Recently, while preparing to give a speech, I found myself reminiscing about my life with diabetes. It was 33 years ago that I was diagnosed with type 1, but I remember it like it was yesterday.
I was seventeen years old, a senior in high school, and the doctor sat me down and told me, "You’re going to take shots of insulin for the rest of your life." Who wouldn’t remember that? My mom, always my stalwart supporter, was right there with me. We took the information home, but I didn’t accept it. I didn’t want diabetes, and I didn’t want to take shots of insulin for the rest of my life. So I said, "Mom, I think the doctor’s a quack. I want to try some other things." And because she was an educated woman who was always looking for a new answer, she was open to the possibility of alternatives.
From Juniper Berries To Faith Healing
We found a doctor in our hometown of Sacramento who was an allergist, and he proposed that diabetes was actually an allergy. So I was tested and treated for allergies but, unfortunately, it didn’t take the diabetes away. Remember Euell Gibbons, the authority on wild edible plants? He recommended juniper berries as a cure, so I chewed on those, but they didn’t work either.
Next, I tried a spiritual channel. Katherine Kuhlman, the famous faith healer, came to a nearby city, and I finagled my way into the audience by volunteering to sing in the choir. The Coliseum was packed with 20,000 people, many on crutches, who lined up for their turn on the stage. Katherine Kuhlman would put her hands over them, and they’d throw down their crutches and walk. At one point she said, "I believe that someone in the choir has been healed of his diabetes!" Well, that was it–I knew she meant me, so I threw down my syringes and prepared to walk out free of diabetes.I was really happy for a couple of hours. But on the drive home, I had to stop at every service station—not to get gas but to drink lots of liquid and use the bathroom. Much to my dismay, I was forced to acknowledge that faith healing hadn’t worked either.
Returning the Favor to My Mom
Eventually, I turned to published medical research. This was back in 1975, so most of it was not getting out to patients. I realized that all kinds of information was out there, knowledge that would help me live longer and make me happier, as well as new equipment that my doctor hadn’t told me about. As a result, I started down the path that’s led to where I am now. I began a radio show about diabetes that transformed into a magazine, and now we have a flourishing website at www.DiabetesHealth.com.
My mom got diabetes, type 2, after I started the magazine. I was grateful that, just as she had supported me, now I could return the favor and advocate for her at her doctor appointments. I went to the hospital with her, and I relayed all the latest information about vitamins, diet, and self-care. She really appreciated and accepted it.
The Squeaky Wheel
My mom passed away at eighty years of age, not from diabetes but from congestive heart failure. She was a real fighter. She’d take her oxygen tank and her electric scooter, and off she’d go to get coffee or go to a movie. At one point she sold her Medicare to Kaiser. Subsequently they told her, "We’re not going to give you strips" to test blood sugar. As you know, that’s a big cost. So she loaded up her oxygen tank and scooted to the Kaiser pharmacy, and she refused to leave until she got what she wanted. Kaiser’s great; I had both my children there. But it’s like anything in this world: the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and my mom got her strips.
It’s a lesson for us all in these days when doctors don’t have much time to spend with us. We need to be our own squeaky wheels, advocating for ourselves and making sure that we get what we deserve when it comes to our own care. We’re in control, if we only realize it. Become as educated as you can, figure yourself out, and then go get what you need.
Advocating for All
Since I started the magazine, I have edited about five thousand articles, all intended to improve the lives of people with diabetes. My passion is to help all of you and all the visitors to our website by passing on this information, the same way that I helped my mom. I think she’d be really proud of me right now. She’s my inspiration and the reason why I’m here now, writing to you.