Thursday, November 24, 2011

Diabetes -- Living With a Whole New Challenge

(This blog pertains to events that took place in 2007/early 2008.) 

The whole diabetes thing became another dimension of me. I became active with the American Diabetes Association and its Step Out for Diabetes walk. I formed a team and raised money for the cause. I also realized I needed to be an advocate for diabetes, just as I was becoming one for cancer. I now had year round volunteer activities between both ACS and ADA. Both were important causes to me and I wanted to help make a difference. 
Being a cancer survivor who is also a diabetic simply ups the odds. That is, the odds that I will have major health problems due to both of these medical issues. As a diabetic, my risk of heart disease rises as does my risk of stroke. Many of the tests I must take for cancer control can be influenced by diabetes. The PET scan requires a special diet and no exercise regimen for 24 hours prior to testing. During this time, I had to eat a high protein only diet (no carbs or sweets) plus I had to remain sedentary. Glucose levels would drop throughout the day so I had to remain diligent to ensure I did not drop dangerously low. When I arrived for testing, an extra step involved checking my glucose levels. Now, as a result of my diabetes, I also had to remain on extremely high doses of cholesterol medication and medication for HBP. My doctors wanted to ensure my cholesterol and HBP remained within healthy limits since as a diabetic, I am much more prone to heart disease. (My family history does not help since my Dad died from a massive heart attack at age 52. My Mom was treated for high cholesterol as well as diabetes. In her case, however, her blood pressure generally ran low.
Being grateful for diabetes. There is something strange about that. Yet, I truly am glad that I was diagnosed when I was since before that, it seemed that no one was taking my weight gain seriously. I had asked about it, but until late 2006, most of my doctors had ignored my weight issues. They were more concerned with other health matters. By the time it was recognized and they were ready to deal with it (I had a doctor indicate I needed to see a dietitian) it was already time for me to go to classes with a Certified Diabetes Educator. As I see it, everything worked out for the best. I may be much lighter now and healthier, but I am still a diabetic. 
I bring that up, since many people (when they see me) do not believe I am a diabetic. They actually say, to my face, that I am too thin, too skinny. That, I must protest, is a real error and in general the public needs to understand that being overweight or underweight or just right -- that does not necessarily mean you will or will not develop diabetes. Yes, research has shown that being overweight can lead to diabetes but even after one losses weight, that does not mean the diabetes goes away. An individual who undergoes gastric bypass may very well no longer need diabetes medication after surgery, however, simply losing weight will not take away the disease. I still need to remain vigilant -- eating right and exercising. Otherwise, my glucose levels can be high. That does not change with weight loss. What does change is how the body works overall. Less strain on the heart, less stress on the bones and muscles... a better way to control diabetes is weight control. 
I am not happy that I must identify myself as a cancer survivor -- as someone with asthma or as a person with diabetes. Having all three is no prize. I am not a winner except for the fact that I am beating the cancer, controlling the asthma and working hard at keeping my diabetes in check. If that’s winning, then I get the big prize! 
Since 2007, I have been active with the American Diabetes Association’s Step Out for Diabetes walk. In Orlando, the event is held in the fall, usually early November. My first year, I joined a team formed by an ADA staff member. It was just me, so on the day of the event, I arrived early and prepared for the 5K walk. At that time, I was still using my Hugo walker. Walking the streets of Orlando could prove challenging since there were surface changes every few blocks. It went from asphalt to brick and sometimes, very uneven sidewalks, if I could not navigate the streets. But, I was determined to make the entire distance and I did. The roars of the crowd at the finish line were deafening - they were screaming with delight as we passed under the archway of balloons and back into Loch Haven Park. I had done my first Step Out. A major physical accomplishment! 

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