Letter to the Editor: Managing diabetes is a daily commitment
- James E. Carriere | December 03, 2018
I was reading the story of Shauna Smallchild on page 13 of the Eagle Feather News November 2018 Issue about her struggles with diabetes. There needs to be more awareness and education about diabetes in all Indigenous communities. As a First Nations person, I too have been living with diabetes since the age of 20 or earlier. It has been over 26 years and managing diabetes is a daily thing to do.
When I was first diagnosed I was hospitalized immediately and started taking insulin twice daily to control my blood sugars. The doctor came in to tell me that I should not be alive as my blood glucose had to be sent to Winnipeg to be analyzed for a reading. My reading or results after the analysis was close to the 60 range. Like Shauna, I too struggled with it and after about 10 years into it I fell off the diabetic wagon. That is what I have become to call it as it is a journey. If I had known that it was 100% preventable, I would have done better to prevent it. Knowing what I know now, if your parent(s) have diabetes your chances of having diabetes increases.
Education is key and understanding what a person with diabetes has to do is crucial to controlling and managing it. There are four (4) main things that scare me about diabetic complications: loosing my eyesight (diabetic retinopathy), nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy), kidney damage and cardiovascular disease (heart disease). With your eyesight a diabetic destroys their blood vessels where the vessels bleed and if the damaged vessels are close to the optic nerve it leads to blindness. With continuous high blood sugars, we do damage to our whole bodies. It affects everything when your blood sugars are above the normal ranges. It can lead to high blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease and other complications.
When your health is out of balance then the rest of the body is running on chaos and is out of balance as well. Suppose it is like the medicine wheel, we need to balance all aspects of our lives to be within balance. We feel, extreme fatigue, irritability, depression, extreme mood swings just to list a few. That is solely based on my experience as I have experienced those symptoms for about 6 years when I did not have control of my diabetes.
Most people do not understand the function of our pancreas as it releases ketones to attach to the sugars from what we eat. The normal range for blood sugars is between 4 and 7. The only way someone with diabetes knows what their blood sugar levels is by checking and testing your blood sugars using a blood glucose meter. This means drawing blood using a lancet and it tells you the number. I for one tests approximately 4 to 5 times per day. It is paramount as that is the only way you will know what level you are at. Of course there is also going to see your family physician regularly like every 3 months to have a urinalysis and bloodwork to see where your total blood sugar levels are. This entails checking your kidney function and your cholesterol and blood pressure. It is called a A1C, There are many Type 2 diabetics who take their medication but do not test their blood sugars nor go see their family physicians until they experience complications.
Diabetic control and management is crucial to maintain good numbers and it can be done through; education and awareness, eating healthier, exercise, taking medication and visiting your family physician. Eating healthier is a struggle as well. Balancing the 4 basic food groups is not easy. Carbohydrates and Fats is what I have become to eat less of. In the Aboriginal community, majority of our diets is carbohydrates. Increasing fruits and vegetables, dairy and protein along with portion control to help control blood sugars is very important. In most communities, access to vegetables is almost zero. Not only is availability and access a factor, but purchasing them is at an increased cost.
You are probably wondering why I am writing this e-mail, right? For me and for others struggling with diabetes, there needs to be more diabetes awareness and prevention. More stories about diabetes and to get the word out there that everyone who suffers from the disease can take control of it and their lives. It is like an addiction, we need to understand diabetes better to take control of it.
Keep up the good work in printing stories such as Shauna's as I for one can empathize and relate to her.
James E. Carriere, B.Comm BA