Category Archives: Other Diabetics

#BusTales

Yes, it’s a hashtag. I created it because I wanted to talk and document my time on the bus since I take the number nine to and from work every day. Depending on the time of day I get to see kids, parents, workers, students, hipsters. You name it and I see it all on that ride from Fullerton to 21st street every day.

This was a different day, though. The day that this story takes place was a different day. I was on the bus, starving and tired and I sat in the middle of the bus while on the phone. When I hung up, I look over to see a man who didn’t smell to nice and so I leaned my head against the cold glass of the window and decided that through all the bumps and potholes, I was going to try to take a nap. I was on my way to my parents’ house and had farther to go.

I awoke to hear two women talking. The Ashland bus ride is always interesting and you never quite know that if the two Mexican women you see talking actually know each other. And I had no idea if they knew each other. But one woman sat down next to me, while the other was standing over her, a little younger, in the crowded bus. They spoke in Spanish, discussing (but kind of more complaining) about the cold, talking about the ride home and then some. The woman who was sitting next to me says that she had a doctor’s appointment at noon that day. Noon. And she was just going home from that now. Noon. It had to be a clinic, I thought. And so far from her home, too.

Me, the eavesdropper, kept listening. I was now sitting up right, instead of leaning over on the window. The woman standing up asked what she went to the doctor for and the older woman said, “Pues, todo” meaning “Well, everything.” She explained that she had diabetes and that her husband did, too. The woman standing up she was also diabetic. This was around 5:30. How do I know? I tweeted about it. Yes, ma’am, I tweeted this conversation.

@kikisbetes: Lady on the bus just said she’s had #diabetes for over 20 yrs and until now is controlling it. Her #a1c was at 11.

So that was the first tweet. The woman who said that was the one standing up, who was a bit younger than the woman sitting down, like I said. She has had diabetes for over 20 years and also had siblings who died from it. I always find a problem in the way people say, “They died from diabetes.” No one really DIES from diabetes. It’s the same as if you had said, “He died from AIDS.” You don’t die from the diseases, you die because of the complications that come with having them.

Anyway, she said that she had never controlled it until now and was taking insulin shots. Her A1c was at 11. By the way, that was the first time I had heard any person not in a doctor’s office, not a doctor or a nurse, say out loud “A1c.” It was kind of weird, but at the same time, awesome because this person was taking the time to educate herself. She continued to talk about how she was taking over 60 units of insulin to keep her controlled. She was telling the older person that it was important to take care of herself because then  it would start to affect her kidneys, her eyes. I thought to myself, ‘Either someone got to her or she found a good doctor.’

The woman who was standing got off at 18th and Ashland. During that time, I had tweeted some more.

@kikisbetes: The first lady said her 3 siblings died from #diabetes related issues. Should I say something??
@kikisbetes: The other lady said she’s had it for less time and it’s already affecting her eyes. #diabetes #bustales
@kikisbetes: They are sad because they say there’s nothing to help. Little do they know. #diabetes

When the woman standing up left, I thought, ‘How do I say something to this woman? What do I say?’ So I had this genius idea. I pulled out my glucose meter and I checked myself. I was feeling kind of weird any way and she looks over and says, “Mira! Tu ta mbien tienes diabetes! Y tan joven!” Look! You have diabetes too! And you’re so young. I started explaining my situation to her. I was diagnosed at 7, I have type 1 not type 2 and I’ve learned to live with it.

She understood. She started telling me about her husband who is going blind because he didn’t control his diabetes. I told her about my grandma who, by taking care of herself, put her diabetes into remission. I told her about my cousin, answered her questions as to how we got it so young and gave her tips on what to eat to improve her diet. “It’s that it’s just so hard,” she said to me. I told her, you must have the will. She understood exactly what she needed to do but also understood her own psychology behind it. “Es que la gente come y no piensa. Luego cuando pasa algo asi, no saben como cambiar para cuidarse,” she said. It’s that people just eat without thinking. Then something like this happens and no one knows what to do to take care of themselves.

She explained to me that she started feeling shaky at 100. I told her to hang on and deal with the uncomfortable feelings. She said that her vision changed and I told her to keep her blood sugars down. I asked her if she had kids and she said, of course, going on to tell me about her children and grandchildren. I found out she lived on the far south side and didn’t want to bother her daughter, who has a newborn and another child, to take her to the clinic. “Alone, I go at a calmer pace and I don’t mind.”

