James Brown is one of my very favorite soul musicians. In the 1960s, when racial tension, war, and unemployment were facts of life, he wrote a song called "Get on the Good Foot." Brown himself was well known for his impressive “footwork” as he performed and entertained millions around the world. I was born during the late 60’s and James Brown's music has impacted my life and the lives of Americans for decades. When I listen to his rhythms, high hats, drums and funk, I transform into some kind of dancing machine. I have a great time moving and working up a good sweat to help lower my blood sugar levels and to help me on my weight loss journey.
I became aware of his music through my mother, who died of complications related to diabetes in 1998. James Brown recently passed away as well, but he has left the world a gift of music to dance to. My mother loved to dance before she was a double amputee and by the time she was in her last days she could only enjoy Brown’s music which she loved so much, by listening and/or clapping her hands because of her physical condition.
Thinking about it makes me sad. Watching her lose her left toe, then the same leg above the ankle, then above the knee in the same hospital stay was heartbreaking. To watch her struggle with rehabilitation with her new prosthetic leg, which helped her live a somewhat productive life for two years, revealed to me my mother's strength, strength I have never seen in anyone else in my life. To see my mother lose her entire right leg above the thigh three days before her death and knowing her mother died in the exact same physical condition terrifies me. I think about how much my mother loved to dance when she was younger. I love to dance too (I probably should dance more) and I would be lying if I said I don’t worry about my feet, circulation, and other complications of having type 2 diabetes.
So needless to say, I am a bit paranoid about my feet and how I take care of them. First of all, keeping good control of my sugar and keeping my A1c results at least below 7 is a good start. At last check I was at 6.3. However, I have gained about 12 pounds since the summer and I know this will probably negatively affect my next test.
As far as foot care for type 2 diabetes goes, I typically wear shoes that entirely cover my entire feet, and this includes house shoes worn inside at all times. When I wear sandals, if my feet or toes are exposed, I am extremely careful about what activities I am involved in. For instance, I once wore open-toed sandals to a concert and when the show was over I waited until most patrons had exited before I departed the venue because I did not want anyone stepping on my feet. After all, the catalyst to my mother losing her left toe was when a can dropped on her foot while we were putting up groceries. Her foot never healed. Her blood sugar was also out of control at that time. These past experiences have led to behaviors that will hopefully keep me on the “good foot” for the rest of my life.
Every morning when I am done showering and when I am putting on lotion, I always take time to look at the bottom of my feet and take note of any changes including spots, sores, redness or dry cracks. I also check for any foreign objects. As a type 2 diabetic I may have some numbness in my extremities and may not feel if something is lodged in my skin. I wear socks and stockings that don't have excessive stitching, which could cause stress marks on my feet and I try to wear shoes that are easy to walk in most days. I say “most days” because sometimes a diva like myself has to rock a stiletto here and there. I just try to save those times for special occasions and then I always bring a comfortable shoe to put on when my feet start throbbing. I have also found that high-heeled shoes that have a thick sole or built on a wedge are most comfortable and less stressful on my feet.
Speaking of being a diva: I must address my active decision to allow only a podiatrist to manicure my toenails and feet. I will do at home treatment/care but not anything aggressive like using razor blades. My doctor has suggested an over-the-counter device that works well with removing dead skin and causing no cuts or dangerous wounds to the feet. I use it occasionally and find it yields good results. I also avoid immersing my feet into super hot water or paraffin wax, as I am afraid that I may not be able to gauge the extent of the heat, which could cause problems later.
By now, you the reader must think I am over-the-top crazy about my feet. I am a foot fanatic to a certain degree. I won’t apologize. It’s just the way I have become as a result of watching my mother lose her limbs. It all started with little mistakes here and there and improper diabetic foot care. I saw her using razor blades, walking barefoot outside, wearing high-heeled uncomfortable shoes to an eight-hour job, not maintaining her blood sugar levels to an acceptable measure, and other acts of perversion, which led to her amputations.
So to manage my craziness about my feet I have decided to include here some pointers for good diabetic foot care which I hope you find useful.
- After bathing with mild soap, dry your feet completely with a soft towel
- Check for any changes in your feet such as discoloration etc.
- Use lotion to keep your feet from cracking
- Do not leave any moisture between your toes
- Wear comfortable shoes inside and outside
- See a podiatrist to assist you with proper foot care
- Avoid tight socks and use natural fibers only (cotton, etc.)
- Keep your blood sugars levels within healthy ranges
- Report any suspected nerve damage ASAP to your doctor
I have shared with you my greatest concerns about our feet as diabetics and it is my hope that we keep dancing, walking and strutting without the worry of complications. I want us all to do as James Brown said in his song with as much funk and soul and zest for good times and a good life by “getting on the good foot” with the knowledge of proper foot care. May you always know that I write this article because I am passionate about coping with this disease and it keeps me motivated to always strive for better care and it keeps me on the “Good Foot” too. Ttyl.
Got it Sugar? Good.
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.
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