Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Let’s Talk About Prevention

When I was a little kid, Smokey the Bear would come on TV and say, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” I’m here to tell you that that’s some heavy responsibility to put on a 9 year-old. Really? I’m the only one who can prevent a forest fire? Bambi’s well-being is squarely on MY shoulders? Yikes! In reality there are lots of reasons for forest fires other than idiots who don’t pay attention including lightening caused fires. It’s certainly important to pay attention with fire while in the forest (says one who happens to have a national forest in her back yard) but no one has control over lightening. No one can prevent that type of forest fire.

I don’t spend much time on Facebook these days. I lurk and rarely interact. Today my eye was caught by a post from my friend Cherise. In the post she was calling out a reputable organization for posting the idea that type 2 diabetes can be prevented. She called BS (in the nicest of ways. It’s Cherise, after all.). There was a healthy back and forth among some of her FB friends discussing whether or not it is fair to say that type 2 is preventable. There was the discussion of genetics as well as the thought that many people could “prevent” their diagnosis if they would “simply” make some lifestyle changes. There were some “damn straights” and “preach it Brothers” coming from my lips as I read the exchange. It also led me here to write about my thoughts on the subject.

I’m not going to talk about the genetics or science behind this argument that too often pops up on the internet. Although science is very important, I want to talk about the people who are affected by the word “preventable”. People like me. People who have developed type 2 diabetes.

I was privileged to attend the HealtheVoices 2016 Conference this past spring in Chicago. It was a gathering of health advocates/bloggers across all diseases, not just people with diabetes. There was a good showing of folks from the DOC there and it was a rewarding, fun and educational weekend. The conference was kicked off on Friday evening with a banquet and keynote speaker. This gentleman, who collects data about all types of diseases, was going through his presentation, showing us slides of his data, when he said something that caused those of us with knowledge of life with diabetes to gasp. He said that 80+ percent of cases of type 2 diabetes were preventable. Wow. I could barely breathe. Here was someone who ought to know telling 100+ people that I could have prevented my diabetes. We were all shocked. My dear friend Bea said to me, “you have to say something!” Ohhhhh but I don’t wanna. I can’t stand up in front of all these people and confront this man! But I did. With my voice quavering I called him out. I told him that those types of statements do nothing but increase the stigma that those of us with diabetes face every day. Words matter (although I’m not exactly sure what words I used because DANG I was nervous!).

What does it feel like to hear that you have a disease that you could have prevented? It feels pretty crappy, let me tell you. Those of us who advocate for people with diabetes rail against the accusation that people with type 2 did this to themselves; that we somehow deserve what we got. Quit blaming the patient! There are many ways to develop type 2 diabetes that have nothing to do with diet, like gestational diabetes or coming in contact with some type of environmental goop. But the reality is that the majority of cases of type 2 are developed due to lifestyle. Ugh, did I just type that? I did, but let me explain further.

I have said all along that I would have eventually developed type 2 in my elder years, regardless of my lifestyle but my lifestyle probably hastened my development of the disease. That’s not an easy pill to swallow. But hey! I didn’t eat dozens of donuts or vats of chili cheese fries! I ate like everyone else ate. That’s the key: the Standard American Diet SUCKS!

My friend Mike Lawson said it so well in his comment on this FB thread: “and if some all-encompassing study proves that Type 2 is caused entirely by the food we eat, it isn't accurate to say that people that develop type 2 diabetes have done anything except eat the food that we have access to.” Bingo! (I love you Mike!)

THAT is the key! People who develop type 2 diabetes are those who most likely have a genetic predisposition and their lifestyle of too many processed carbs and not enough daily exercise have caused their bodies to cease to be able to process glucose effectively. They aren’t any different than anyone else, they just got the booby prize in the lottery of life.

