Joking about diabetes

There is a joke circulating around Facebook that has been getting a lot of attention and reaction. It's a photo of a math test of the type, "Bob has ____ candies. He eats X of them. What does Bob have left?" where a student has written, "Diabetes. Bob has diabetes."

A friend of mine whose son has Type 1 diabetes posted this joke and said his son's diagnosis hasn't changed the fact that it's funny. Of course, he was jumped on by several people who have Type 1 or have kids with Type 1. I posted saying that sugar does NOT cause diabetes (because that had evolved in the discussion) but that I could see how the joke, in context, was funny. (I mean, did a kid really put that on a math test? If so, that's funny!)

That same friend posted a link to a blog post that indicates that this joke has been getting a LOT of negative comments from Type 1s. People find it offensive, etc. People compared it to cancer, saying you'd never joke about cancer, that diabetes was just as deadly and serious, that kids (but not adults?) die of it. I stopped participating after my first post, because I didn't feel like arguing, and didn't even know how I really felt. I mean yeah, Type 1 is serious, but it's not a bad thing to be able to laugh about it, you can't take it seriously your entire life.

It got me thinking about my own thoughts ... I don't think it's a bad thing to be able to laugh at diabetes or other health conditions. But what is the difference between finding a joke harmless and finding it offensive? I live with blindness and there are a lot of blind jokes out there. I often find myself thinking, "They would never joke like that about race!" when I find a joke offensive. But yet ... there ARE lots of racial jokes out there. Do jokes feed into the larger problems of society? Do people of ethnic minorities find some jokes offensive and some acceptable, and what's the difference?

It's interesting the passion that the Type 1 community (parents in particular) bring to these kinds of reactions. My family was pretty laid-back about diabetes and tends to joke about it (and my blindness), so I'm not sure my parents would have participated in this type of reaction when I was younger. It did get me wondering if the energy involved in such a reaction (arguments, Photoshopping pictures, posting a whole "collage" of Faces of T1 Diabetes) could be better spent somewhere else? I mean, it's just a joke in the end, and I doubt people without diabetes think twice about it ... at the same time, perhaps jokes like this contribute to the public misconceptions about diabetes. And it's interesting that I haven't seen a single person with Type 2 post, even though sugar doesn't cause Type 2, either (and the original joke didn't even specify Type 1!).

Just some thoughts on a Thursday morning ... I'd be curious what others think about diabetes humour coming from outside the diabetes community.

Personally, Jen, I don't mind "black humor" about medical problems - I had friends who were RN's for many years and they all do it and say it relieves tension. Although I do know that what is funny to one person might hit a tender spot and hurt another.

But I'm guessing the fracas over this joke was more about disseminating incorrect information about Diabetes.

And I do have to add that people who spend hours on facebook arguing how many angels can fit on the head of a pin need to "get a life".

I agree, Zoe that joking about D is perfectly fine, but just the misinformation annoys me a lot. you don't get diabetes from eating sugar. period.

It’s a joke, and its funny-- period:)

I think it's funny, tho I admit, I do have rather a warped sense of humor.

I don't worry too much about what people think caused my (LADA) T1. It just ... is.

I try not to get offended by jokes (blonde haired girl with a thick skin!). I thought it was funny, for those who have not seen it is:

29 candy bars and he is headed for a major high!

But yeah, good point MegaMinxx. What comes to my mind is that people are just not interested in subtle answers or information. It takes too long for their multi-tasking, on-to-the-next-text mentality!

Personally, I do see the humor is this, but I also agree that the misinformation that sugar causes diabetes is part of the problem. But....the best part of this joke, is the "child" actually spelled diabetes correctly! That math problem is a second or third grade many children could spell the diabetes correctly at that age, unless they know of or they themselves are D. :)

I don't find that kind of joke funny at all because it perpetuates the sugar causes diabetes and is the only cause of diabetes myth. I don't like jokes that are wrong about diabetes or spread myths. I don't think non-diabetics should be allowed to joke about the illness, heck, I don't think anyone who doesn't have some sort of chronic illness or disability should make fun of an illness or disability. It's rude and it's not making positivity of a disease, it's often holding us back and making more myths. I fear people think I have no sense of humor because I get REALLY MAD about non-diabetics making diabetic jokes that are spreading myths and not making light of the disease...when I do, I just don't find ableism funny.

There is a saying that learning to laugh in the face of all things (evil, terror, grief, rage, etc.) is the sign of personal mastery. I aspire to laugh at things, most of all laughing at MYSELF.

Once I learn to do that, I surely am doing well?!

Don't see the humor myself, but nor am I offended in the least...

Silly people...

i laughed out loud at this and shared it on my page. my friend who is type 2 was the first one who liked it.

I agree, I think it's good to be able to laugh at oneself and/or one's "misfortunes." After all, a lot of "misfortune" is in how you look at it in the first place.

Yes, this is not a higher grade test and there can be no doubt the kiddo will do much better in spelling than in math! I think this kid is hilarious and is likely the class clown. If he/she is diabetic...all the better :)

I didn't find it funny, but I'm not offended. In school, kids were brutal though. They made a lot of jokes, and that was very harmful and difficult for me at the time. In hindsight, I never should have let it get to me. They didn't understand. There's still SO many misconceptions about diabetes. Sugar intake being the biggest one it seems. It's up to us to advocate the truth.

The better question is how may Carbs would Bob need to bolus for after eating 29 candy bars. I hope the answer is 0.

I was wondering the same thing.

A Mars bar contains 37g of carbs, so if he eats 29 that's over 1000g of carbs. He's going to have to make sure his reservoir is near full! Either that or stick to a Snickers at only 33g per bar...


If I ate 1000g of carbs without insulin my blood sugar would be over 300 mmol/L (that's over 5,000 mg/dl). I'm pretty sure I'd be dead. LOL. I wonder if even someone without diabetes would be able to keep up with that many carbs at once!