Therese Park

The Front is Never Quiet in Diabetes War

The number of Americans living with diabetes is steadily growing.

The American Diabetes Association’s 2009 report shows that 23.6 million people (7.8 percent of the population) have diabetes, and 12 million of them are 60 or older. The association predicts that in 2030, the number of Americans with diagnosed diabetes will reach 30 million.

As an insulin-dependant diabetic for more than a quarter of a century, I take my battle with my silent foe as seriously as a soldier in Afghanistan. Every morning, I test my blood-sugar, swallow a handful of pills and inject myself with two kinds of insulin, one long-acting and the other for immediate response. All through the day, I negotiate with myself what to eat, what not to eat, how much to eat, how much to exercise and so forth.

Mild memory loss is common for diabetics, so I write notes to myself, “Don’t forget the appointment with Dr. XYZ at 1 p.m.,” “Call so-and-so,” “Defrost chicken at 3 p.m.” and post them on the refrigerator. Still, I forget to inject insulin or take pills or call someone or show up at the doctor’s office.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s famous line, “In war, there’s no substitute for victory” isn’t only for soldiers but also for all in combat with life-threatening diseases. But like anything else, true victory is not easy for me because my enemies are numerous, clever and alluring. At a restaurant, for instance, strawberry cheesecake would jump out of the menu and make me dizzy with desire.

“Our strawberry cheesecake is a prize winner,” the waitress says, fueling my temptation. “Our chocolate mousse is delicious, too.”

My only defense is my determination to stay healthy. “No thanks!” I say and smile. If I give in, my enemy would conquer me in no time and declare victory at my expense. “I’m not a dessert eater.”

“Good for you,” the waitress says as she walks away.

Negative thoughts are also my enemy. Without any advance notice, they sneak into my brain and whisper, “You’re getting old fast, sweetie, tss, tss, tss. You lived longer than your mother did. How tired you must be. Why don’t you watch TV instead of going for a walk?”

Studies show that a high level of sugar in the blood stream can increase one’s risk of developing blood clots, which reduce or obstruct the oxygen supply to the heart or to the brain. For instance, cardiac arrest occurs when the passages in your arteries and veins narrow due to a long buildup of impurity and fat in the blood vessels, and the delivery of oxygen to the heart is delayed or failed. This can cause heart attack.

Stroke is not any kinder to diabetics than heart problems. Hemorrhage stroke happens when a weakened blood vessel ruptures suddenly and brain cells starve or die. Ischemic stroke takes place when a blood clot blocks the blood flow, causing the brain to suffer lack of oxygen.

Stress and tension are sworn enemies to diabetics, but by learning to relax and to meditate, patients can defeat the enemies and protect themselves from heart failure as well as stroke.

The front is never quiet for those battling diabetes. Unlike a real war, however, the hero or heroine in this war never leaves the battleground until he or she goes to the grave.

No one gives you a medal of courage or a certificate honoring your efforts, either, no matter how defiantly you fight in this never-ending war. But remember, your reward is grand and quite satisfying.

The Kansas City Star
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