I told her to tell her kids to look things up for her online. There are so many resources for diabetes, especially since so many people have it now. The CDC just released information saying that three million more people have diabetes now since 2008 and the amount of pre-diabetics has risen 22 million people. Now there are 79 million pre-diabetics. That’s insane.

When I was talking to this woman, I completely sat past my stop for about 15 extra blocks. I tried to tell her what to do to improve herself, obviously nothing a doctor could tell her. The amazing thing is, for those 26+ million Americans who are diabetic, you’re telling me that all of them have insurance? All of them are taking care of themselves? Impossible.

There are people like this woman who don’t know what to do and it’s not because they don’t care to know, it’s because they’re scared and don’t know where to turn. And the funny thing is that I thought to myself, “Come on, you’re Mexican. Eat like you did in Mexico.” Then I stopped myself and thought, well, that’s probably what she has been doing and that’s exactly what’s hurting her.

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Filed under Culture, Food, Health, Latinos, Other Diabetics, Stories

[VIDEO] Charlie the Unicorn: Resist the Candy!

Watch this video. As simplistic as it is, there are many parallels with being diabetic. If you give in to the Candy Mountain, you most likely will lose a kidney. Be like Charlie was at the beginning and resist the whole way through!

Thanks, B, for this video!

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Filed under Diabetes, Food, Health, Other Diabetics, Stories

Goals for the New Year

I refuse to call it a resolution. Bottom line.

Last night, I had the pleasure to be part of a podcast conversation with Gozamos, an online cultural magazine. I was asked to talk about Diabetes from a personal and cultural perspective. It was exciting and at the same time made me nervous because I had never really openly spoke to an “audience” about my diabetes before. I suppose I write, but that’s different than people seeing me and my face and hearing my voice, get me? I’m used to speaking to people one-on-one about particular questions they may have, but as far as telling people my story, well, that can get a little hard.

Anyway, I’ve agreed to join Gozamos in their diabetes and nutrition efforts by writing a column for them about nutrition and a variety of other aspects to the diabetic lifestyle. I’m very excited and looking forward to getting more awareness out there about a problem that affects such a large segment of the Latino and general population.

So let’s go back to my goal for 2011, that which I refuse to call a resolution. Let’s take a little history lesson in Christina’s life. When I was diagnosed with having diabetes at the age of 7, they performed a test on me called the Hemoglobin A1c test, which is an average of your blood sugars over a three-month span. A normally functioning person has an A1c at about 6 or lower. If you have an A1c over 6.5, it’s a reason to be concerned.

At the age of 7, my HbA1c was a 10. Yeah, exactly. I was definitely diabetic. Ha! (I really just laughed at that.) As I aged, I also became more wise about myself and kept my A1c controlled as best as I knew how. In high school and most of college I kept it at an 8 and when I met my doctor and educator at Northwestern I dropped it to a 7. I was so happy to have it down to an almost normal number! The last one I had done, last year, was a 7.4. A tad bit of fluctuation but nothing terrible. I’m up for another one this month. I know it probably will still be around a 7, which is fine by me. But my goals for this are changing.

I hear about people who have an A1c of a 6 or even better and they’re diabetic. I want that. I want to get mine down to a 6 and have complete control. I want to do it without having to work out like a maniac and without having to eat only grass. I have always known how to count my carbs and watch what I eat and all that, but now with the pump (a very useful tool in creating the perfect “normal” bodily conditions) I can actually get myself down to a 6; maybe even a 5.9!

I’m not going on a diet, I’m furthering my diabetic education.

But be careful when looking at A1cs: They’re tricky. As I talked to Luz, the Tu Cultura editor for Gozamos, after the conversation for the podcast, I explained how the A1c is an average. That’s the key word. The goal for diabetics is to keep your blood sugars at a normal, even level. If your blood sugar is always around 100-110, you’ll have a great average reading. But, for you mathematicians, you can get the same readings if you have a level in the 300 and then have some in the 50s. You can’t do that. First of all, the normal level for any human is to keep blood sugars between 70-120. If you drop (“getting the shakes,” which happens sometimes) to anything below 65, it takes a full 24 hours for your body to recover and come back to a normal state. Your body goes through a lot in that time period. Sometimes I wake up with blood sugars in the 40s in the middle of the night. I eat something and go back to sleep, only waking up extra tired in the morning. My body feels weak and unstable and it isn’t until that same night that I feel remotely normal.

