A Letter to the Newly Diagnosed, Continued
What you need to know when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
Let me ask you: Can you have a pet tiger? Sure you can. So long as you feed it well, groom it, and never turn your back on it, you can co-exist with a tiger in your living room. But if you neglect the tiger, starve it, turn your back on it, the tiger will pounce on you and tear you to shreds. Diabetes is the tiger. Feed it right. Take care of it right. And the two of you will live just fine together.
But if you let diabetes run wild it can and will kill you. But I promise you, it's possible to live for a very long time with diabetes. Now, you may know people who died or are dying from diabetes. Some may be in your own family. But that is not going to happen to you. Things are different now. You can grow old, healthy and happy — with the tiger at your side.
You know what? If you take care of your diabetes you will actually be much healthier than the average American who doesn't have diabetes. So it's a gift of sorts. Diabetes is the carrot and the stick. The threat and the reward. Diabetes — the tiger — will eat you alive if you don't do the few basic things you need to do to feed it. But if you take care of it, it will, in a sense, take care of you, too.
What do I need to do?
Let me tell you why I love having diabetes. Yes, I said I love having diabetes, and I'm not crazy. I am healthier with diabetes than I was without it. I think more about my body, what I put into it, what I ask it to do, than I did before. I am more keenly aware of my mortality, and yet will probably live a longer and sweeter life than I would have had diabetes not joined my team.
But that's just the sugar-free icing on the cake. What I love most about diabetes is that it is what the medical world calls a "self-managed disease." Yep. I'm in charge. Little ol' me. Not my doctor. Not some specialist. I get to be in the driver's seat.
With most illnesses the medical folks are in charge from start to finish and you are just along for the ride. Usually in the back seat. Here, take this pill. Don't do this. Don't do that. Avoid stress. Yeah. I'll get right on that.
With diabetes you drive and your doctor is the tour guide. And the best part is that it's an easy drive. Make tiny changes in your eating and activity, and you change your health destiny. And the fact that you are here today, reading more about your diabetes, tells me you're off to a great start. You've just signed up for Tiger-tamer lessons. And you're going to do an awesome job.
Excerpted from Taming the Tiger: Your first year with diabetes, a first year survival guide by Wil Dubois, Red Blood Cell Books, © 2009. ISBN 978-0-9822257-1-4.
Wil Dubois is the author of four multi-award-winning books about diabetes. He is a PWD type 1, and is the diabetes coordinator for a rural non-profit clinic. Visit his blog, LifeAfterDX.
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.
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Like many of us who live near major cities, I've been to a few ADA Diabetes Expos — my first in November, 2003, just over a year after diagnosis. The Expo took up a large part of New York City's Javits Center; most of the major meter, insulin, pump, and pill manufacturers were there; there were enough food vendors (with free samples!)...