I’ve always considered diabetes to be a solitary disease. Perhaps that’s my attitude because I’m a private person. You might not believe that, considering this blog. But, indeed, I’m just a shy Washington County guy.
My family, especially wife and daughters, keep alert to my sugar levels when they are around me. They observe my behavior and take action whenever I do something weird, become awkward or look or act crazy in a way that demands attention. That is when they give me a ready belt of sugar.
Wife Suellen often will ask whether my sugar is low when I’m acting strange, which is pretty much all the time, but not always due to low blood sugar. "So you need some sugar?" she will ask with her crinkled-lip scowl and serious stare-down.
And at work, coworkers unfortunate enough to have to sit near me are aware of my diabetes and readily l ask me if I’m OK when I don’t respond in a manner they are used to.
They, too, know when to retrieve some sugar. Sometimes they even offer me sugar when they think I’m getting shaky, when in fact I’m simply being my own version of normal.
Still, the daily routine of handling diabetes is an individual thing that requires one to stay attentive to sugar levels, alert to the time of day, ready to take action if the sugar climbs too high or dips too low, with plans to eat well ahead of the time when sugar levels become a crisis. A regular schedule is the best way to prevent sugar levels from plummeting unexpectedly.
Linda Siminerio, executive director of the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute, has been preaching the concept of team management for years, and it’s a grand concept. People with diabetes need family, friends, doctors, diabetes educators, pharmacists and a host of others familiar with diabetes to help keep things under control.
The team approach represents the new paradigm of management, and Dr. Siminerio has led that charge successfully. The world is following her lead. It works to the extent that one reacts more fervently, perhaps psychologically, when others are watching and taking note of your success of failures. Who wants to let down the team or disappoint those who care? The team concept does work, especially for those who have had trouble with control.
That said, I remain something of a diabetes loner and recluse. I enjoy discussing diabetes with others and gaining new insights. But most of what I’ve learned has come the hard way, through experience. I don’t advocate doing it alone. I do have help when needed. I do seek help when necessary. But 99 percent of the time, I take care of my diabetes on my own.
And, even with a team involved, diabetes mostly is a solitary gig. One has to take stock of one’s own health and know how best to manage it. Mistakes will be made. But when management is tight, and the person is dutiful and responsible, mistakes are few.
I think what Linda Siminerio and her crew do is amazing and necessary. They have taken great strides in developing a means whereby most people can find success in managing a difficult disease. Anybody who has even mild problems with control should follow the management approach. Improvements will follow. You can almost guarantee it.
And the team will be proud.
But just realize that no one will ever care as much about your health as you do.
For that reason, you must be responsible for your own health and diabetes. If you, as I, have chosen to live as long and healthy a life as possible, you must have discipline. You must exercise. You must eat a healthy diet. You must take your medications. You must test your blood sugar. Then, and this is the key, you must react to any test that is not in the healthy range by taking medications or insulin, exercising or, if the sugar is too low, consuming some carbohydrates immediately.
Medicine, and I don’t mean to sound harsh, ultimately cannot save you from diabetes complications. There are treatments to assist you with heart problems, amputations, blindness and kidney failure. But there never will be a way to fully undo the harm uncontrolled diabetes does to your body.
Don’t think doctors and medicine can correct a lifetime of mistakes. Doctors certainly will try, but life is fragile.
And when the years pass and you have experienced relative success in controlling your diabetes, you will have no regrets, or perhaps fewer regrets. Happiness is good health.
Those who ignore their diabetes and figure they will beat the odds, won’t. It’s that simple. Look in the mirror and say it. What likely will occur instead are horrid complications. When the complications happen, it’s not too late to take action to improve your diminished health, but it could be too late to restore it to normal. And it could be too late to prevent a domino effect of health consequences.
With my declining kidney function, I do regret my earlier years when I did not care for myself as closely as necessary or heed doctors’ advice soon enough to prevent further problems. I’m glad I eventually did get things under control. But I do wish I’d been more serious about my diabetes at an earlier age.
In truth, diabetes treats you as you treat yourself. If you mistreat your body, it will take advantage of your vulnerability and do you double harm. Diabetes does to bodies what demolish derbies do to jalopies.
But if you take care of your body, diabetes will take heed and be kind you, as well. In this dance of life, diabetes follows your lead.
Any questions before the quiz?