So back to prevention. Don’t tell the world that type 2 diabetes is preventable unless you’re willing to back that statement with proper education for the masses on how processed food is vile and over consumption of processed carbs is taxing your pancreas and liver and preventing your cells from getting the energy they need. The way the majority of Americans eat is causing over production of insulin which turns to fat which increases insulin resistance which makes it difficult for our bodies to process glucose which causes your pancreas to release more insulin; rinse, repeat. Don’t say it’s preventable unless you’re willing to make whole, real foods readily available to the majority of people in a way that’s affordable. Don’t say it’s preventable unless you teach people how to cook and eat healthy, whole foods. Don’t say it’s preventable unless you go about making exercise easier to achieve in our hectic lives. Don’t say it’s preventable when I know damn well that there was nothing I could have done, knowing what I did at that time. No way could I have fed my family any better on the few dollars I had at my disposal, not to mention that the dreaded food pyramid was telling me to eat 6-12 servings of carbohydrates per day!

Words matter and the people who have developed type 2 diabetes because they have just been living their lives like everyone else deserve better than to be accused of developing a disease that dramatically, painfully affects them for the rest of their lives. Think before you point a finger: can you say that you eat any differently? Are you perfect?

Type 2 diabetes may someday be a disease that can be delayed if the people in our society are given the tools they need to make “better” choices. When our society lifts up real food and shuns fast and convenient crap then maybe fewer people will develop type 2, at least not until they’re old and gray.

When you tell me that my disease was preventable you’re telling me that I failed. You’re telling me that I failed the test when I wasn’t given a chance to study. I failed when fast, convenient tasty foods are priced in a way that makes them an easy choice for people who don’t have much money? When I was just living life like everyone else, I failed. Don’t tell me that I could have prevented it, help me to show my kids and grandkids a better way.

Just like Smokey the Bear, the media is pointing its finger at me and saying that “only YOU can prevent type 2 diabetes!” I call bullshit.

Monday, October 3, 2016


*As I began to write this post, I realized that I had never mentioned here that my mother passed away on August 6th. She made it past her 98th birthday and had a good life. This hasn’t been an easy summer but I’m doing ok (and so is Ray).

I had a rather unusual conversation the other day while I was waiting to see my new doctor. The person offered his condolences on the passing of my mother and then went on to comment on how amazing it is that she lived to be 98. Many people have mentioned her age so I wasn’t all that surprised, however, he added that it was especially amazing due to her size. Interesting comment. (My mother was a large woman and had been most of her adult life. She was only 5’4” tall and weighed roughly 220 lbs during the last year of her life.) The conversation continued and I happened to mention that my oldest son is now 40. “Really! And how old was his dad when he died?” 42. “And two of his sisters died young too. One of them drank a lot, didn’t she? Your son should be fine as long as he doesn’t abuse alcohol or drugs.”


In case you’re wondering, the man is still standing and didn’t require any medical intervention after our conversation ended. I wasn’t offended by anything he said because I’ve known this guy for decades and he’s… different. He meant no offense and none was taken. I’d like to clarify that my dear sister-in-law did enjoy her beer but that is not what killed her. All 3 of those siblings died of massive heart attacks out of the blue at a relatively young age. They had bum tickers, they weren’t overweight and were fairly active people.

It wasn’t until later in the day that I began to think about what was said and what was implied:

My mother lived to a ripe old age, despite the fact that she was overweight, which this person felt was unusual. My first husband and his sisters died at a young age and appeared to be healthy humans so there must have been something they did to hurry their deaths.


