My diabetes story is a juxtaposition of two deadly diseases; the disease of diabetes and the disease of an eating disorder. I have struggled with an eating disorder since I was about thirteen years old. The fight for my life began on January 2, 2002.
I will never forget that day in January when my doctor called to tell me that I was a diabetic. He had received the results of my blood work before the New Year, but didn’t want to spoil my holiday. I was shocked and horrified because I had two grandmothers who died of complications of diabetes. I knew what this diagnosis meant. I knew that the disease affected virtually every organ in the body. According to one of the doctors I worked for, the disease of diabetes would age my organs by at least ten years.
When I hung up the phone, I began to cry. My husband asked me why I was crying. You see I had told him years ago that if I didn’t get my eating disorder under control, with a family history like mine, I would most likely become diabetic by the age of 50. At the time of my diagnosis I was 52. I was 52 years old with organs of a 62 year old.
The sad irony in this is story is that the diagnosis could have been avoided, or postponed for many years. As I know from having worked as a mammography technologist and breast health educator for many years; high risk does not necessarily equal a sure diagnosis. Life-style changes can indefinitely stave off some inherited diseases. Type II diabetes is one of them. Simple exercise by walking every day for at least fifteen minutes may have changed the course of my life regarding diabetes. Losing weight, planning better meals would have helped too. The onset of Type II diabetes unlike Type I is very dependent on lifestyle. However, once the line is crossed to the diagnosis of diabetes, one is forever a diabetic. It is possible to be an exercise and diet controlled diabetic eliminating the necessity for medication and shots. However, the individual would still be an exercise and diet controlled diabetic.
I once read that if one cannot set a good example, she must settle for being a horrible warning. This is a cautionary tale I offer today. If you have a family history of Type II diabetes and you are overweight with a sedentary lifestyle; you must make changes while there is still time. You do have significant control over the onset of the disease. If you are newly diagnosed with diabetes, don’t give up, you can make changes that will slow down the progression of the disease, as it does progress. It is possible to live out the rest of a natural lifetime without most of the complications of this dreaded disease. If you have an eating disorder and a family history of diabetes, seek help before you are diagnosed with it. I’ve received help from therapists, and participating in a study group facilitated by Yale New Haven’s Center for Eating Disorders. However, the best source for help by far, is finding a local meeting of Overeaters Anonymous. There you will find the tools for recovery from an eating disorder.
Diabetes is a progressive deadly disease if not treated properly. It does not have to mean a death sentence in this day and age however. Today’s medical world understands the disease much better, and there are great medications available to control it. A good doctor will monitor the patient closely and offer advice regarding precautions needed, and how to manage blood sugars. Through periodic blood work the patient will receive solid information on how they are succeeding with their diabetic management.
I wish I had taken control of my life and lifestyle before the diagnosis of diabetes. I wish I had the strength to exercise the knowledge I had available to me about diabetes long before I was diagnosed. Life doesn’t offer many do-over’s so I can’t change that I am now a diabetic. However, I still have the option of choosing to life with diabetes instead of dying from it.