Several years ago, I had an opportunity to visit "Anna," a young mother of two, in her home town of Kharkov, Ukraine. Anna has type 2 diabetes. The purpose of this trip was to meet recipients, such as Anna, who had received funds from the charitable organization that sponsored the trip.
Anna's building was a crumbling brick structure lit with bare bulbs that smelled of rancid cooking oil. She and her children lived in the apartment at the end of a long and narrow hallway. As I walked toward her door, other tenants peeked out to see who had entered their building; all wore tattered clothing and looked underfed and unhealthy.
Anna was a 26 years old widow who has had type 2 diabetes for several years, but has not received any medical care for her condition. A few weeks prior to our meeting, the charitable organization I was with had started to provide her with a weekly hot meal and a supply of oral diabetes medication. But the disease had already changed her. When we met, she could barely walk and her vision had become permanently damaged.
I asked if I could speak to her privately while I was there. I'm a diabetes educator and hoped that I could teach her something that might help her. We sat on the couch in her one room apartment and I began to discuss, through a translator, a simple meal planning method called "The Plate Method." When I first suggested that she fill half of her plate with non-starchy vegetables, she immediately said that vegetables were unavailable in her town. I then suggested that she fill a quarter of her plate with healthy protein foods. "I can't get that either," she replied. When I asked her to include a small amount of fruit in her day, all she could do was shake her head – she had no fruit either; only starches. Her eyes filled with tears. I put my arms around her and hugged her as she began to weep.
That day in Kharkov changed my life dramatically. I left the Ukraine with a renewed appreciation for the United States and its abundance. I began to notice the well-stocked grocery shelves in our supermarkets and started to feel so honored to live in a country that has much to offer its people. Unlike Anna, we do have vegetables, fruits and protein foods. We also have medications, dedicated physicians and diabetes educators, television programs, such as dLife, and communities, such as the one on the dLife.com message board that offers warmth, support, and respect. We have so many options that Anna will never have. As Thanksgiving Day marks the start of our annual holiday season, let's take a few moments to reflect on all that we have and be grateful. We are indeed fortunate in so many ways.
NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
Last Modified Date: June 20, 2013
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Janis Roszler MSFT, RD, CDE, LDN
Janis Roszler, MSFT, RD, CDE, LD/N is the American Association of Diabetes Educators' 2008-2009 Diabetes Educator of the Year. She is a certified diabetes educator, marriage and family therapist, and registered dietitian. Her books include Sex and Diabetes (ADA) Diabetes on your OWN Terms (Marlowe & Co) and The Secrets of Living and Loving with Diabetes (Surrey books).
Donna Rice MSW, BSN, RN, CDE
Donna Rice MBA,RN,CDE,FAADE is the 2007 Past President of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. She is a registered nurse, diabetes educator and has developed numerous educational programs on sexual health and wellness. She is the co-author of Sex and Diabetes (ADA) and Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction - A Quick ‘n' Easy Handbook For the Diabetes Educator (Bella Vita). Her newest publication is a children's book, The Magic is Me (Searchlight Press).