Our society spends SO much time worrying/obsessing about what someone looks like and makes assumptions based on those looks as to what that person’s health might be. (Appearances also cause people to make assumptions about someone’s moral fiber and whether or not they are “worthy”, but this is about health and you don’t want to get me started on that other can of worms.) Just because my mother was heavy, this person assumed that it was a miracle that she lived so long. He knew nothing about her health. He assumed, based on her appearance, that she was an unhealthy individual. Mom suffered with bad knees, which was definitely exacerbated by her weight, and couldn’t see due to macular degeneration, but her overall health was fine. Her heart was strong. She survived lung cancer (never smoked) and other various things throughout her life but she was damn healthy! Heck, she still had all her own teeth! My first husband, on the other hand, was a healthy-looking man. He had developed a bit of a gut but he was active and didn’t appear to be ill, and yet he died so young. This just threw my acquaintance. He couldn’t comprehend how this could be! So unless my son abuses drugs or alcohol, he should be fine. What???

I’m so tired of how people are judged because of how they look. Fat-shaming is a perfectly acceptable form of bullying that is getting worse as the people in our society get larger. I have learned that weight loss is not as simple as calories in/calories out. I have learned that exercise can be difficult when you’re dealing with pain. I have learned that dealing with diabetes/elevated blood sugar is different for each individual. I have learned that “doing what I’m supposed to do” isn’t always easy when a low mood hits.

Fact: There are overweight people who run marathons and/or work out regularly.

Fact: There are overweight people who eat very healthy diets and thin people who eat nothing but crap food.

Fact: There are skinny people who are in horrible health.

Fact: Overweight/obese does not equal “unhealthy’ and thin does not equal “healthy”.

I am certainly not suggesting that people not worry about carrying excess weight. I feel that everyone, size aside, should do their best to improve their diet and add regular exercise to their lives. The point of this post is to, hopefully, have people stop and think before they judge. I’m most likely speaking to the choir, since if you’re reading this you are already well aware of how much stigma there is in the world and how important it is for us to take care of ourselves regardless of our size, but I simply had to get this off my chest!

The next time you see someone who is overweight and eating dessert, don’t judge! How is it your business what that person eats? Just maybe they have been rocking a new food plan and are simply having a treat! Maybe it’s their birthday. The point is: don’t judge. You have no idea what their life is like.

If you see someone in the grocery store who has a basketful of processed carbs, don’t judge. Maybe they just need some education about how to improve their diet. It’s not your job to correct them or look down on them.

The next time you see some thin person rocking some yoga pants, don’t assume they are healthy. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that they are “better” than you just because they look like something the media has made us believe is the ideal.

To all the haters out there: Just. Stop. Who the F*** do you think you are?

Regardless of my size, or my health or the fact that I choose to go without makeup and fancy hair, I walk with my head held high because I know that I’m a good person. I’m someone who is kind. I do what I can to be as healthy as possible. How I look, what I believe or what food plan I choose to follow doesn’t make me any better or worse than the next person.

Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Your Illness is Not Your Fault.


Your illness is not your fault.

Shared Medical Appointments

Doctor appointments are not something that most of us look forward to attending. We’re poked, prodded, weighed and asked lots of questions that we might not feel like answering. The idea of doing any of that in the presence of others doesn’t sound like something I would enjoy, so explain to me why I signed up to participate in a Shared Medical Appointment!

What the heck is a shared medical appointment? Visions of sitting in a room full of people wearing those horrid gowns, swinging their legs over the edge of the table…waiting, pop into my head. (shudder) Rest assured, that’s not what it is. It’s my understanding that the Cleveland Clinic started shared medical appointments as a way to work with larger groups of patients for their follow-up appointments. These patients all have the same condition/disease and could benefit from a group setting. Think support group/education. Here in Podunk, AZ, where we don’t even have a stop light, we have shared medical appointments! Just like in Cleveland but with more pine trees and less traffic!

Back in December, my HCP approached me about participating in their new type 2 diabetes shared medical appointments. It would start out small (6 participants) and would, hopefully, grow. She explained that each patient would have approx. 10 minutes with her to check our labs, weight and meds, etc. and the rest of the time we would be in a support group setting. Since I had tried to run a support group in our town, and failed, I was pretty excited to hear that they were going to do this. The biggest problem I had with my group was getting people to come and speak to us. Here was an opportunity to have professionals come and impart their wisdom upon our heads! I said, sign me up! I attended my third shared appointment this week and I figured it was time to tell you about the experience. It’s been a mixed bag.

