Monday, September 15, 2014

D-Stigma in the Idaho Leadership

I was just sitting down to write a post about how all my doctors appointments seem to fall all right together a couple times a year regardless of the interval between them and how its kind of frustrating but kind of convenient.  Then I got a response to a letter I sent urging my representatives in Idaho to vote for funding into diabetes.  The response came from Raul Labrador.  After I read it, all thoughts of that post were gone and redirected to a response.  What I expected to get was a canned response saying that he would keep that in mind, but what I got was this:

Congressman Raul Labrador, Representing the 1st District of Idaho
September 15, 2014
Mr. Craig Lefevre
16136 Plow Ave
Caldwell, ID 83607-5309
Dear Mr. Lefevre:
Part of my privilege in representing the 1st District of Idaho is hearing from constituents and considering current events and issues from their point of view. In light of that, thank you for contacting me about diabetes in the United States and Special Diabetes Programs.
As you are aware, cases of diabetes are increasing at surprising numbers and steps need to be taken to curb this epidemic. Many of my constituents suffer from the disease every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 7.5% of Idahoans have been diagnosed with the disease. Reducing the number of cases of diabetes and informing those who are at risk of possible ways of avoiding it are worthy goals.
However, there needs to be a balance between the needs of our people and the nation’s economic responsibilities. During hard economic times like these, sacrifices must be taken on the part of all to ensure that the United States is, and will continue to be, in a position of economic prosperity. Measures need to be taken on the part of the individual, and personal responsibility must be exercised to improve the economic and physical health of our nation.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. As your representative in Congress, it is helpful for me to know your thoughts and opinions on issues that are important to you. I would encourage you to visit my website,, where you can read about my views on a variety of issues and also sign up for my e-newsletter.
Raúl Labrador
Member of Congress
1st District, Idaho

Washington, D.C.
1523 Longworth HOB | Washington, DC 20515 | Phone: (202) 225-6611 | Fax: (202) 225-3029
Hours: Monday-Friday 8:30AM-6:30PM ET
1115 Albany Street
Caldwell, ID 83605
Phone: (208) 454-5518
Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00AM-5:00PM
Coeur d'Alene
1250 Ironwood Drive, #243
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814
Phone: (208) 667-0127
Fax: (208) 667-0310
Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00AM-5:00PM
313 D Street, Suite 107
Lewiston, ID 83501
Phone: (208) 743-1388
Fax: (208) 743-0247
Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00AM-5:00PM
33 E. Broadway Avenue
Meridian, ID 83642
Phone: (208) 888-3188
Fax: (208) 888-0894
Hours: Monday-Friday 9:00AM-5:00PM

The highlighted part was the part that got me going.  I don't have the words to explain the feelings I had when I read that part.  Infuriated and dismissed is a start.  It seems to me that he is as uneducated as most about the issue and is blaming people with diabetes for having the disease.  My first response was something like "Eff you Labrador!  You don't have a clue!"  I know government officials have a lot coming across their desks and I don't expect them to be experts on everything, but I do expect them to be more educated than the average person and take a little time to know what they are talking about before speaking on it.  I would rather have no response at all.  Then I calmed down (a little) and spent the better part of an hour crafting my response:

Dear Rep.  Labrador,

  I am glad to hear that you see the epidemic that diabetes is, however I fear that you may be severely misinformed about the disease.  Most of the general population is.  But if you are going to tell me that you are this concerned about it I feel that you should educate yourself.  Below is the part of your email that concerns me the most:

"However, there needs to be a balance between the needs of our people and the nation’s economic responsibilities. During hard economic times like these, sacrifices must be taken on the part of all to ensure that the United States is, and will continue to be, in a position of economic prosperity. Measures need to be taken on the part of the individual, and personal responsibility must be exercised to improve the economic and physical health of our nation."

Perhaps I am wrong but in the last sentence of that quote it seems to me that you are blaming the people with diabetes for having the disease.  "Measures need to be taken on part of the individual, and personal responsibility must be exercised to improve the economic and physical health of our nation."  If that is not the intent of that statement then please let me know.  But for the purposes of my response I'll continue to operate under my impression that it was.

Let me start by letting you know that there are two types of diabetes.  Type 1, which I personally have, is an autoimmune disease.  It's onset is generally in children and teens but can come at any age.  The only thing I did to bring this disease upon myself was be born with the genetic markers that eventually triggered my immune system to attack the insulin producing beta cells in my pancreas.  I now take insulin shots 4 times a day at minimum and up to 10 times a day, trying to mimic what a healthy persons body does for them.  I also check my blood sugar via finger prick multiple times a day.  My wife and I are gainfully employed and have always carried health insurance.  We are by no means in need or poor but there are times when it is a struggle to find ways to cover the cost of the two insulins I have to take everyday, the cost of test strips, the cost of doctors appointments multiple times per year while balancing all of this with the needs of our family.  Those things mentioned are the minimum that I need to stay alive.  This is not a cheap disease.  No amount of diet or exercise, no special pill, no miracle drug, at this time will ever free me from this disease.  The only thing that will is a cure.  And that takes funding.  So please tell me what measures I should take and what personal responsibility I should take to improve my health and the health of our nation?  I make $40,000 a year and sometimes struggle to get the supplies I need to keep myself alive.  What are those people, many of whom are your constituents, supposed to do.  Because, as I'm sure you know, much of Canyon County survives on a very low income.

