Why, Dad?

A positive outlook has the power to change your life course.

with Amy Tenderich


Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!

July 2006 —For years, my brother and I visited with him once or twice a week in the evenings, or for late breakfast on the weekend. He'd pick us up in his white Chevy Nova and casually say he had errands to run. We'd invariably end up at a Denny's or a Bob's Big Boy for a quick meal, and then a ride home. He never took us to his house. His car was littered with discarded paperwork, forgotten bank statements, empty prescription bottles, and used syringes.

As the years passed, although he was still young, he did seem feebler, not quite as fresh, and more and more down-hearted. But we were just a couple of self-absorbed college kids. What did we know?

It wasn't until my brother called me a year after I'd moved to Amsterdam to say that Dad had passed out in his kitchen and lay there for THREE DAYS undiscovered that I realized what "brittle" meant. My dad had completely lost control of his diabetes, yet he never asked for help. Oh, he moaned a little, especially at mealtimes. But he never mentioned that he often had trouble thinking straight, or found himself driving down an unfamiliar freeway (!) with no idea where he was going.

Back when he was diagnosed, the doctors told us he had type 2 diabetes , which was lucky, because it wasn't so "serious." What a bitter joke from today's vantage point! Most likely, he had late onset type 1 diabetes (LADA, or Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults), like me. He died in November of 1998, two weeks before his 71st birthday.

And here's the thing: None of this was completely accidental. I believe my father lost the will to control his diabetes. And that is why, this year on Father's Day, I finally asked, rhetorically, "Why, Dad?"

In all of these years, I've never once allowed myself to associate his diabetes - the rheumatism and neuropathy, patchy skin coloring called vitiligo and other related problems - with myself and my diabetes experience. Yet this year, it finally dawns on me that, in fact, I have defined my own diabetes experience as a counterpoint to his.

I have chosen to care for it intensely, and at the same time to laugh it off (whenever possible)!

I have lived with type 1 diabetes for a little over three years now, with a fierce determination to make the best of it. I count my blessings every day:

  • No more need to boil and sharpen syringes
  • Generally no pain or daily physical discomfort
  • Living in an era of incredible advancements in medicine and biotechnology
  • "Simple" treatments like carb-counting and home glucose monitoring make diabetes control possible (and easier than ever before)
  • Support from a wonderful, loving family
  • Got something to write passionately about

Despite all this, I recently had an epiphany: I am getting pretty tired of thinking about diabetes. Ah, but what a useless revelation! Because pending a cure, I will, of course, need to keep thinking about this disease at least every few hours for the rest of my life.

But the second part of my epiphany was this: I refuse to feel sorry for myself - which I must admit, I think is more important than any meal plan or medicine or exercise routine.

A little venting now and then is a healthy thing, I think. But I have to believe that positively believing I can conquer the diabetes will make it happen. You didn't believe that, did you, Dad?

Read more about Amy Tenderich.

dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: May 24, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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