Diabetes Management—Whose Job is it Anyway?

Written by Nancy Sayles Kaneshiro

Here are some things I just don’t get.

I knew a guy who was repeatedly told by his doctor to quit smoking and lose weight.  He didn’t do either, despite being warned of the dire consequences he was facing. He dropped dead at 56 leaving behind a six-year-old kid.

I know quite a few people with diabetes. Mostly Type 2. Yet, I can’t help but notice that several are overweight and seemingly unconcerned about what’s in that pizza or chocolate cake they’re chowing down. 

Please understand that I am not including in these comments those friends and acquaintances who are making a concerted effort to lose excess weight—whether or not they’re completely successful—and being sure to fit regular exercise into their busy schedules. With varying degrees of success, they’re working diligently at managing their diabetes.

 

It’s the ones who pretty much ignore the diagnosis, either through denial or just plain obstinance, whom I fail to understand.  Now, I’m not exactly the poster child for diabetes management.  It took me ten years to figure out how to lose enough weight to affect my A1C. It’s taken me another six-and-a-half to get within striking distance of the weight on my driver’s license. It takes daily vigilance to avoid the “bad” carbs and eat the “right” stuff, and I like to think I succeed more often than I fail. 

But, I still can’t feel my feet.

I would think most people who are told they have a bad heart try to make some immediate changes at the behest of their physicians.  I know only too well that those who receive cancer diagnoses have tough times ahead and that it takes more bravery every day than I can ever imagine being able to muster in a lifetime.    

So why are diabetes diagnoses so often being ignored? Because “nothing hurts?”  Tell me that when your kidneys are screaming or when you have your first diabetes-related heart issue.  Modern medicine can now do so much to improve the outlook for patients with diabetes. Isn’t it on us to do everything we can to make sure we hang around as long as possible in as good health as possible? Personally, I think it is.

I have a brother-in-law, whom I’ve known nearly all my life, who is a Type 1 diabetic. He’s what they call a brittle diabetic, a term only recently defined for me, describing the recurrence of wide and sudden swings in glucose levels, sometimes resulting in hospitalization. He had a diabetes-related heart attack and coronary bypass surgery at 50. I was there when the surgeon told the family that he wouldn’t make 60. He’s now 77. But this is a guy who is giving it his best shot.  Sure, his weight has fluctuated, but after suffering health issues that those extra pounds no doubt exacerbated, he is now at a normal weight and in dramatically-improved health. His doctor (not the same guy as before, fortunately,) just told him he could look forward to at least ten more years. He said, “I’ll take it!” and promptly went on a cruise. It’s because of his “can do” attitude that my kid has an Uncle Larry.

We all know that diabetes isn’t for sissies. We all can’t have the same level of management along the way, but it’s our responsibility—to ourselves and our families—to do the very best we can. Let the doctors do the doctor stuff and join me in my quest to exercise daily and to find the most satisfying “legal” food possible. (I promise to share all my best discoveries with you!)

Stay well.  See you next time!