There was a doctor who was also a Type 1 diabetic. She was also a speaker and educator. At a conference she spoke about managing her blood sugars and having a very good A1c reading. That night, she went to bed and didn’t wake up. Unbeknown to anyone around her, her A1c was good because she kept them at a dangerously low level. She passed away because her blood sugar dropped so low that she didn’t feel it.

Thank God, I feel it. When I drop in to the 50s, I feel it. When I drop to even just the 60s I feel weird and at night, my body wakes me up because it knows that something’s wrong. This is because I try to keep my blood sugar in the 90s and 100s which is normal. As soon as it goes above those points, I start feeling different symptoms and everyone is different.

This woman, who kept her blood sugar readings so low, didn’t feel the drastic drop because to her body, it was normal. This is why it’s important to “train” your body and keep it as regulated and moderated as possible; “normal” if you will.

A friend of mine told me that her mother who is a Type 2 diabetic has two eyeglass prescriptions because depending on where her blood sugar is, her vision shifts. This is also as a result of not taking care of herself. She is also having other health problems, of which include her kidneys. All of this could be prevented if she just managed her blood sugar.

There are times like those when I wish I could have a conversation with people, especially when they feel there is nothing they can do or don’t want to do. Living with Diabetes is NOT impossible. I’m living proof as well as so many other thousands of people out there.

In the end, it all sounds easier than it actually is, but I plan on getting that A1c down by doing it the right way. I’m totally excited about it!

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me in one of many forms! Leave a comment, email me at kikisbetes@gmail.com or follow me at @kikisbetes and DM or @ me there!

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Filed under Complications, Culture, Diabetes, Doctors, Health, Latinos, Other Diabetics, Personal, Stories

Ron Santo, 1940-2010

Ron Santo in 1971. By Robert H. Houston, AP.

I never minded missing a Cubs game. It’s not because they typically lost, nor was it because baseball is boring, but I knew that I could always catch it on the radio. With Pat Hughes and Ron Santo, nothing was boring during a Cubs game, win or lose. With every grounder, run scored or swing and a miss, Santo’s emotions ran high and the man always wore his heart on his sleeve.

Just listening to him, you always felt his love for baseball. After 14 years with the Cubs between 1960 and 1973 out of a 15 year career, his heart could only settle in one place. I remember the first time I was introduced to Ron Santo. My mom said to me, finding the only connection she could at the moment, “He was like my Scottie Pippen.” One day before a Cubs game, we were sitting in the stands in the upper decks watching as ground crews were preparing the field and Cubs players were stretching. A man, with his jacket on his arm stood near the rail watching. My mom, sitting next to me, freaked out. “That’s Ron Santo!” she said. “Come with me to go get his autograph.” She was as giddy as a school girl. I didn’t want to go because at the time, I didn’t care to know him. She took my sister with her instead. I watched as my mom, red in the face, laughed and introduced my sister to him. She was on a high for the rest of the game.

I didn’t know he had diabetes until after those foundational moments of learning about his superb baseball career and finding out that he hated the Mets after 1969 just as much as my mother did. I was watching a documentary about Santo and his life-long challenges of having diabetes. I found out that he was diagnosed at 18 a time where glucometers weren’t available in surplus like they are today and figuring out whether he should eat or not was solely based on how he felt. While playing baseball, his teammates didn’t know he had diabetes until three years after he started playing. When it came to the public, no one knew until years after his career.

I will never forget one story that he told. He was on deck and started to feel his blood sugar go down. Apparently it was dropping pretty quickly because he was seeing double. When he got up to bat, he said he saw three pitchers, stacked one on top of the other about to throw the ball. He didn’t know which one was real, so he decided to just aim for the middle one coming at him. When the pitch was released, Santo sailed it into the bleachers for a homerun. After running around the bases, he sat in the dugout and ate a candy bar.

