Looking on the bright side

During November, Diabetes Awareness Month, I pay extra attention to that illness.
Consequently, I called my cousin-in-law, Max, at his Florida retreat. (Is that what you call someone married to your cousin?) Anyway, I phoned him soon after learning that his doctor had diagnosed diabetes. After the initial exchange of, “Hello” and “How-are-you?” I congratulated him on his new illness and told him how lucky he was to have it.
I think I heard his jaw drop open. I know he sucked in a breath before saying, “Lucky?”
Before he could get mad at me, I began to explain. I told him that with help and advice he’ll be able to control diabetes. I pointed out that a diagnosis of cancer with only weeks to live would have caused him much more grief. Or he might have had a major heart attack. In fact I can think of a dozen illnesses men and women in their 70s get that have outcomes much more drastic than diabetes. “Indeed, you and I are most fortunate,” I said.
The phone went silent for a long moment, before he said, “I hear you. You make a good point.”
Then I said, “But that isn’t all. A diagnosis of diabetes has a positive side. Now you’ll pay more attention to your health and your doctor’s instructions. Yes, and you will learn to eat better, increase your level of exercise, begin to read food labels, lose weight, and even look better.”
“Wow,” he said. “I got the diagnosis only two or three weeks ago, and some of those things are already happening.”
“Not only that, Max, your golf game will improve and women will take a second look your way.”
His voice dropped to a whisper as he said, “Don’t mention that last one again. My wife just came in.”
Before the conversation ended, he thanked me for giving him some new things to think about. Max, like so many of us, middle-aged and older, has type two or adult-onset diabetes, an illness much less serious than juvenile diabetes. None of us would think it lucky that so many children and young people with the insulin-dependent variety live with daily injections and finger-pricking blood tests. Some long-term sufferers endure blindness, kidney failure, and loss of limbs resulting from a lifetime of diabetes. Most of those extreme symptoms date back to times when we did not understand proper treatment of the disease.
It should raise alarm bells when we realize that 10 per cent of the population suffers from undiagnosed diabetes. I had symptoms about five years before I changed doctors. The new doctor immediately identified it. My sister went through a very similar process; a near collapse alerted her to high blood sugar. My oldest son’s doctor never spotted his problem until he became so ill he needed to take a month off work. Oh yes, diabetes does run in families.
The symptoms are classic, but most of us still don’t recognize them and fail to tell our doctors. If you have any, or a combination, of the following, talk to your doctor: excessive thirst, frequent urination, chronic tiredness, eyes changing focus, cold feet, sweet-smelling breath, or stains caused by urine.
Oh, by the way, I have found other down sides to adult-onset diabetes. Following my diagnosis, I took off 30 pounds and had to spend money replacing or adjusting my clothes. Because of diabetes, I limit carbohydrates, particularly sugar, and because I’m a vegetarian and avoid caffeine and alcohol, nobody ever invites me to dinner.

Ray Wiseman