When you have type 2 diabetes and don’t use insulin, you pretty much rely 100% on your diet to keep those numbers in range. Hard task to tackle, let me tell you… especially for a person like me who loves food and eats her emotions. You give me the option between a juicy steak with mashed potatoes and some quinoa salad with weird leaves… guess which one I’ll pick? Yes, I’m not very smart when it comes to eating, and I’m not going to deny that fact. It’s a battle of the knowing vs. the wanting. I’m 38 years, I’ve lived with diabetes for 12 of them, and I’m still trying to figure out how to eat.
And this is where the title of my post comes in. Salads… the panacea of people who like to eat healthy. Salads… what you see people ordering at a steakhouse and wonder WTF they’re doing there at all. Salad… what I consider torture because for me “salad = diet” and believe me, I’ve been on so many of those—even as a child—it just feels like punishment for a crime I didn’t commit. I’m fat, I’ve been fat all my life. I didn’t eat any more than the other kids, I was as active as the other kids, but Mother Nature decided to bestow on me the gift of a wonky endocrine system. So yeah, salad is what I eat on a diet and I hate diets, and I have to disconnect those two.
And if I think about it, I actually like salads. I can eat a healthy salad because I hate anything that is floating in so much dressing you can’t taste the vegetables. So why don’t I eat more of those? Because more often than not I’m disgusted by the look of vegetables on a salad bar. And if there’s one single leaf that looks a little slimy… no, thanks. I know, I’m being picky. But that’s the main reason for me. And if the salad comes directly from a restaurant kitchen, then I don’t know where those veggies have been! And yes, I can make my own salads, but by the time I get excited about them, the veggies I bought are looking as crappy as the ones on the salad bar. I guess I learned too much Microbiology in college.
How do I change this? I don’t know. I mean, I know eating salad isn’t the only thing I can do to eat healthier, but I do need to include more fruits and vegetables in my diet. I’ve been trying to do that, adding fresh berries to my cereal, telling the boyfriend I like cherries and mangoes, reminding myself I’m not going to die because I accidentally chewed on a moldy piece of raspberry.
This is just the tip of the ice berg, but at least I’m starting to recognize how I block myself from making better decisions.
*And I would so eat the salad on the photo right now: Spinach, aragula, cranberries, walnuts and goat cheese.
This isn’t the first time I post about my dad. I’ve made it pretty clear all these years that he’s the reason why I started advocating for people with diabetes in the first place. My own diagnosis was just a coincidence, I guess. But this is probably one of those post that hurt because 1) this is yet another Fathers Day weekend I won’t get to celebrate with him, and 2) I’ve been struggling with my diabetes management lately. The first reason is obvious, the second is just because my dad, his dead and my pain are a reminder of what can happen to me if I don’t get back on the wagon and stop making excuses.
The year 2000. I had been married for less than a year, I was starting a whole new life in Canada, getting adapted to everything, learning a new language, trying to make peace with the fact that I wasn’t mommy and daddy’s little girl, but a married woman away from home. I was happy… until June 30, when my brother called me to inform me that the father I had hugged good-bye 6 months ago and seemed in good health, had had a massive heart attack and he was likely not going to make it. So I went back to Colombia and went straight from the airport to the ICU to see my dad, with the authorization of the doctor because my flight arrived past visiting hours. I was in shock, there were cables and monitors everywhere, he was sedated, and on a ventilator. The nurse told him I was there, but for me he was already gone. I knew it in my heart I was there to say the last good-bye.
11 days of torture went on, and each one of them I spent outside the ICU with my family hoping for a miracle, but knowing the outcome wasn’t going to be good. The doctors explained what had happened, how diabetes had made my dad’s heart vessels so thin there was nothing they could do. His heart condition was silent, he never had any symptoms before. He had struggled so much with it despite trying to take good care of himself and having a loving wife who understood his needs. He had retinopathy that responded well to treatment, and he once had to deal with the possibility of a toe amputation that was avoided thanks to good doctors and my dad’s discipline. I remember being scared for him sometimes, but at that time I really didn’t grasp the damage diabetes was doing to his body. He was a hard-working man, who never complained and who was active until the day he got on that ambulance.
On July 10, 2000 as I saw his heart rhythm diminishing, I went out of the ICU and I told God it was OK… he could go. His kidneys had started failing a couple of days before. A little before 6 p.m. the nurse came out to tell us they had been trying unsuccessfully to get his heart going for the last 20 minutes. This is probably too much information, but there’s an image that will never leave my mind: the one of my father’s muscles still contracting after the shocks with the defib. And just like that, he was gone… my dad was gone. He was 64 years old, was married to my mom for 36, had 4 children, 1 grandchild, and he left a huge hole in our lives. Diabetes took him away. I will never know if he knew I was there with him, but I really hope he did. The rest is my personal history of advocacy, my diagnosis, and my efforts to understand it all.