After his baseball career, Santo raised millions of dollars for diabetes research. His incentive to fight the disease was to be a big league ball player, which he eventually did. When he was diagnosed, he had no idea what diabetes was. In a Chicago Sun-Times interview, he said that he went to look it up at the library and it said that life expectancy was only 25 years, with the chance of multiple complications including kidney failure, hardening of the arteries and blindness. Although Santo did endure heart attacks, eye surgery and eventually leg amputations in 2001 and 2002, the fact that he got to play baseball, becoming one of the most memorable players is a feat in itself.

After I saw that documentary and did a bit of research, Ron Santo became somewhat of my diabetic hero. I wanted to get involved and take an active part in helping raise money, or something along those lines. Firstly, though, I wanted to start taking better care of myself because of everything he had said. Santo didn’t start taking insulin until two years after he was diagnosed. He didn’t have the every day medication or ability to monitor his blood sugar (a vital role in controlling diabetes). Regardless of what he actually died from, his diabetic complications and his survival through all of them is something to admire. He credits baseball for his longer life, saying that without being a Cubs announcer he may not have lived as long as he did. Because I do have all of these resources, I have to take advantage of them. That, and my education.

In any case, I admired the man Ron Santo was and the fact that he built bridges with fans, wore his heart for the Cubs on his sleeve and spoke out for a diabetic cure has made him one of Chicago’s most noted and loved public figures. If they induct him into the Hall of Fame, it won’t be worth as much as he made being a Cubbie. He really held the Cubs community together. Ron, you will be sorely missed.

Three cheers for Ron Santo!

Information was taken from CBSSports.com and The New York Times.

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Filed under Complications, Diabetes, Health, Other Diabetics, Stories

It’s more than super-sized margaritas and tres leches cake

I was approached by a reader a few weeks ago who told me that she would like for her story to be told. After glancing over her story the first time, it seemed that her story was very interesting and well put. She was a very cautious person when it came to her health because her mother was Type 1 diabetic.

It seemed to me that this woman was bitter at the fact that gangrene had infected her mother’s toe and eventually caused her death. Although this woman blamed it on diabetes, it was also caused because it wasn’t found in time. Her mother didn’t go to the doctor for it; at least, she didn’t mention that in the story.

So since then, this woman has taken excellent care of herself. She had check ups all the time and eventually tested her A1c level, which was that blood test I mentioned before, which gives a broader scope of how well an individual was dealing with their diabetes. Because her doctor was not satisfied with the results (this woman did not mention what they were) she was pinned as being pre-diabetic. This just means that you’re prone to it. So, even after this woman had been taking care of herself her entire life, she was still on the path to possibly having diabetes.

So, after reading this, I thought, what an interesting story. Sure, I’ll post this. Then she revised it saying that the new one may “work better for me.” After reading it, I found that she decided to be a little more savvy about Latinos and diabetes by writing this:

“Hispanics are twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites, partially due to cultural associations with foods, beverages, and mealtimes. Despite stats that say Hispanic female heads of households are more conscientious about calories and nutrition than non-Hispanics, the majority are in total disregard, drinking super-sized margaritas, beers, turkey legs or fritanga and topping it off with tres leches. As a result, obesity is rampant in the Hispanic community, and Type 2 diabetes is hitting children like never before.”

Now, mind you, I agree with the parts about diabetes being a silent killer among the Latino community. I agree that obesity is a problem as well, but I don’t agree with her reasoning as to why. In fact, it was stereotypical and uncalled for, something that I told her in an email. I also mentioned that for being a diabetic advocate, her reasoning as to why Latinos were prone to diabetes was not good.

She claims that she lived and own a tapas bar in South America and she works with LULAC and other Latino organizations, but why did she feel this generalized section about Latinos was necessary? In a way, this just shows what kind of people are marketing to diabetics and the Latino community– people that don’t understand us. Just because you lived in South America and owned a tapas bar, doesn’t make you an expert at Latino culture, just as a visitor.

Diabetes is huge among all people of color and across the entire United States. Latinos have reasons besides super-sized margaritas to explain why diabetes is emerging in many members of the community.

Let’s take a step back and look at the reasoning why.

1. Latinos in their home countries are accustomed to eating healthier foods. This means fresh and not full of chemicals, like preservatives and hormones. They go to the market every day and in fact probably ate organically in their Latin American country.

