HERStory: Diabetes Prevention



Type 2 diabetes came on the scene the summer of 1978 when my mother was diagnosed with it.  For the next 18 years it meant spending lots of time in hospitals watching her battle the disease, sometimes painfully until she lost the fight at age 61 on November 1, 1996.  I saw my mom suffer and for much of the time, I was her advocate and caregiver.  Seeing what she went through, I NEVER wanted that for myself.  I also never wanted to put my husband and son in the position to see me suffer the way she did. I swore It would never happen to me. As I gained weight in my 40s and early 50s, my father would say to me that I was getting too big and he didn’t want me to get diabetes like my mom.  I always said, yeah, yeah but didn’t change anything.

Yet in 2012, a visit at the doctor confirmed my worst fear, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes!  I was given 4000 mg of Metformin to take every day.  On the one hand, I was grateful that I didn’t have to take shots like my mom did.  On the other hand, I thought it wasn’t that bad because I didn’t have to take shots.  I also denied the obvious, that I had gained so much weight that I was unrecognizable to people who had known me for years.  Others, I purposely avoided because I didn’t want them to see me with all the weight.  By that time, I also didn’t think I would live to be 61 because of my mom’s experience.

Fast forward to 2017 and two things happened, my A1C was almost at 10 and I saw myself on TV.  I could no longer deny the obvious.  I was not in good health and looked terrible.  I also was on high blood pressure and cholesterol medicine.  My total pill intake was at eight; four for the type 2 diabetes, three for high blood pressure and one for cholesterol.  Oh, and I did mention that my father had a heart attack and several strokes over several years.  I was close to 300 pounds and was literally a walking dysfunctional genetic statistic.  Now you can understand that with my genetic background, I wasn’t sure if I would live to 61.

So, on February 27, 2017, I began a program with a nutritionist, joined the gym and started walking every day.  I did it with no expectations other than not to gain another pound and would be happy if I lost just a half a pound.  So, during the last year and a half, I’ve met with my nutritionist weekly, joined a walking group and I take Zumba classes.  Most importantly, I started talking publicly about my weight struggle and my journey.  I found out that I’m not alone in my struggle nor am I alone with dealing with chronic diseases.

I’ve now lost 90 pounds, which didn’t come off rapidly.  I’ve struggled with some days being easy and some days that are so very hard.  But each day that I’m allowed to take a breath is one that gives me an opportunity to keep fighting for my health.

At the 30-pound milestone, the doctor cut my Metformin dose by a third and took me off one med for high blood pressure.  At 50 pounds, my Metformin was reduced to 1000 mg and at 70 pounds, it became 500 every other day.  I was also allowed to come off another high blood pressure medication.  Today with 90 pounds gone, I’m no longer classified as a type 2 diabetic! I’m no longer on any type 2 medication nor cholesterol medication and I take only one high blood pressure pill.  So, I’ve gone from eight pills to one!  I praise god for this success and I thank him for sparing my life!

I have a disease that I will need to watch for the rest of my life, if I want to live…and I do!  But be clear, losing weight is not just about willpower and exercise.  I do believe that there is a genetic and cultural component that affects us.  My mother was heavy and struggled with her weight her whole life and I followed in her footsteps.  Add the normal stressors for us as Black women and it becomes about so much more. We have to monitor our emotional, physical AND mental health so that we don’t’ succumb to these diseases at such a young age. This is my journey and my truth and if it helps just one person, then I’ve done my job well.