Unless you really have not been paying attention you know that Paula Deen announced that she has Type 2 diabetes and that she will be a spokesperson for a new Diabetes drug. I’ve been reading the press and various blogs from the diabetes community, the health community, and registered dietitians. The responses range from enraged to providing a sensible view of what one really needs to do either to prevent diabetes (hopefully) or what to do if they are diagnosed. One of the most interesting posts I read was by Dr. David Katz about loving food that loves you back. He makes the point that food matters, that healthy diets matter, and that you can eat well without a pound of butter and a pint of sour cream. I have written about diabetes on my blog over the past year and would rather write about what I have been doing this week as well as my personal experiences than to write one more post against Paula Deen.
Mamma called it Sugar: My family history
When my mom was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the mid 1970s she referred to it as “sugar”. I don’t recall her talking about having diabetes as often as she would talk about her sugar. She believed, as many people still do, that eating too much sugar caused the disease. There are really many factors and complications associated with diabetes, however, and part of them are due to genetics. The American Diabetes Association website, along with sites at the CDC and places like the Mayo Clinic provide facts and myths about diabetes. If you don’t know the warning signs or want to know the facts about this disease, I suggest you look at one of these sites.
I have written elsewhere about my memories of the small bottles of insulin in the refrigerator and the boxes of needles. In college I took care of my mom through her battle with her foot and finally losing her leg due to the disease. She also had strokes and heart attacks which are often related to diabetes. It is a serious condition.
She wasn’t alone for long. Almost all of my aunts on both sides of my family were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Several in my generation have been diagnosed and deal with the disease. We know more now than we did in the 1970s and 1980s about how to treat it and about complications. My mother remains in everyone’s memories though.
I began monitoring my blood sugar levels in college and have been faithful about that ever since. Cleaning out a hole in someone’s foot has a lasting impact. I do not want to face what my mom faced. As you know I have battled with my weight much of my life. One of the many factors that has caused me to be vigilant this time is that I want to avoid diabetes if I can. I know that there are genetic factors that I may not be able to fight but I can and will do everything I can within my power to avoid hearing my doctor tell me that I have the disease.
Conversations about Education and Advocacy
My week has been full of conversations about education and advocacy surrounding diabetes. I have been fortunate to attend two very good meetings with people who are passionate about doing everything we can to educate people about the disease and to try to end it. I have also had a number of conversations with people I know about the disease and the impact of it.
Earlier this week I attended the first meeting of the UA Diabetes Team. A number of us have talked over the past 6 months or so but this was the first formal meeting. There are a number of initiatives on campus to help people learn about what to do if they are pre-diabetic or if they have been diagnosed with diabetes. We discussed ways to educate people and how to develop training. Two students are leading an initiative that will take education to the Black Belt area. A lunch and learn program is being planned for March 27, ADA’s Diabetes Alert Day.
On Thursday I attended a board retreat for the Alabama/Mississippi ADA Community Leadership Board. It was four hours of intense discussion about what we can do in Alabama and Mississippi. We learned about advocacy initiatives, education programs, talked about public relations, mission and how to raise funds needed for research and programs. I left tired but also energized for the work we have to do.
Safe at School is one of the many important advocacy issues the ADA works on. Parents and children need to know that they can receive the care they need when they are at school or participating in extracurricular activities. This initiative points out that care is a team effort that requires trained personnel and school nurses as well as the parents and child.
One of our signature events for fundraising is May 12, 2012 at St. Vincent’s 119. The Tour de Cure is a cycling event to bring attention to diabetes and to raise funds. I am the co-captain of Team Red Alabama this year. You can join the team or donate to the team by clicking on the link or you can donate to me if you want to here. I will be riding one way or another since there are options to ride on a spin bike this year as well as outside. Team Red is for anyone with diabetes or anyone who cares about diabetes – in other words, anyone can join Team Red Alabama. I am also working on an event that will be held in Tuscaloosa before the ride. A Spin-a-thon will be held on Saturday, March 31 at the UA Rec Center. I’ll be posting more details about it soon. I’ll be working with others to recruit 100 people to keep 20 bikes spinning for 5 hours. Come join the fun.
I also had conversations with a few people this week about the difficulties of raising money right now and specifically about the difficulty of raising money for some causes. I sat with another person and talked about the number of people we know who are diabetic. The list was long – too long. Diabetes is not a disease that people necessarily talk about for many reasons. It is something that you live with every day though. Insulin has to be monitored. Attention must be paid to wounds in a different way than for most people. Diet and exercise are obviously factors as well.
One reason that I am pursuing an M.A. in Health Studies is because of my interest in education and advocacy issues related to diabetes. I hope that I will be able to make some kind of difference.
And I will use those Paula Deen pans that arrived earlier this week to cook healthy meals.