I can remember hearing stories as a teenager of people having their toes, feet, and legs amputated, going blind, going on dialysis, and all sorts of other crazy things. The culprit? Diabetes. My typical response was, “I guess that it sucks to be them”. Quite honestly, it didn’t bother me one bit that people were having these issues. After all, it didn’t have anything to do with me. I didn’t have diabetes. I had my eyesight, all of my toes and limbs; and diabetes was something that only happened to old or fat folks. But when I was diagnosed with diabetes, things changed. Wearing the stigmatic label of “diabetic” has caused me to look at life a little differently. I stopped saying, “it sucks to be them”, and started saying, “it sucks to be ME.” I also started thinking about what I can do to prevent others from experiencing diabetes.
I realized that the biggest thing that I can do to help those around me from becoming diabetic is to be an anti-diabetes spokesman. After all, people are much more likely to pay attention to a message when it comes from somebody that they know. Telling somebody that they should be more physically active or eat healthier is one thing. Add in a personal story or ongoing tragedy in another diabetic’s life and you’re likely to have that person’s undivided attention. Showing them changes within your body that have occurred from diabetes or simply showing them a glucometer kit and how often you have to use it may be enough to steer them onto the right path.
It’s funny how other diabetics are having a huge impact on my lifestyle decisions, and they don’t even know it. Just last week I was speaking to a doctor, and he told me point blank that most of the amputees that I saw walking around the military hospital were not war-related. They were the result of diabetes. Two years ago an uncle-in-law had his leg amputated due to diabetes. Two months ago while watching an NFL football game in his living room with friends; he died due to diabetes-related complications. A childhood friend, the same age as me, just underwent a kidney transplant because of diabetes. Perhaps the most unusual but touching story that I saw was that of James Harris, also known as “Kamala, the Ugandan Giant” from the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). During the 80s and 90s, Kamala was one of my favorites. He was a beast. But in November of 2014 I came across an article and interview titled, “From Wrestling Legend to Double Amputee.” The once great Kamala, who towered over his opponents, is now confined to a wheelchair. What hit him? Diabetes.
Experts agree that many of the one million new cases of diabetes that are diagnosed each year could have been prevented. I believe that all it takes is for someone to serve as a personal spokesman and an example of how to prevent diabetes. This should take place BEFORE someone is diagnosed with diabetes. Trust me, it’s easier to be proactive in preventing the disease than it is trying to be reactive and fight the disease. Think about it, if we can push someone to do better in school or life, then surely we can push someone towards living a diabetes-free life.