/22

Julia Flaherty is a passionate and experienced writer, editor, digital marketer, social media specialist, promotions and events manager and health advocate. She is especially passionate about contributing her voice to the type 1 diabetes (T1D) community and aspires to direct positive change through a meaningful career. She enjoys traveling, learning about new natural beauty products and is an unexpected cat mom. Julia is an independent, driven and caring go-getter. She dedicates her time wholeheartedly to anything she sets her mind to. Julia isn't afraid to embrace new challenges and believes you can earn anything through hard work.