2. When Latinos come to the United States, they eat the same way. They don’t think about nutritional facts, just wants going to connect them to home, to their roots. This is why 1 in 3 people in the Puerto Rican community are now Type 2 diabetic. In Puerto Rico, everything is fried. Here, there are differences in the food they’re frying and the kind of oil they are using. In Mexico, people eat a lot of beans but they’re not re-fried and they don’t come in a can. Here, we have to resort to cans because who has time to cook beans on a weekday? Seriously, if you have cooked beans you know it takes forever and a day. It’s a cultural difference.

3. Another cultural difference is work. Back “home,” wherever that may be, many people do laborious work. They are out in fields, they walk everywhere, they “work out” because it’s a way of life. Here, we sit in offices and stare at computer screens. This is a big reason why Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance results in people of color. Our bodies are not used to working with so much insulin that our body creates due to what we eat, especially because our food and caloric intake was lower and burned off at a higher rate through all the movement and exercise that was being done. Even if you were born here, your body hasn’t evolved past that of your current ancestors (i.e. your grandparents or great-grandparents)

4. Change of lifestyle is hard. When people come to one country from another, that’s hard. Then you tell them to stay away from what they know because it could cause them harm. That’s harder. But it doesn’t excuse people who have been here longer. They have to learn about what’s going on in their bodies and how to stay healthy. Like ALL Americans, Latinos are getting lazy. A trait gained from the NEW, not old, culture.

5. People choose to disregard their diabetes because they think they’re supposed to die of something and it’s not old age and JUST old age. See, in the Latino community, I’m sorry to say it, but many people are morbid. They think about all of the bad things that have happened and what will happen. They also feel invincible at times. To hear that they have diabetes, they think it’s a disease that they’re supposed to die from. They’re not educated properly about how to take care of themselves, just because they don’t know where to go.

There are a lot of cultural reasons as to why Latinos have diabetes and these are only a few. This woman who made generalizations about the entire community, was obviously not educated on these reasons herself. She represents those people out there who don’t know the reason behind different cultures besides their own and decide to blame cultures and races for their own misfortunes.

Although I thought she was on the right track with educating us about herself and her story, I was obviously wrong and do not plan to promote any generalizations or stereotypes about my own culture.

Sincerely,

Your Loyal Latina.

Update: She emailed me back and clarified the fact that she was speaking strictly about San Antonio, noting that in Mexico and South America, they ate very healthily. I would like to hear back from readers as to what your thoughts are.

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Filed under Culture, Diabetes, Doctors, Food, Health, Latinos, Other Diabetics, Personal, Stories

The Support That Pulls Through

Ever try to go on a diet but no one in the house understands and continues to buy cookies and candy, not caring that you’re attempting to stick to your salads and lean meats? Living in a household with more people than just yourself can make dieting kind of hard. When you’re diagnosed with diabetes, of whatever type, multiply that need for support times 10.

A lot of times it’s hard to keep having to explain yourself to other people, especially when you’re learning how your own body needs to improve and function properly to stay healthy. Diabetes is a lifestyle change that many people don’t like to go through, especially Latinos. It bothers me sometimes that many Latinos just want to give up because they think they’re supposed to die from it. I’m Latina and I’m here to tell you it’s not TRUE!

I met someone last year who was diagnosed with Type II diabetes; a Latino. He emailed me to ask what he should do. Get to a doctor, I told him, but firstly, you have to stay away from anything with unnatural or processed sugar. No more pop, no more fast food. Stick to natural and healthy. I gave him a few more pointers since he admitted to me that he never exactly lived a healthy lifestyle and he didn’t know where to begin.

A few months later, he walked into the office where I worked. He had lost about 20 pounds and rejected a sugary drink. “I’m trying to stay away from the sugary stuff now,” he said. I was proud of him for actually taking the initiative to improve his health.

When you have a team of support behind you, you work harder to improve your life. Learning about the consequences if you don’t take care of yourself, like heart attacks, strokes, amputations, blindness, sores and death, may also scare you into your lifestyle change. Whichever works, do it. I say, find that support system.