The second kind of diabetes is Type 2, which I also have experience because I spent almost 2 years thinking that's what I had due to a misinformed doctor.  This is what I'm guessing you and most of America thinks when they think of diabetes.  It generally effects those who are overweight and older in age.  It is caused by an insulin resistance in the body in which the body's cells do not process insulin effectively and therefore their blood sugar rises.  It can be controlled by diet, exercise, and oral medications, but not cured.  A person must have the genetic markers and a predisposition to get Type 2 diabetes.  You may have one person who is 300 pounds and never leaves the couch who will never have diabetes because they do not have those markers, or you may have someone who is moderately overweight and leads a sedentary lifestyle who does get it.  My point being that while there are lifestyle choices that can lead a person to develop Type 2 diabetes, that person must also have the genes.  And while it can be managed there is no cure.  That again takes funding.

America is incredibly misinformed about diabetes.  I fear that you are also misinformed Mr. Labrador.  29 million people in the United States have diabetes.  Of those it is projected that 8 million are undiagnosed.  108,000 adults in Idaho have diabetes and another 78,000 have pre-diabetes.  Hispanics and Native Americans are far more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes because of their genes.  If I am not mistaken, that makes up a large part of your constituency.  Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in America.  It leads to heart disease, kidney disease, and eye problems.  Some of these people may have made lifestyle choices that did not help their fight against diabetes, not one of the the nearly 30 million people in the United States with diabetes has diabetes by fault of their own.

I hope that you take these things into consideration when making decisions about funding for diabetes programs.  A cure is a long ways of but it is obvious that people all over the state of Idaho need more education about diabetes.  Neither a cure, nor education can happen without the proper funding.  I also hope that you will take the time to properly educate yourself about the disease that you know is an epidemic but believe should be handled by measure of personal responsibility.  Just a few suggestions to start:, and even locally  All three of these organizations work tirelessly each year to help educate and make life better for people living with diabetes.  I encourage you to take the time to check them out and think about what you can do from your position to help further the cause.


Craig Le Fevre
Person with Diabetes since 2011

I know that I am one voice.  That response served two purposes for me.  It got all that off my chest and it gave me a starting point to jump off from and get the word out about how one of our elected government officials views his constituents.  Needless to say he has lost my vote and any support that may have ever come along from me.  I hope that goes for anyone who is effected by diabetes that this reaches as well.  I am appalled by his ignorance and his response.  But it seems to be par for the course.  The stigma about diabetes reaches everywhere and even those that you think should be educated about these topics before they vote on them are a part of it.  If you live in Idaho please visit Mr. Labradors website or email him at to let him know how this makes you feel.  Something tells me that he is not the only representative that feels that way so reach out to other representatives in the state as well.  You can find contact information for the Senate here and Congress here.  If you are not from Idaho, please help get this out to others.  I am one voice and you are one voice, but together WE are very loud.


  1. Wow! I wonder if he knows anything about the representative from Idaho in the recent Miss America pageant.

    1. I would think so. I have since learned that he has had some interaction with a T1D child who does some advocacy in Northern Idaho. Apparently he has met with him on several occasions and plans on walking in their JDRF walk this weekend. While I applaud him for being involved, I am still bothered by the fact that his correspondence shows such ignorance of the facts.

  2. Great post. Thanks for writing the Rep and Writing back to their for letter. The more the better.

    100% fantastic advocacy.

  3. This was a superb response to what was (I am hoping) an intern/page thinking that this was the correct canned email to use.
    It wasn't - and the highlighted portion is a prime example of what not to say to constituents. My first thought was: "Sacrifices?"
    Wow. So glad you shared.

  4. Hello. I recently found your bog through Facebook. I just wanted to tell you that this amazingly well written letter of advocacy has inspired me to contact my local reps (who I am sure feel similarly to Mr. Labrador due to certain cuts in our community), and rely to them the importance of the special diabetes bill. I have had T1D for 25 years, and would greatly appreciate more funding for research etc. Thanks you so much for the inspiring words.

    1. Thank you! Advocacy is very rewarding and the people that are elected to represent us won't know what we want unless we let them know. Sometimes that takes some extra effort to get across

  5. Please share the representative's response - if there is one. Great job on your response - very well written and factual. Sending you a fist bump