11-07-2011 06:31 PM
Seven days ago marked the start of the annual diabetes awareness month. The 18th diabetes awareness month I have experienced since my diagnosis. Over the past 18 (nearly 19) years, I have seen some remarkable changes in diabetes management: newer insulins, an increase in insulin pump use, an astonishing variety of drugs to help those with type 2 manage their diabetes, a rejection of the old "sugar is poison" attitude and an acceptance of carbohydrate counting and moderation, meters that are smaller, take less blood, and are far more user-friendly than the ones that came before. Yet, despite these advances, the incidence and prevalence of diabetes continues to increase, not just in the US, but around the world. People with diabetes still face a lifetime managing a disease which is more intrusive and burdensome than almost any other disease out there. It disables and kills more people than AIDS or breast cancer. And it is expensive. And, because the incidence of it is growing, we who have this disease are the backbone of a multibillion dollar industry which I have known people to refer to as "diabusiness".
Recently, AmyT of Diabetes Mine has written two pieces (HERE and HERE) calling on the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) to support a petition to encourage the three largest US diabetes organizations, the American Diabetes Association, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators to support the International Diabetes Foundation's Blue Circle "Unite for Diabetes"/World Diabetes Day campaign. She, like many others, laments the lack of a universally recognized symbol, such as pink for breast cancer and red ribbons for AIDS. Regardless of what organization an individual might represent, wearing a red or pink ribbon was enough to mark you as a supporter of those who suffered from those diseases. Pin that pink ribbon to your lapel and people instantly knew you supported breast cancer awareness, education, and research. Yet, there is nothing out there that says, universally, that the individual wearing that piece supports diabetes awareness, education, and research. Sadly, I have to agree with that sentiment.
What so many in the current incarnation of the DOC fail to realize is that around Christmas time 15 years ago, a group of people who were among the earliest DOC "pioneers" were also becoming angry at the lack of a symbol. For 5 years, red ribbons for AIDS research and awareness were everywhere on TV and pink ribbons had become the de rigueur accessory for most any socially-aware woman. Pink and red were nearly everywhere, yet there was no symbol that expressed support for one of the most prevalent chronic illnesses out there. To put it simply, we were angry. It seemed that neither the ADA nor the JDF/JDFI were interested in promoting a ribbon that every organization could use. So, being the good activists we were, we took matters into our own hands.
I won't go into the details of our discussions here. Suffice it to say that they were long, contentious, and full of obstacles. We wanted something unique, we wanted a color that was not being used, we wanted something that said quite clearly, DIABETES. Those discussions are fairly well-documented and I recommend reading some of the discussions HERE and HERE. Believe it or not, we thought of blue, we thought of green, we thought of a number of different colors. Eventually, we settled on gray with a red gem in the center. As far as we could tell, no one else was using gray (exceedingly neutral color that it is) and no one else had attempted to put anything else on the ribbon. All other awareness ribbons up to that time were simply a folded piece of solid colored ribbon with a pin to hold the ribbon in place. Eventually, we also decided that gray was apropos: Gray, yes, is dismal, but the statistics regarding diabetes ARE dismal. We felt that with education, motivation, and activation, we could polish that gray into the silver (silver is polished gray) lining of hope, of our reflected dreams of a cure for this insidious disease. Many people on the group made hundreds of ribbons, sent them to one of the members who was on the board of directors of JDF, who then took the ribbons to a meeting in Athens, Greece, dumped them out on the table, and forced the JDF to acknowledge that we, those of us touched by diabetes, wanted and needed a symbol. They adopted the ribbon for several years, selling them at events, giving them away to special volunteers, even convincing President Clinton to wear a gray ribbon while he signed a bill to help fund the fight against diabetes.
I know many of you currently active on the DOC believe the gray ribbon with a red dot to be depressing, ugly, boring, and gloomy and you want something brighter, cheerier. You want something that represents, to you, hope. I respect that and can understand that. Many of us were not entirely happy with the color of the ribbon either. I encourage you, though, to think about the following:
Still, the gray ribbon was never meant to be divisive. If, in the end, the blue circle becomes the universal symbol, associated with diabetes itself and not one major organization or company, I can and will accept that. Still, my heart will always belong to the little gray ribbon. I want my silver lining!
11-07-2011 09:34 PM
Thanks for your post, and for the explanation.
Not sure if this will surprise or just sadden you, but when you write that " I know many of you currently active on the DOC [Diabetes Online Community] believe the gray ribbon with a red dot to be depressing, ugly, boring, and gloomy and you want something brighter, cheerier, " you are totally missing the mark.
If after about 20,000 posts in the last 8 1/2 years on the ADA forums and a few more elsewhere, I have never heard of the gray ribbon, nor seen any discussion of it, my guess is that 99% of the people active in the DOC have never heard of it either. And that is despite the facts that I have indeed noticed that AIDS and breast cancer have their ribbons, while diabetes seems to lack a commonly accepted symbol and that I think that lack should be remedied.
I am not sure what your role in any of this is, but kudos ( as high-fives are often called elsewhere) to you and to the others who have worked to promote this symbol of awareness, which I would totally agree is long overdue
In the meantime, where can we get some gray ribbons?
11-07-2011 10:50 PM
Angela, do you know if there are any available in Canada or other countries besides the US?
It is a great idea and I know many who would support both wearing them and getting the word out.
I was surprised that the color is not called silver- that to me could represent the needles and lancets that are used by diabetics. I was also surprised that there are so many awareness ribbons as shown on this Wikipedia page.....
It would seem that we could have our work cut out for us here trying to help you get awarness of the little ribbon with the red blood drop.
11-08-2011 08:49 AM
11-08-2011 10:18 AM
Ditto the where do we get the ribbon sentiments expressed. I wish the "gem" was purple or amethyst as that is my birthday gemstone-lol!
Even after hearing the description, I see it as a red drop of blood, not a gem .
11-08-2011 11:44 AM
I would also like to find out where to get the ribbon sentiments expressed.
11-22-2011 02:01 AM
Sorry Angela, Idon;t mean at all to rain on your parade in the least--long llive the Gray Ribbon, but just found this and cannot resist adding it here:
American Diabetes Association
1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311
Got questions? Email us!