“More than half of all Americans may develop diabetes or pre-diabetes by 2020, unless prevention strategies aimed at weight loss and increased physical activity are widely implemented, according to a new analysis. Diabetes is an epidemic, ” according to Denise Mann in WebMD Health News.
At 14 months old, the doctor told my parents that the disease would ultimately take my life. The doctor motioned my father into the hallway of the hospital in Bastrop, Louisiana. He confided that the data for Type I diabetics was not promising. With good care, he felt complications from my disease would likely end my life at 25 years old. Before this time, I would likely lose vision, have fingers and toes removed and experience reduced kidney function before ultimately succumbing to the disease. Not the words of encouragement that a loving parent wanted to hear.
If you, a friend or family member is diagnosed diabetic, take heart. I am now living my 41st year. My success as a diabetic has given me perspective that most diabetics and their advocates could benefit from. I am still appalled that medical professionals continue to use the approach I described in introducing the disease to new Type I and II diabetics. What the doctor told my parents on that day still comes to fruition in too many of the millions of diabetic lives in the United States and across the world.
In becoming a diabetic, most people are understandably overwhelmed by change. Parents, friends and people close to a new diabetic can be consumed by the changes the disease creates. In my experience, many are never able to move beyond this initial fear. Far too many resolve themselves to the “facts” that are presented by well-meaning medical professionals, family and friends. The truth is 7% of the population is diagnosed diabetic, or, approximately 24 million in the US.
Many know diabetics and may not realize it. Diabetics like most with a disability are hesitant to self disclose. However, numerous seem to know a diabetic and more share the negative experiences the disease creates in these associates, friends or families lives. Without an understanding mindset to weigh this negative information against, countless new diabetics become stagnant in the life they believe is possible. Further, far too many diabetics believe only a limited and controlled existence can be obtained as a diabetic.
I take personal responsibility to provide the people I come into contact with experiences they can pass along to other diabetics. I strive to be the one diabetic people remember that lived a life so fully that they ultimately have to question what I know and they don’t. The reality is I don’t know more than the next person. However, I have a reason in my disease to pour all of my energy into not allowing the disease to steal from me the moments and experiences we all treasure in life. Life is worth fighting for.
My experience and research has taught me that the majority of diabetics do not lead the disciplined diabetic life that I espouse to. I have learned to find what works in my diabetic life and stick with it. In my life, I choose to carefully weigh decisions and new information about diabetes before putting these ideas to work. My approach is spawned from a mindset that comes from resistance to completely accept what well meaning people present as “fact”. The key is adapting the information to my life while not allowing the information to weigh on my life.
The skills I’ve learned and created to drive my success come from the path my parents learned and instilled in me from the beginning. My path started with loving parents not willing to accept conventional wisdom. To them, knowledge was power. My parents threw their energies into educating themselves on every topic available related to diabetes, diet, exercise, drugs, research and possible cures. From this arsenal they decided to raise me as a normal child. The path my parents created for me was designed to instill in me the confidence to make decisions for myself.
The first decision a diabetic must make is to take responsibility. This is not easy to accomplish. Like many, I can become tired. Honestly, fighting for your life on a daily basis is exhausting. However, once a resolute decision is made, positive changes begin to compound in the life of the diabetic. The list of “facts” that diabetics are expected to comply with is extensive. I have discovered careful research into each of the “facts” pays dividends. I have established that many of these “facts” are described in a way that makes new diabetics feel as if their lives are not worth the effort required to change. Fear of change is the real culprit.
A resolute acceptance of the responsibility diabetes presents is the defining principle one must make. The benefit of this decision is that the “facts” are not as resolute as presented. Disciplined diabetics will discover that all things are possible in life, to the chagrin of the unknowing public. Diabetic success, like life, is when opportunity meets preparation. Have faith in the darkest diabetic hours that with resolute decision to take responsibility, coupled with thoughtful preparation, the opportunity of life will abound.
Trey Stephens is a diabetes advocate who blogs at Outlaw Diabetic.
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