How One Woman Learned To Live With Diabetes

In August 1992 I was taking life for granted and having a great time. I was especially elated because I had lost weight, dropping from 135 to 113 pounds.

Except for excessive thirst, fatigue, and irritability, I had no other symptoms, and I rationalized away the ones I had. I thought my doctor was overreacting when he sent me to a lab for a blood test. When his suspicion that I had diabetes was confirmed, the fear and pain I felt were indescribable. I questioned why God had forsaken me, and like others before me, I asked, “Why me?”

My medication requirements to control my blood sugar level rapidly evolved from pills to 30 units of insulin per day. To get the health benefits of fruit, I would virtuously and indiscriminately eat bananas and take extra insulin to compensate for the predictable blood sugar rise. But I didn’t need a degree in rocket science to tell me that certain foods (starches and fruits) had an undesirable effect on my blood sugar level. When I hesitantly explained this to my physician, he said, “Laura, you need a well-rounded diet. Increase your insulin dosage to cover those foods that elevate your blood sugar.”

My life changed the day my doctor gave me a copy of DIABETES HEALTH. The paper inspired me to come out of the closet as a diabetic. After reading Dr. Peter Lodewick’s A Diabetic Doctor Looks at Diabetes: His and Yours. I resolved that, if Lodewick’s diabetes did not derail his career-he simply changed his specialty to the treatment and study of diabetes-it wouldn’t derail mine either.

Through a process of self-education, self-empowerment, and attendance at two recognized health education and nutrition programs, I discovered that I can get the same nutrients that bananas provide from vitamins and greens, which do not elevate my blood sugar. Wheat grass has become my “whole food” of choice.

There is a tacit agreement among professionals that “Diet alone doesn’t work,” and “Patients refuse to participate in a manner that is successful.” These beliefs are examples of how health professionals can underestimate the intelligence and discipline of patients. These assumptions also reflect the medical community’s tendency to medicate patients rather than take the time to empower them.

Diabetes will not determine who I am as a person. I resolved to let go of my victim status and proclaim victory over the disease. In spite of my malfunctioning pancreas, I have the same hopes, aspirations, and capacity for love as I ever did. After all, I’ve already overcome some incredible odds, including the triple whammy of being born poor, black, and female in Birmingham, Ala., at a time when blacks were being lynched for asking for the right to vote! Comparatively speaking, diabetes isn’t so bad.

Today, I’m the happiest I have ever been. My weight is ideal, the result of a vigorous fitness program. My eating habits are consistent-no more of the yo-yo dieting of the past. I’m passionate about yoga and meditation as means of managing stress. Prayer, support from my family and healthcare professionals, determination, and hard work have helped me change my life. DIABETES HEALTH is a major part of my diabetes management.

Diabetes is not a curse; it’s a manageable condition. It can be death-defying or life-enhancing, depending on your attitude and lifestyle. It is human nature to act in your best interest if you understand what’s in it for you.

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