A Little Sugar
Diabetes can be a journey toward good health, starting with one step.
September 2008 — My story starts with my grandmother, whom I never had the pleasure of knowing. She died at 53 years from complications of diabetes, before I was born. She was a double amputee and also suffered from congestive heart failure. My story goes on with my mother, she died at 54 from complications of diabetes, she was a double amputee with congestive heart failure and with my sisters, we buried our mother on the exact same day as her mother 30 years before.
At 31, I was given my death sentence, or so I thought. I was told by some of my family and friends that I had a "slight case of the sugar" - it runs in our family - and all I have to do is take the medication the doctor gives me and wait to see what happens.
For some time I took the meds, accepted my fate and slipped into a deep depression. My A1c was out of control (10 points or better), my eating habits stayed the same for some time after my diagnosis and I believed that I would somehow die exactly the way my mother and grandmother had died … young and unfinished.
I found out about dLifeTV one day while channel surfing with my life partner and found the show to be inspirational and full of great tips on managing the disease. We both appreciated learning about regular people around the country dealing with diabetes.
After watching the show, I went to the online community of dLife, visited the Wall and saw that several of our friends had posted their personal stories of having diabetes! I began to feel like there was a community of folks out in the world who could understand my conflicting feelings of having a diagnosis that I literally felt was a death sentence. A friend of mine encouraged me to post my story. I did, and two years later I was featured on the show as a slam poet managing type 2 diabetes!
In my family, we have always valued our African American heritage and with that comes some eating habits that celebrate sugars of all types. In my family, the word "sugar" has a plethora of pleasant meanings. It is a word that describes the best kisses, the best baked goods, and the most diva driven women (and some men too) existing in my world. "Sugar" is also a slang word for diabetes, and it was not until I was a young adult before I knew that the word "sugar" was synonymous with the all too often diagnosis of diabetes.
Thus the name of my column, "Get It Together, Sugar!" It is a reminder of all the sweet memories I have of my mother, as well as recognition of the intense and flavorful people in my world who deal with diabetes on the daily. This title will also serve as a reminder that we are all in control of our glucose levels, our attitudes, and our will to do better for ourselves. I am getting it together now. I am so honored to have the opportunity to share my personal journey with you and I hope that we can all grow in our knowledge base about diabetes from a culturally specific perspective every month. Currently, I have changed my eating habits, which has allowed me to get off insulin shots. My A1C is 6.5, which is better than it has been in awhile. I plan on staying on task and I believe that writing this column monthly will assist me in my journey. I certainly hope that it will help you on your journey of coping with type 2 diabetes as we "Get it Together, Sugar!"
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.
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In junior high school, I'd gotten my hands on one of my father's old English books and read a story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Great Stone Face". The story is based on the natural mountain/rock formation in New Hampshire of the same name (you can see an image of it on New Hampshire state quarters). In the story, there was a legend that the person whose face looked like The Great Stone Face would be "the...