The first appointment was just a chance to tell us what to expect and to ask us what we wanted to talk about. We filled out a survey and just generally chatted. We had our time with the doctor and got to know each other. There was horrid coffee available.

Second visit, 3 months later, we had a session with the dietitian. Ugh. Because I follow a lower carb diet, I knew that she would say things I didn’t agree with but she was also kinda pissy. I tried to keep my mouth shut and succeeded, mostly. She was actually spending a lot of time telling us what we can eat at fast food restaurants and which frozen meals are “good”! Thankfully, another participant spoke up and said, “I want to know what I should eat at home!” The doctor asked me what I thought and I shrugged.

This last appointment was conducted by a pharmacist and she went over the A,B,Cs of diabetes: A1c, blood pressure and cholesterol. She’s good and gave us a lot of good information. There were also lots of new people, which was encouraging. I also found out that they now have three groups! I think this is great and a much needed service.

The bad:
  • They push carbohydrates.
  • Not much time with the doctor. (I’m used to using my check-up appointments for everything and now I will have to have another visit to discuss lady stuff, my thyroid and fibro.) It feels rushed. 

The not great: 
  • I see lightbulbs go off over some heads during the conversations (which is good) but there isn’t always time to adequately explain things and they often end up looking confused.
  • While you are having your time with the doctor, the discussion continues in your absence and you might miss stuff.

The good:
  • Some of the people in my town who desperately need to take charge of their diabetes are getting needed education in a group setting.

Although I feel that this is a great service that my clinic is providing, I don’t know that I’ll continue attending. It’s not really something I need any longer. My HCP wanted me to participate because I’m a well-informed PWD and I could “share my wisdom” with the others. But, my “wisdom” often flies in the face of the usual diabetes education and I have no desire to be “that woman” who argues and confuses. Even though I feel that what I’ve learned about diet and my diabetes is valuable information, I can’t exactly stand up and contradict the dietitian. Who are the others going to believe? Answer: not me. I’ve reached a point in my life with diabetes where I have learned what works for me and that just doesn’t jive with the conventional wisdom. It seems that the best place for me to advocate is right here, and not in a support group setting. Unless I could help encourage those others to take charge, check their blood sugar before and after those carby meals and see what it does to their blood sugar. I don’t hear that advice being given. Hmm, maybe I’ll go one more time.

All in all, I think that shared medical appointments are a good thing, something that’s needed. It’s a beginning. Whether or not I continue to attend doesn’t matter, what matters is that it’s happening and it may help some lost souls find their way. I give it a thumbs-up (especially since we don’t have to wear those gowns!)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Numbers: They Lie

People with diabetes live their lives with numbers; HbA1c, glucose meter readings, weight, lab results, etc. It sucks, to be honest. But I noticed something this morning that made me stop and think, that in a way, those numbers can lie to us.

Have you ever had one of those days when you just felt “thin”? I am far from thin, but sometimes I just feel skinny. I’m not bloated, I have energy, my clothes aren’t tight and I just feel good! One of the worst things I can do on those days is to step on the scale, but I often do. If the number on that scale doesn’t jive with how I’m feeling then I can begin to feel bad. My mind tells me, “Who are you fooling? You’re not thin!” Well, duh, I thought we’d already established the fact that I’m not thin! But that darn number can begin to niggle at my good mood and bring me down.

This morning I feel thin and I didn’t step on the scale! (Yeah me!) I started my coffee and stumbled into my office to check my blood glucose, like I always do. 151 WHA??? I ate reasonably last night, my fasting numbers have been slightly better than my normal lately and now this? My good mood from feeling thin today vanished when I saw that number.

