Reflecting on 2013

kalimah bioBy Kalimah Johnson

December 2013 — As we draw near to a close of 2013, I am taking stock of all the blessings and gifts God has bestowed upon me and my family/friends. I certainly have a lot to be thankful for! This year I was able to work with the Detroit Lions, the National Basketball Association, and I won a huge grant to continue work I have been doing in the African American community related to intimate partner violence and sexual assault. This year I hosted a grand opening of an African American Soul Food Vegan restaurant (woman owned- in my neighborhood. They concentrate on making our traditional foods healthier! I am one year closer to gaining tenure at the four year liberal arts college I am teaching at, and recently hired a part-time assistant to help out at my natural hair care salon. Most importantly, I am glad to report that I have managed my diabetes better than I ever have since being diagnosed 15 years ago! My A1c was 6.0 and I am currently controlling my type 2 diabetes through diet and exercise only!

In my community, non-medical professionals would say that I am no longer diabetic. This is not true. I am still a diabetic and I must constantly remind myself that I can't slip or fall into old bad habits, or I will be at risk of having to go back on the medication. Even with proper diet, exercise, and weight loss, I still may have to go on medications again, because I am genetically predisposed to type 2 diabetes, because of a strong family history bearing the disease and because I am aging (and I thank God for aging as I lost my mother and grandmother relatively young from type 2 diabetes complications).

I am very grateful to researchers, advocates, writers, patients, hospitals, and doctors for keeping diabetes and the proper management of it in the forefront of their work. Now more than ever, Americans are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at an alarming rate. I have discovered that 522 million people globally could be diagnosed with diabetes before the year 2030 and that diabetes is growing among the young and slimmer populations. The good news is that researchers are finding ways to help manage the disease such as a new drug that will address cholesterol levels and glucose, another drug that won't tax the pancreas as much and allow for more removal of sugar in the blood through urination (canagliflozin). I was also pleasantly surprised to see that Victoza is now being advertised for the general public as another option to manage type 2 diabetes and could also help with weight loss. A few years ago I was under the impression that Victoza was apparently only used by the rich and famous (a long story) but now I am glad to see that more people have access.

I am also equally excited that health and diabetes professionals are creating ways for diverse populations to manage type 2 diabetes from a culturally specific standpoint. For instance, the Tohono Indian Nation of Arizona has been stricken significantly with the disease, and researchers helped the people to begin exploring if eating a diet filled with traditional foods grown in the area like tepary beans, cholla buds, squash, and corn instead of processed fast and junk food would have an impact and it did; with positive results. Even in my home town, I attended a workshop that was held by a community health specialist and was able to learn more about how to make better food choices in an urban environment. In addition, a new Whole Foods Market has opened in my area and that has been a great benefit to my friends and family as we work hard at changing our eating habits.

The most promising news of 2013 released just a few days ago is the report by the CDC that amputations of diabetic patients has been cut in half since the 1990s, and they attribute the change to better diabetes care. That makes me so happy to hear, because if you go back to the very first article I wrote for dLife, I reluctantly shared about how both my mother and grandmother died of complications with no legs as a result of under-managed type 2 diabetes. This is hopeful news and just this year it was recorded that the first man to ever live 85 years or more with diabetes is still living among us. What an inspiration for us all!

As we say goodbye to 2013 and welcome in the year 2014 I am elated, overjoyed, and filled with anticipation for more advancements in the care and management of diabetes. I am also ever-so-thrilled about the new formats in which dLife is using to inform advocates, families, and folks living and working with the disease.

It has been a joy to write for dLife and it is my hope that the stories I share with you continue to be an inspiration in 2014, as it has been a life saver for me.

Got it, Sugar?


Learn more about the basics of bariactic surgery.

Read more of Kalimah Johnson's columns, Get it Together, Sugar, here.

dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.


Last Modified Date: January 29, 2014

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