When you buy food at the grocery store, you don’t have to completely stay away from sugar, just find a balance and choose  wisely. Nutritional Facts on the back of the packages is a good place to start! Finding cereal with whole grain, a lot of fiber and little sugar is better than Frosted Flakes. Now, they sell juice with 50 percent less sugar than regular cartons. When looking for bread, find high fiber, whole wheat bread because fiber actual helps maintain your blood sugar levels. Stay away from consistent red meat and make sure to eat chicken and turkey and fish. Get your family away from high sugar intake. It’s bad for your teeth and just doesn’t make your body feel good. Eat more fresh fruits with natural sugar (which is digested faster) and better for your body. Eat green vegetables. If you grill bell peppers, their sweetness comes out and are delicious. And remember, organic should be your way to go.

As a kid, I didn’t have a choice. I found out I was diabetic when my mom had me checking my blood sugar the required three times a day. “Am I going to have to do this for the rest of my life?” I asked as she pricked my finger. Yes, she told me. That’s when I knew.  A few weeks later they put me in the hospital for four days to monitor my insulin treatment, making sure my body wouldn’t reject the hormone and the dosages were correct.

My mother went through a depression I had never seen before. The fact that her first-born had an illness no one knew anything about was hard for her. How was she going to deal with it? Was it her fault?

I’m not going to lie, I was a fat kid. But at the same time, diabetes starts even before anyone can notice it and by the time any effects are seen, 90 percent of the insulin-making cells have been destroyed. So, it was in my body for long before I was diagnosed.

In order to treat it the best way they knew how (they being the doctors), I had to be on a very strict diet. I had two pieces of toast in the morning with a half cup of orange juice. For lunch I had a sandwich and milk. Everything was accounted for because I was on a consistent dose of insulin and I had to eat or else my sugar would drop. I lost a lot of weight and was attempting to control my diabetes. But I forgot to mention the naturalezas that my grandmother was convinced would cure me! I had concoctions that tasted like grass and plants. I swallowed garlic whole and ate some other things that people would give me. I drank holy water, rubbed holy oil all over my body and they prayed, but nada.

Anyway, at that point, it wasn’t just me that needed support, but my mother did, too. One thing I forgot to mention is that my cousin, who lived three blocks away, was also diagnosed six months before I was. So my aunt was in the same boat as my mother, although she didn’t take it so hard. Both my mom and aunt sought out support groups from the hospital my cousin and I went to. We too, were also in support groups for kids. Some kids would come in and still be healing from the repercussions of diabetes and had to carry along their IV bags and were in robes. Like my cousin, many kids and young adults find out they’re diabetic because they get flu-like symptoms due to hyperglycemia (when your blood sugar is way too high). My cousin was vomiting, peeing every five minutes, his breath smelled of candy (because of the sugar), he slept all the time until finally, they didn’t know what else to do besides check him in.  I was lucky enough that I didn’t go through that. They caught it early in me.

Here’s an interesting fact: Back in the day, like 6th Century BC, they tested you for diabetes by seeing if ants were attracted to your urine. Ants are attracted to sugar, therefore, if ants were attracted to the urine, there was sugar in it and hence you had a problem. This technique was used by the ancient Indians who called it the “sweet urine disease.”

So at the support groups we got coloring books and talked about school. “What would you tell someone if they said they didn’t like you because you’re diabetic?” asked the doctor. I answered that assuredly with, “It’s their problem. I can’t get rid of it and if you don’t like me for that reason, that’s not my fault.” Sounds like me, doesn’t it?

My mom and aunt went to parent support groups and learned a lot about what happens within the body. My mom has since become a medical nut. She’s not a nurse or anything but because of taking care of me and my grandmother, she’s seen more than her fair share of doctors.

Then there are people like the rest of my family who have gotten used to me drinking Diet Cokes, not having too much candy or sugar and are always asking if I’m taking care of myself. They support my healthy choices. Since I’m always around them,  they know that me checking myself and taking a shot is normal. That’s normal.

And of course, my boyfriend. He’s learning more and more by being with me. He yells at me when my sugar drops and I don’t have any candy, he makes sure I check myself when I have to and I eat when I have to and he goes with me to see nutritional specialists and my endocrinologist because he wants to learn. He wants to know how he can support me to make this easier.

When faced with diabetes diagnosis, don’t go through it alone. Doctor Enrique Caballero, MD, from the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard, told me that most people with diabetes are healthier than “normal” people. Everyone wants to be a little bit healthier now a days. So grab a partner. If it’s your aunt, cousin, sister, best friend or parent, there will always be someone to get in on the fight with you. One thing they do out at Joslin is acknowledge people who have been living with diabetes for 25, 50 and 75 years. So if you could have a gold star for making it that long, which one would be your goal?

