I was forty-five years old when I found out that I had type 2 diabetes. I don’t know why I was shocked. Diabetes ran like a river through my family. My father had type 1. He died at the age of forty-one from a heart attack, but my mother always insisted that it was partly because he didn’t “manage” his diabetes well.
What I remember mostly is coming home from church on Sunday mornings, my mother rushing to set out a glass of orange juice for my father to slurp down quickly. Sometimes it was too late even for that. There was a box of sugar cubes in the cupboard, and my mother would pull the box down and slip a sugar cube into my father’s mouth. Once or twice, he was lying on the kitchen floor as she did this.
You would think that diabetes would have been discussed in my family, but it wasn’t.
By the time I was forty-five, I was overweight and a junk food addict. But I didn’t even think about diabetes when I suddenly noticed that I was feeling dizzy a lot.
I lay in my bed, so sleepy, and felt the walls undulating around me as if I were profoundly intoxicated. My heart hammered.
I decided to go to the emergency room. On the crazy drive there, I remember looking over and seeing my father sitting next to me, his arm around me, smiling reassuringly. Later, I would wonder if I had been hallucinating, had fainted, or was just dozing.
Would you believe that even after an extensive family history was done in the emergency room, my blood sugar was never checked? The major problem, it was decided, was that my potassium level was extraordinarily high. I was given pills and released.
I called my sister when I got home and asked her if she thought her family doctor would see me. She checked, and he would.
At my first appointment, he listened intently to my story and immediately ordered a blood glucose test. It was nearly 800. Other tests followed and then he sat me down for my diagnosis.
I was shocked. I had type 2? What now? A life of lying on the floor, having people shove sugar cubes into my mouth?
He smiled. No, he told me. I needed to take a diabetes management course and learn to deal with my disease. “You are very lucky,” he told me. “You could have died.”
Now, I see it as my role in my family to keep everyone educated. I whip out my blood glucose meter regularly and ask everyone if they want their blood sugar tested. I talk about the dangers of being overweight and eating a diet high in sugar.
I make sure that everyone in my family knows that they are at risk.
I wish someone had done that for me.