The first time I heard the word diabetes I had to be about twelve or thirteen. Soon after, mom changed the way she cooked. Instead of chicken cooked in the hottest of vegetable oil, we began eating meats that were boiled, baked, broiled, and grilled. Boy, did I love the way frying chicken smelled and sounded. You could even smell it outside the door leading up to the entrance of the house. Anyway, I wasn’t put out about it really. Hey, my parents were old school – what was cooked, you ate. Period. No discussion. I even remember ‘veggie plates.’ I was vocal about this move though. A growing girl can only sacrifice so much. I needed my meat protein! Didn’t do any good. Like I said, old school parents – what was cooked was what was eaten. And that datburn salt substitute, Mrs. Dash! Yeck!
I think mom was secretly glad about the diet changes (although not about diabetes) because then she wouldn’t have to fend off the barrage of sweets to greasy fish plates bought at the corner fish market. Dad knew all the greasy spoons in town and they knew him too. Big John they called him. And big he was. At one point, he weighed past 300 pounds. He was diagnosed with diabetes in his early 30’s. Dad purposely lived to an excess. He had been a heavy drinker pre-diabetes; bourbon was his drink of choice. Even though I don’t smoke, I still love the smell of sweet tobacco pipe smoke because it reminds me of him. And as previously alluded, he loved tasty foods. My dad’s diabetes affected not only him; but also the women in his life, my mother and me. I saw my mother, who was the main caretaker, slowly transform from a beautiful, shapely, and energetic woman into a tired, haggard, rotund, middle-aged lady.
No one came to us and said this is how you do this while taking care of yourself. Plus mom is not the type to hem and haw about things. She just rolled up her sleeves and went to work. And work she did – her fingers, her bones and her nerves. Pop began to take meds at first. Then, he gave himself insulin shots. His sight began to fail afterwards. It wasn’t till too late that our family or his doctor noticed this because he just didn’t speak out about it or maybe he just didn’t think his sight problem was that serious. He kept buying reading glasses. I used to joke with him and call him Fred Sanford because he had a drawer full of glasses. None of them did the trick.
Before his eyesight went completely out, his legs began to swell. On one occasion his legs actually burst and began to leak. The doctor announced that his kidneys were failing and that he needed to make a drastic move. He was put on the list for a kidney but after a while, he withdrew his name and chose the home dialysis instead. Chicken. Eventually, he went totally blind, lost both his legs, suffered from minor to major strokes, and seizures. His hospital visits were long and numerous. Baptist Central on Union Avenue was his second home. He finally succumbed after a misdiagnosed broken hip. It was initially diagnosed as a bruised hip. As a result, infection spread throughout his body, destroying his already weakened defenses. He died a miserable death.
Now for those of you that do not take diabetes seriously, please think again. And I do know that for some, diabetes is inherited and not induced by personal habits. However, it’s still a slow miserable way to die if not maintain responsibly. On the other hand, diabetes is very, very manageable if you watch your diet, take your meds or shots as prescribed, exercise, watch your stress level, and be careful with bruises and sores. Even if you do not have diabetes, as the woman of the household, you can and will be affected if anyone has diabetes within your family.
With that said, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is the 7th leading cause for death in females. So diabetes may touch you on a closer level than you once thought. Let’s all work at this preventively and live longer, stronger, and healthier lives. Information and assistance is at our fingertips. Let’s all take advantage and take it serious.