Name: Sia Figiel
Hometown: West Valley, Utah
Diabetes Type: 2
Current Life's Work: Mother. Aunt. Sister. Friend. Performance poet. Painter. Internationally acclaimed award-winning author. Director of Language Arts and Culture, Mana Academy, to open doors in Fall 2013.
It is when we look fear in the eye and face it head on, that we gain the courage to speak. And for the last decade, I have been afraid of my diagnosis and lived with severe obesity and diabetes (diabesity). I don't know if I could actually use the word "living" here because truly, I was dead. I am a Pacific Islander woman of Samoan-American descent and it's been a year since my family and I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah from Pago Pago, American Samoa. It's been a year too since I decided to take charge and declared myself a Diabesity Warrior.
As a writer and as a public figure, I hid my diabetes from the public. I was ashamed to admit that I had been diagnosed as I felt it a sign of weakness. That I had lost control. However, as the years went by, and more and more family, loved ones and young people kept dying from diabesity related complications, I felt that I could no longer stay silent about these killer diseases. That I had to speak up. I had to act.
When my family moved to SLC, UT a year ago, we were intrigued and fascinated by the many options our new life provided us. For one, an over abundance of food options overwhelmed us. Secondly, access to a community fitness center allowed us to exercise as a family. I had to sit down and educate myself on food. And because I was determined to not let diabetes get the best of me, I decided to begin our life in America by eating food closest to the earth source. To avoid as much processed, simple carbohydrates as we could and to focus on fiber and vegetables. In fact, if it came in a box, I would not eat it.
My highest A1C was 11.5. My last A1C was 7.5. I'm due for my next one in mid June and I'm excited!
In the beginning of January, I made the brave move to register for the Great Aloha Run in Honolulu, my first ever marathon. I was able to complete the 8k walk/run in 2.23 hours. Pretty awesome for someone who was lying dead on a beach only a year and a half ago.
I train 2-3 hours at the local Fitness center. I walk, run (yes, I can run!) lift weights, and swim. It has not been an easy journey. But for the first time in my life I am embracing it all. The good, the bad, the ugly road down these killers diseases. But knowing that I am actively engaged in my own healing and not merely taking a back seat to it has made a world of difference. That in itself drops the fear factor from daily living and leads to more stable daily blood glucose readings.
Also in January, after a visit to the dentist three days before Christmas, I was told I had advanced periondontal disease. Dr. Johnson told me, "Sia, it's either we fix this, which will not only be costly but painful, or we extract all your teeth." For me, there was no other option. I had been living for almost a decade with so much pain in my teeth that it became a no brainer to have them all removed.
After a four-month process of extractions, measuring impressions, back and forth, I finally have both dentures. And I feel fabulous, healthy and hey, I look it! Ha!
The road to successfully living with diabetes is paved by hard work, sweat, and determination. You make choices that impact your blood glucose, daily. But attitude is key. You have to tell yourself, I am worth it. I may have diabetes. But it certainly doesn't have me.
PolyOneMedia, a local non-profit organization is shooting a documentary of my journey that will end in February 2014 when I return to Honolulu to run the Great Aloha Run. We are excited, as we go over footage of what we have so far, and just how far I have come.
Since the Great Aloha Run, I have addressed Diabesity at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, BYU Hawaii, University of Washington, and recently at UCLA as keynote speaker for the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Youth Fitness Day.
To know more about me and my journey, find me on Facebook. Once you visit and like us, you become an instant rainbow Warrior, advocating and supporting all who fight diabetes....and win!
Sia in 2010 before her 80-lb weight loss (left) and Sia today!
We are always looking for interesting/inspiring diabetes stories. To find out our current call for submissions or to submit your own inspirational story for consideration, check out Real People, Real Stories.
Reviewed by dLife Staff, 05/13.
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I had a work dinner last night with some leadership from my office. I always find diabetes etiquette at these things to be kind of tricky. It was a four course meal, with salad, soup, entree' and dessert and coffee. There was also a selection of gluten free and non-gluten free dinner rolls. I felt way too full of questions for waitress... "Could I get my dressing on the side? How much sugar is in it?" A course later...