Type 2 Diabetes: It’s a Family Affair
Over 34 million Americans are living with diabetes, and unfortunately, my entire family is among them. It all started when I was a young child and overheard my grandmother discussing her diabetes. It was a casual conversation, but I could tell that the disease had taken a toll on her health. In the 1980s, diabetes was often treated as a shameful secret, something that no one wanted to talk about. Many people had it, but it remained hidden. I vividly recall the time when my grandmother developed an issue with her foot. It began as a small cut, but she neglected to monitor it or seek medical attention. Before we knew it, her foot had turned black and purple, and we had to rush her to the hospital. The doctors discovered that she had developed gangrene, a condition where body tissues die due to a lack of blood caused by illness, injury, or infection. Unfortunately, her foot was beyond repair, and they had to amputate it. My grandmother was resistant to the idea of amputation, but the doctors warned that if she didn't get the surgery, the infection could spread and potentially be fatal. Sadly, she took too long to make a decision, and in the end, she had to have part of her leg amputated. She was never the same after that.
Years later, the rest of my family received the same diagnosis. My mother, sisters, niece, aunts, cousins, father, and I were all diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. As a family living with diabetes, we faced countless trials and challenges individually and together. My mother discovered her diabetes when she fell ill at work one day. Her blood sugar was over 400, which was an extremely dangerous level. At that point, she knew she had to make a change, but it wasn't easy. She was prescribed insulin and various other medications to help manage her diabetes. Living with diabetes comes with its ups and downs. Some days and weeks, you'll be doing great, while other times it will be a struggle to keep things under control.
Although diabetes was now a common topic in our household, it was never something that we openly discussed. It became a way of life that we all had to adapt to individually. However, the disease seemed to be targeting our family one by one. It was a common misconception that diabetes was solely caused by being overweight or consuming too much sugar. While these factors can increase the risk, they aren't the only reasons for developing diabetes. During my pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which is supposed to disappear after childbirth. However, in my case, it persisted, and I was informed that I had type 2 diabetes. I initially denied the reality for about two years, hoping that the doctor would eventually say it had gone away after my son's birth. It finally hit me when my 12-year-old niece also developed diabetes. It was another devastating blow to our family, and it made us realize that this disease wasn't going away. We had to take action.
That's when I stumbled upon the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and found an immense amount of support from people going through similar experiences. I took courses on managing diabetes and even received training on educating others about it. This newfound knowledge empowered me and encouraged me to share my journey with diabetes with friends and family. I became an ambassador for the ADA and worked on raising awareness by participating in diabetes walks. Eventually, I started teaching workshops on diabetes, speaking at conferences, and even created a TV talk show called The Impact with Robin Dorsey, where I frequently discussed diabetes-related topics. This disease had become a significant part of my family and my life. We realized that it was challenging to tackle alone, but by uniting and supporting one another, we could conquer it together.
I want everyone to know that diabetes doesn't simply disappear overnight. But with the right mindset and by taking the first steps of accepting the diagnosis, seeking information, and working closely with your healthcare team, you can lead a normal life and overcome the challenges that come with diabetes. Remember, managing diabetes will have its good and bad days. Just take it one day at a time. If your blood sugar is high one day, don't beat yourself up over it. Seek help and then get back on track. You have the strength to do this. Start today and choose to live by managing your diabetes.
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