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Filed under Diabetes, Doctors, Food, Health, Other Diabetics, Personal, Stories

I Get The Shakes

When I was working on a story for Cafe magazine about Type II diabetes. Just so everyone knows, Type II and Type I are different. In Type I, the pancreas no longer secretes insulin. In Type II, the cells inside the body are resistant to insulin that is secreted by the pancreas. The consequences and effects are the same for both, though, although the causes are not.

Moving on. I interviewed this man who was going blind because he didn’t take care of himself. The build up of sugar in the system doesn’t have to just affect the feet and heart like you hear a lot about, it can affect anything. He stopped taking his medication after a while for multiple reasons. 1. He had a pact with God and if he was supposed to have this disease, and he was supposed to die from it, so be it. This is a very Latino way of thinking, by the way. 2. He didn’t trust the doctors because they continued to mix and switch up the pills he was taking. He thought they were going to kill him. 3. He felt like he had everything under control.

So, when you have high blood sugar, your body gets used to it and learns to function as is. As a Type I or Type II diabetic, the number one symptom is abnormally high blood sugar. Normally, someone’s blood sugar should be between 70-120. As a diabetic who isn’t taking care of  themselves, this can shoot up to 500 and some people have been recorded at 900. That’s dangerously high. Imagine someone functioning normally at 300. When that person takes their medication, it brings it down to a normal number. When this happens in the body, it’s a lot of stress and it makes the body shake, sweat and feel faint.

This man would take his medication, come down to a semi-normal level, “get the shakes” and eat a candy bar. See, the way one doctor put it, it’s scary and any non-diabetic would never understand how scary it is to have your blood sugar drop. It’s also easier to die from low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) than it is to die from high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). Here’s something else for you to chew on: When your blood sugar drops and you “get the shakes,” it takes your body 24 hours to normalize. When someone’s blood sugar drops, they “go low,” then if they do what he does, the blood sugar “shoots up.” Can you imagine how your body feels after something like that, being thrown around? Your blood sugars on a graph would look like a peaked mountain.

Because of the shakes, he stopped taking his meds. Let’s throw some numbers out there. If he was at 400, then came down to 150 with the medicine, he gets the shakes and eats a candy bar shooting him back up to possibly even 500 where his body “feels” normal.  What would he have to do to actually normalize the blood sugar? Deal with the shakes and shivers.

I sat there with him and asked him a few questions. Do you check your blood sugar? Sometimes. If anything, this is the main way of controlling diabetes. The answer should be all the time. Do you go to the doctor? Sometimes. He couldn’t find anyone who “knew what they were doing.” Do you take your medicine? Sometimes. He would forget, not take it and it would just keep going like that. As I left his house, I hoped that he had learned something from what I told him. He told me that I should keep on with what I’m doing because it seems like I know how to take care of myself. I assured him that I would.

I still get the shakes sometimes. This could be caused by taking too much insulin (one unit can be too much), doing too much exercise (but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t) or not eating enough (which doesn’t normally happen anymore). My body recognizes my low blood sugars as much as it recognizes the high ones. With low blood sugars I sweat, shake and sometimes feel faint. With high blood sugars, I pee a lot, get bad headaches and feel tired. If I ever feel any of these symptoms, the first thing I do is check my blood sugar. At night, if my blood sugar drops, I can’t sleep. I wake up and as soon as I start moving, I get a cold sweat and start dripping. It’s crazy. But as soon as I feel that, I run to check myself and drink milk or juice.

Another thing diabetics don’t realize is that it doesn’t take much to get your blood sugar back up. You don’t need a candy bar. You need juice, milk or a piece of bread with peanut butter. As soon as something is placed in the mouth, you’re good. My grandmother felt terrible one day after a nap. When we checked her blood sugar, it was 49, which is drastic. My aunts didn’t freak out because I was there. I gave her juice and had her drink it before moving. As she walked from one chair to another, she said, I still feel it. My aunts wanted to give her more. She didn’t need anymore because it was going to take at least 10-15 minutes for the juice and sugar to hit the blood stream. After a few minutes, she felt fine. “Thank God you were here. You’re the expert,” said one of my aunts. Not because I want to be, I said, but because I have to be.

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