“I guess I’m not doing as well as I thought. Maybe I should step on the scale and see for myself. Maybe I’ll eat ice cream and potato chips today. Why not?”

Those may not be the actual thoughts I had this morning but I’ve definitely had them before. One stupid, unexpected number on my meter or the scale or a lab report can cause me to doubt my ability to deal with this frickin disease.


I’ve been reading a bit about depression and anxiety lately and one of the things I’ve seen over and over again from people who live with those conditions is that they lie. Depression lies (not the people who have it). It tells your brain things that just aren’t true and can cause you to sink deeper into depression. I feel as if the numbers we live with as people with diabetes lie to us as well.

These numbers are important and we need to pay attention to them, but we shouldn’t let them control how we feel about our progress. Our numbers are signposts. (Here’s where I shout out to Christel . She used this idea of numbers as signposts at the Las Vegas UnConference this past spring. Brilliant.) What does that mean? It means that the number on your meter is just a sign of how things are going this minute. It’s not a judgement. It’s not any indication that you’ve done something “wrong”. It’s just a number that helps you make decisions about your diabetes care moving forward. The 151 on my meter this morning shouldn’t taunt me and make me feel as if I’ve screwed up. It just tells me to eat low carb today and drink lots of water and go for a walk. That’s all. I still feel “skinny” and I won’t step on that scale!!

Think about this scenario: A newly diagnosed PWD has an HbA1c of 10. Three months later that number has gone down to 8. Wow! That’s wonderful news! However, if someone who knew nothing about that person’s journey saw an 8 they might think that person wasn’t doing very well. That 8 was lying to that outsider but it’s a great signpost for the patient. They’re doing a great job!

They’re just numbers; numbers on a scale or glucose meter, it doesn’t matter. Just. Numbers. Don’t let them lie to you and cause you to feel any differently about how you’re doing. Go ahead; feel skinny!

Sunday, June 19, 2016


There are some things that I’m sure of:
  • Snow is cold.
  • Carbs are addictive.
  • My husband’s love.
  • The hospital is not the best place to spend your vacation.

There are some things of which I’m less sure:
  • The price of tea in China.
  • Selecting the best paint color.
  • What my dishes do when I’m not looking.
  • That I know what I’m doing when it comes to healthy dietary choices.

Ray and I had planned a summer vacation that would begin with a weekend camping trip with all my kids and grandsons in Utah, then north to Boise Idaho and east to South Dakota via Billings Montana. Instead we spent time in the hospital so Ray could have open-heart surgery. You know, like you do. In fact, I’m writing this on my tablet in his hospital room. This is day 12 here with a couple more to go if we’re lucky.

He’s doing amazingly well.

Ray was first diagnosed with coronary artery disease in July of 2008. He immediately quit smoking and has, over the ensuing years, added regular exercise, cut WAY back on beer consumption and made dramatic changes to his diet. He basically began doing everything he should to lead a healthy life and keep additional health issues at bay, and yet, here we are. The fact that we were doing everything right and his health still declined to scary-ass levels was shocking and confusing. Maybe all that research we’d done about healthy diets lead us down the wrong path! Maybe we don’t know what we’re doing after all! Did I just cook my husband into the hospital?

The answers: No, we do and hell no.

The body is an amazingly complex thing. There are no cut and dried answers or ways to ensure health. All we can do is our best, and we have been. When confronted with this situation, Ray and I experienced doubt. We wondered if our lower carb, no fear of fat ways had caused him to become sicker. Thankfully there was a doctor who explained it to us. Ray has heart disease and even though he had immediately changed his lifestyle, his disease didn’t just stop progressing. In fact, this great doctor told us that if he hadn’t made those changes he would have most likely become sicker long before this. In other words, his new lifestyle had prolonged a good life. Not only that, but his healthier body will most likely heal more quickly. Those changes were a good thing. Not one person, including the nutritionist, has had to tell us that we need to make changes because we already have! My husband is a rock star.

