Clearing Up the Insulin Issue

by Haley Burnside,  Senior Writer

There is an issue that has grown in popularity on the internet in the past year. I almost did not notice, because it is an issue I have dealt with every day of my life since I was four years old. Recently, the world has starting talking about it. Because the vocabulary is so common in my daily life, I did not notice the conversation entering the mainstream. But now it is here, and I am ready for us to talk about the cost of insulin.

First, I need to lay out the facts. Insulin is a hormone used by type 1 and type 2 diabetics to control blood glucose levels. From what I gather from the online discourse, many believe that insulin is not necessary, and it is only needed for people who refuse to exercise and eat healthy. That comment spreads false information, and without living as a type 1 diabetic, it is impossible to truly understand how frustrating that is to read. Using my own life as an example, I would like to clarify a few things.

I run an average of twenty-one miles each week. In addition to that, I do yoga once a week, and I typically walk at least five miles per day. I also monitor every carb that goes into my body in order to give myself the proper dosage of insulin (this is something that I manually calculate each time I eat even a bite of food). Still, my daily dose of insulin is higher than the average person. That is because controlling blood glucose levels is never an exact science, as every endocrinologist has told me throughout my life. My menstrual cycle makes my blood sugar spike every single month. Getting a cold results in higher numbers. Sitting in class for more than five hours in a day can increase my readings. Adrenaline always causes an intense spike for me, too. These are just some of the factors out of my control that affect my blood sugar.

Now, imagine being a typical twenty-one year old college student. Late nights studying, lack of sleep, stress of exams, alcohol, greasy dollar slice pizza, skipping breakfast, not having money for an actual nutritional meal until payday– these are the trademark factors in the life and health of an undergraduate student. As a senior in multiple clubs, four honor societies, a 3.8 GPA, and a job, I experience the issues that come with the college lifestyle. I balance all of that along with my diabetes. It has never been a choice for me. In the most genuine sense, it is do or die.

Now that insulin–the strong-smelling clear liquid that allows me to even exist–is the center of heated debate online, I feel the need to share my reality. Insulin is NOT optional, and I am tired of reading misinformation that blames diabetic people for their problems. I am not lazy, but that should not even matter. Lazy should not be a death sentence from the corporations that profit off of my disease. Every time people say that I would be free of my lifelong battle with diabetes if I only exercised more and ate healthier give those companies permission to raise the prices the way they do. These comments imply that I am a voluntary participant in this market (due, again, to my laziness). This is not an issue of consumerism. This is my life, and I cannot have it without insulin.

The debates around big pharma and the insulin manufacturing industry is not one that I claim to entirely understand. I know that I do not have all of the answers. I also know that I deserve a life, and I deserve to enjoy it. I cannot enjoy it if I am starving to death, and that is what I will do without insulin. That is the debate as I see it.

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