Invisible Type 2’s in the DOC: Bob Fenton Shares his Insights
In my role, I spend a lot of time listening to and engaging with members of the diabetes online community (DOC). Something that has not gone unnoticed is a lack of bloggers who write about their experience living with type 2 diabetes. Generally, those with type 2 are not as active online as those living with type 1 diabetes, whether it be on blogs or on Twitter, though we do see some activity on Facebook. While I have my own hypothesis as to why, I turned to type 2 blogger Bob Fenton, who writes the blog Exploring Diabetes Type 2 and maintains The Type 2 Blogger Lists, for his insights.
Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in October 2003, Bob said he had some symptoms prior to that time, but had not been officially diagnosed. His mother’s side of the family has a history of diabetes. “If it had not been for my father telling me about my mother’s family history, I would have never known,” he said, “as the family was very secretive about it. My brother has been diagnosed as well.”
Within several months of his diagnosis, Bob found some resources that helped him better understand his condition. One of his first purchases was Gretchen Becker’s book, “The First Year: Type 2 Diabetes,” which helped him find information he felt he was not getting from his doctor. Soon he started engaging online with several diabetes bloggers, including David Mendosa, Alan Shanley and Tom Ross, who helped encourage him to start his own blog.
“I was interested in repaying the education I had received and talked with several of the bloggers about doing a blog of my own,” Bob said. “On July 30, 2009, I started blogging and have not looked back. I enjoy the comments posted on my blog, but know I am having an effect by the emails I receive. People send me many good questions and I answer them all. I am comfortable that I am accomplishing my goal of helping educate others.”
Along with writing about his life with type 2 diabetes, Bob also wanted to help highlight other type 2 bloggers, so he started The Type 2 Blogger Lists. “This was part of my goal to help people discover other people with type 2 diabetes,” he said. To vet the bloggers he lists, he only includes those who give permission to publish their information. To date, the list includes 35 type 2 bloggers.
Bob isn’t entirely sure why people don’t blog about living with type 2 diabetes, but offers a guess. “I think many people with type 2 want to remain anonymous and don’t like to advertise that they have type 2 diabetes,” he said. “Much of this may be because of the way some are treated, because type 2 is thought of as a lifestyle disease and people may feel it is their fault they have the disease. Many have grown up in families where people don’t talk about what illnesses they have, and still others are not comfortable writing. I believe many are just comfortable with where they are in life and don’t feel a need to help others or share their experiences.”
In addition to blogging, Bob also participates in an informal peer-to-peer diabetes support group. “We started as a group of six and then started adding as people learned about us,” he said. “Thanks to our discussions, we’ve been able to help several members with a variety of health issues. We communicate regularly and lately we have tried to have specific meeting topics. My cousin is a nutritionist who has addressed our group a couple of times. She tries to find foods to supply us with balanced nutrition and makes recommendations about supplements. We appreciate the fact that she works with us at our level to balance our daily nutrition.”
Bob urges those newly diagnosed to read and learn. “I strongly suggest finding out what works for you and not what works for others, because all of us can be different,” he advised. “I also suggest testing your blood sugar as much as possible for several months to find out what different foods do to your blood glucose level.”
Bob also recommends having a positive attitude. “Having a successful day against diabetes can really make me smile,” he said. “There are many little things that will cause me to smile, laugh and feel good about life. It is not always possible to have a positive attitude, but having one has helped me through a diabetes burnout and several mild periods of depression. A positive outlook about life is a real asset.”
My thanks to Bob for joining us today! I am encouraged by his engagement in the DOC and appreciate his insights into the type 2 diabetes community. Now I’m interested in your thoughts. If you live with type 2 diabetes, do you engage within the online community? Why or why not? Do you know of anyone living with type 2 whom we should feature here on Discuss Diabetes? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
All the best,
Disclosure: Bob Fenton received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.