There’s a part of me that feels that no matter what I do, things will be the same for me. I know it’s wrong to think that way but diabetes is such a treacherous thing, you can be doing all the right things and still end up in the ICU. However, I also know that as long as I’m allowed to live, I have to do the best I can with what I have, and sometimes I know I don’t do it, mostly because I have excuses but also because diabetes and recurrent depression are a shitty combination (pardon my French), and I guess I’m just coming to the realization that I’m not getting any younger.
I know that if my dad was still alive, he would be giving me all the support I need to manage this condition, not only because he had it but also because I know he loved me so very much. And that makes me feel like a big hypocrite sometimes when I purposely don’t take care of myself out of laziness, lack of motivation or simple diabetes burnout (OK, not so simple but you know what I mean). I do great for a few months, fall off the wagon, get back on again… It’s such a stupid roller-coaster. Sometimes I just don’t want to deal with it, or I think I can’t do it… so I think about my dad and what happened to him; how strong he was and the example of resilience and responsibility he always gave us.
The sad thing is that as I’m writing this post I still don’t know where to start to take the right road again, but I know I’ll figure it out. My dad is my guiding light and wherever he is right now I know he wouldn’t want me to go through these things without talking about them or ignoring them. I have his memory to honor.Read More
D-Blog Week 2013 – Day 6: I don’t paint, I don’t write poetry, I don’t play any music. I could sit and come up with something because I’m creative, but instead I have chosen to share a poem about resilience, the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like.
I believe we’re all resilient when living with a chronic condition. We get knocked down, we get back up and keep on going no matter what. Mostly because we have no choice, but also because it makes us stronger.
by William Ernest Henley (1849 – 1903)
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Listen to the poem on Classic Poetry Aloud.Read More
D-Blog Week 2013 – Day 5: Just like in the movie, today we’re doing a swap. If you could switch chronic diseases, which one would you choose to deal with instead of diabetes? And while we’re considering other chronic conditions, do you think your participation in the DOC has affected how you treat friends and acquaintances with other medical conditions?
This is a tough one. If I had the choice, I would prefer to have NO chronic condition. Mostly because the word chronic means it’s a pain in the butt you have to live with every single day and most likely has no cure. I thought about it, and the first thing that came to mind was hypothyroidism… but I already have that, got diagnosed when I was 17 and taking that little hormone pill in the morning doesn’t take much of an effort. But there’s not switching; instead I got lucky and got both. So no, I wouldn’t switch, nor I wish diabetes or a thyroid disease on anyone.
That being said, when you deal with a chronic condition and have the chance to share your experience and communicate with people who are going through something similar, I’m completely convinced that it makes you more compassionate. Being part of the DOC and interacting with other people who are dealing with diabetes has definitely made me more open, less judgmental, and more prone to walk in other people’s shoes. I’m less quick to anger when someone disagrees with me, and I understand we all have pain at different levels.
I’m the person who likes to help, I’m the person who wants to be there for a newly diagnosed patient, I’m the person who will never give anyone the pity look because I hate pity looks. I’m the person who will try to empower others and give them the tools they need, at least when it comes to sharing their story.
We all struggle daily but when we know exactly what that struggle is like, I believe it changes us in a positive way.Read More
D-Blog Week 2013 – Day 4: We don’t always realize it, but each one of us had come a long way since diabetes first came into our life. It doesn’t matter if it’s been 5 weeks, 5 years or 50 years, you’ve done something outstanding diabetes-wise. So today let’s share the greatest accomplishment you’ve made in terms of dealing with your (or your loved one’s) diabetes. No accomplishment is too big or too small – think about self-acceptance, something you’ve mastered, making a tough care decision, etc.
I think my biggest, most recent accomplishment is self-acceptance. I’ve spent most part of my life being extremely hard on myself, or letting other people’s opinion of me affect me. I’ve let it destroy part of who I am to the point that I let others convince me I had to be different in order to be happy.
Truth is, the moment I stopped and accepted myself with every single one of my flaws (physical and emotional) I finally understood that I don’t have to be different, or think differently, or change who I am or how I feel.
So what if I’m overweight? That’s up to me to deal with and change if I want it to change, not because of what others may think of me. The more people I meet, the more I realize they’re looking way beyond my extra pounds.
So what if I deal with depression and anxiety? I didn’t choose it, I do the best I can. I’ve been dealing with this since I was 19 and yet I’ve managed to live a normal life. People who have judged me or given up on me because of it were simply not strong enough… not as strong as I am.
So what if I have diabetes, hypothyroidism, PCOS and can’t conceive a child? Well, tough luck… but this is what I was given and I can’t let it keep me from being happy. This is me, this is my body, I do the best I can.
I could go on and on, but one thing I can say out loud is that I may not like myself every day of my life, but I certainly like myself way better than I used to. And that, for me, is my biggest accomplishment.Read More