Dealing with any disease is scary, diabetes included. We are forced to make decisions about how we live, what we eat and the medications we take. Educating yourself on the best course of action for your life with diabetes is imperative. Make a plan and follow it. Don’t let doubt cloud your thoughts. Do what feels right to you and stick with it. If you feel stronger and healthier most of the time then you’re most likely on the right track.

Ray has a long road to recovery ahead of him but we’re hopeful that he will come out the other side able to continue doing the things he loves. There will be other chances for the family to camp together and Mount Rushmore isn’t going anywhere. Our summer “vacation” may not have ended up as we’d planned but we’re making the best of it and looking ahead to more years together. Self-doubt is a liar and I no longer believe it. We will make a few minor tweaks to our diet and forge ahead together. I hope that our story will prompt you to make some needed changes to your life too, whatever they may be.

Oh, and love your people like there’s no tomorrow. You never know.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fighting the Good Fight, even when it’s hard

Yesterday was a bad day. It was the third day in a row that my fibro was causing me to feel horrid but I wanted/needed to go and see my mom, 40 miles away. I decided to suck it up and go, but then something was wrong with the car so I turned around and went home, disappointing my mom. Later, I had one of those moments where I felt I could make a difference in the world of diabetes by responding to comments on Facebook that were untrue and hurtful to people with diabetes, you know: myth busting. It didn’t go well. People are mean and hateful; so quick to poke fun at someone else. Yesterday I felt defeated and wondered why I even try.

There are so many things wrong with our world today, starting with the fact that people find it so easy to spew hate and anger instead of acceptance and kindness. Why is it ok to make jokes about someone’s disease? I recently lost a dear friend to cancer and my nephew is currently going through a bone marrow transplant. Would it be ok for me to make jokes about cancer? Should I sit back and ignore it when someone else makes fun? Hardly. Regardless of what the disease is or how it is contracted, there is no reason to laugh at someone else’s misfortune.

I’ve been told to lighten up. I’ve been accused of not having a sense of humor. I’ve been told that I’m wrong when I say that eating sugar doesn’t cause diabetes of any type. “But eating crap and being fat causes diabetes.” “Diabetes will go away if you’d just eat better.” “It’s ok to say “here comes diabetes” when someone orders a sugary drink. It’s funny!” “People who aren’t willing to take better care of their health deserve what they get.” Over and over I hear these types of remarks. Over and over again I do what I can to right the wrongs and inform the uneducated. Here’s the thing: They don’t care! They don’t want to be educated, they just want to laugh and go about their day.

Why do I do this? Why do I put myself into situations that often cause me grief? My sweet daughter reminded me that I’m not supposed to read the comments. Do not engage. She’s right in that sometimes I need to protect myself and just not go there. But on the other hand, how is this horrible situation ever going to change if no one speaks up? Is it ok to let the bullies win? Is it right that hurtful comments are affecting people and causing them unnecessary pain? I think not. Type 2 diabetes has often been referred to as an epidemic and the medical and scientific communities are clamoring to figure out what to do about it. The more they talk about excess weight and sedentary lifestyles, the more they feed the misinformation and trolls. Yes, a lifestyle of too much of the wrong foods and not enough exercise are risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Has anyone every stopped to think that the way people with type 2 diabetes eat isn’t much different than anyone else’s diet? Nope, they assume that we’ve spent our lives eating Twinkies and dozens of donuts… all the time. They just point fingers and laugh.

I know that I’ve covered this very subject many, many times, but yesterday it felt personal. Yesterday I could feel the knife in my back in a way that took my breath away. It’s fucking NOT ok to make jokes about diabetes and even though some days it will be difficult, I will not stop speaking up. I will not cease correcting the uneducated. I will not stop until my last breath because my tribe deserves better. I may not be able to affect much in the way of change but I cannot sit by quietly and let the bullies win. Thanks for “listening” to my rant. I feel better today.