ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – She just graduated Francis Howell High School; now she’s become an international phenomenon after a Facebook post about the stigma of diabetes touched hearts around the world.
Madeline Milzark was just excited to have 35 friends and relatives share her post. The next thing Milzark knew she was being interviewed by the BBC.
Hard to believe, but in 2016 the stigma about diabetes is flourishing, especially on social media.
“Too good not to post” reads a tweet, picturing a woman floating on a stick of butter with the hashtag #diabeetus. There are posts of sugary coffees, candies, and stacks of pancakes all with the hashtag #diabeetus.
They’re supposed to be funny, but Milzark isn’t laughing. She’s had it with the stigma.
After she nearly passed out in desperate of sugar a couple of weeks ago, she posted a rant on Facebook:
“Diabetes isn’t your piece of cake, or that super sized McDonald’s meal with extra fries, or anything you see coated with sugar.
“Diabetes is an 18 year old girl sitting on her bathroom floor shaking and not able to breathe because her blood sugar dropped and praying her grandmas phone is near her and she got the text message to bring some sugar since she’s too weak to yell and the whole room is spinning.
“It’s a 9 year old boy who is trying to play outside with his friends and ends up being carted away in an ambulance because he went unconscious when he didn’t feel his sugar slipping.
“It’s a 32 year old girl who FINALLY got the news that she’s pregnant and going to have the family she’s always wanted, but instead of celebrating like she should be she’s worried to death that her blood sugars won’t stay in range with all of the hormones and that it’s going to kill her baby before she gets to meet it… and maybe even her.
“It’s a 3 year old who doesn’t understand why her mommy has to stab her with a syringe every single time she eats, but not her brother. It’s a 4 year old girl that I read about recently who lost her life because a doctor misdiagnosed her diabetes as the flu and she ended up a victim of diabetic ketoacidoses, where your blood literally turns acidic from the lack of insulin in your body and attacks your organs.
“Diabetes is your mother, your neighbor, your cousin. Diabetes isn’t the morbidly obese man you see on TV. It isn’t something people ask for or give themselves. It’s a disease that isn’t picky when it chooses who to attack, it doesn’t care if you’re 2 months old or if you’re 73. It doesn’t care if you eat Big Macs and McChickens every day of your life or if you’re a strict vegan who goes to the gym daily.
“Diabetes is me. Diabetes is a whole ton of people who fight for their life every single day and go to bed not sure if they’re going to wake up the next morning. So before you tag your huge dessert #Diabetes, think about what #Diabetes really looks like.”
Buzzfeed interviewed her for an article, then the BBC and two more British media outlets.
“I’m really big over in the UK,” she laughed.
She’s gone from trying to hide her diabetes, the medications, and the complications, to shining a light.
There are three main types of diabetes: type-1, type-2, and gestational. Both type-1 and type-2 are chronic conditions, but type-1 is usually diagnosed in children, while type-2 is often diagnosed later in life. An estimated 1.25 million Americans have type-1 diabetes, with 40,000 more diagnosed each year. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy.
“We did not ask for it. We did not give ourselves this disease. That’s the biggest thing. It’s not our fault. Maybe instead of making assumptions try to reach and help somebody with it. Chances are you know someone with diabetes,” Milzark said.
Type-1 diabetes keeps the pancreas from regulating blood sugar; Milzark injects insulin when it’s high and eats carbs and sugars when it’s low. It’s not clear why it happens.
She was diagnosed when she was 9.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help her pay for an insulin pump. They can be very helpful for regulating insulin. So far she is several thousand dollars short of the goal.
Madeline’s story has been picked up by several international publications including the BBC and Buzzfeed. Her post has been shared thousands of times and received over 10,000 likes. She has set up a Facebook page to follow her story at Type One Madeline.