HAWMC Day 9 – Cruel To Be Kind


Today’s Wego Health Challenge question is this: What advice or tips do you have for caregivers – professional or otherwise?

Nick Lowe croons (across the decades from 1979) my advice to everyone who cares for people with diabetes:

Cruel to be kind in the right measure
Cruel to be kind it’s a very good sign
Cruel to be kind means that I love you
Baby, got to be cruel, you got to be cruel to be kind

Allow me to explain…

We are human. We are fragile. If you prick us, do we not bleed? (Answer: Yes. Copious amounts and we lick the blood off our fingers.)

Wait. This was supposed to be a serious post. Excuse me for that little literary lapse and ensuing lame diabetic joke.

Let’s start again.

We are human. We are fragile. We are not numbers or graphs or lab results. Don’t treat us as such.

But we also don’t want to be coddled. When it’s time for tough love, we can take it. We may cry or get angry, but after a bit of reflection, we get that you’re trying to help us.

I shouldn’t speak for anyone but myself in this case. Some people with diabetes need a gentler approach with a little handholding. That’s what works for them. It hasn’t worked for me.

Medical Staff

One short-lived relationship with an Endo finished after he suggested that I get some labwork done. I replied: “Ah, I really don’t feel like it. Can we do it next time?” The tests would have taken two vials of blood and five minutes. He quietly nodded and told me: “OK, next time.”

What? Really? You want to let me just slide on my health? Next time? There wasn’t a next time. I needed a doctor who was going to push back and ask me why I didn’t feel like it. If he had, I would have told him that I was scared that the test results weren’t going to be positive. We could have had a conversation about why I was scared and what we could do about it. I did have that conversation with my current Endo, who does push back while treating me like a part of the team.

And I am just part of a team. I may the expert of my own body, but I didn’t go to medical school or have access to physician-only conferences for that in-depth knowledge of my bits and parts that are complex. I’m like the star player and the medical staff are my coaches giving me that tough love and a pat on the butt as I swing into third. (Figuratively, not literally. That would not be professional.)

The doctors and endocrinologists that I’ve come to adore and revere are the ones who treated me as a responsible adult – even when I wasn’t acting like one. They asked the tough questions, didn’t accept the flimsy excuses, and guided me towards the right path.


Being cruel to be kind doesn’t mean screaming at your child if he admits he didn’t check his blood sugar or “forgot to take her insulin”. It means having a heart-to-heart conversation about consequences and taking responsibility for those consequences. (And it will feel like you are a broken record. You are a lucky parent if you only have to tell that to them once.) It may feel like you’re not being kind, but you are. Being kind doesn’t mean that you’re a doormat. (It also doesn’t mean that you are a armored tank, either.)

You need to not give up when that “star player” feels like sitting on the bench, stuffing wads of sunflower seeds into her mouth and sucking all the salt off. Even if you want to give up yourself. Whether you’re a family member, significant other, or a friend, it’s time to rally, do a seventh inning stretch and get her ass out of the dugout to keep swinging.

How the heck did I go from Nick Lowe to baseball in a blog post? I have no idea. (And for the record, I’m not a huge sports person.)

What I know is this: Too many “Ok, next time.”s will eventually turn into “I wish I had pushed a little, but now there is no next time.” And you’re out.

(You can’t hit every one out of the park, including this blog post. I’ll keep swinging…)




  1. Great advice. There is no I in team. Love the baseball references. And the sunflower seed reference (’cause I’m hungry).

  2. This reminds me of the time when I was about ten years old and had a severe 911-style overnight low at my grandparents’ house. In a later conversation with the endocrinologist at the hospital I was taken to (not my usual one), my parents revealed that I often had blood sugars over 300. The doctor said “that’s OK, he’s a growing boy who needs his energy, and this can happen”.

    In my eyes, he was the coolest doctor ever; accepting my cheating eating habits. I wished he was my regular endo.

    In retrospect, his kindness was cruel.

  3. Great post!

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