Name: Ina Mendoza-Wilson
Hometown: Bowie, MD
Diabetes Type: 2
Current Life's Work: USDA Personal Property Manager
Growing up I knew of my mother, but I didn't know my mother. My mother dropped me off at a relative's house when I was around 3 to find herself, and I never saw her again. Over the years, I heard about her and I spoke to her on the phone a few times. I grew up learning about diabetes or "sugar" as my family called it, because I was surrounded by it. I lived in a house of 3 generations and saw limbs amputated and sight lost all because of diabetes and their lack of knowledge and preventative care. I was always told not to eat too much candy because I was probably going to be diabetic, so I should get used to not having such things. Over the years growing up, I learned my mother had many issues including drug addiction and type 2 diabetes. I never knew my father; I just knew he was Puerto Rican and diabetes was very prevalent in their culture also. I never felt like I had a choice in the matter, I was going to get it.
In 1983 when my mother was 35, I was informed by my grandmother that my mother had died. She didn't take her insulin, she went into shock, followed by a coma and died. Though I didn't really feel a connection to my mother, she was still my mother and I felt sad. Up to this point, I had heard about diabetes, but I didn't realize it was something people died from. It was a very troubling time for me: I was 16, was living in an abusive household, and didn't feel like I knew who I was. I wondered: would I end up like my mother, going off to "find myself," losing control and dying alone? I didn't want to be a statistic. I did lots of research over the next few years because if I was going to be diabetic, I was going to be an informed diabetic. Ironically, when I turned 35 I was officially diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Not long afterwards I took diabetes education classes, found an endocrinologist, and started to fight.
I'm now 45. I've lived 10 years longer then my mother did, but I consider myself to be a well-informed diabetic with a great support system. I have to wonder, if my mother had these same things in her corner, would she still be here? She's missed out on so many milestones that include meeting her only granddaughter and her first great-granddaughter. Having diabetes is my full-time, part-time job. I make choices every day: where to eat, what to eat, when to eat, what to wear, will I have that second drink, will I exercise today. I don't always make the best choice, after all, I'm human, but I'm still here and I'm 10 years ahead in this fight with lots more battles to win.
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