Some days ago, a friend pulled me aside and asked if I could help someone she knew who was struggling with diabetes. When I queried what I could do to help, she directed me to the person and said that they would tell me what their challenges were.
A few days later, I stopped by to visit the person in question and informed him that I reversed my diabetes diagnosis in a year with proper diet and exercise, and asked what I could do to help him.
What he said so stunned me, so I decided to write this story and make it a lesson for what we cannot do — to save our souls and ourselves.
It seems that he was diagnosed with diabetes seven years ago, and decided that he did not have to take it seriously because he did not see any long term health effects from it. He did not like having to test his blood daily, and in addition to that, his medication caused many side effects.
Three months ago, he stood up to walk and his legs felt like balloons. Added to that, he began feeling a pain that shot from his feet all the way through his body. The way he describes it is that it feels like small electrical shocks are happening all over his body.
When he finally made it to the doctor some three weeks ago, he was told he had diabetic neuropathy. What that simply means is that he took so long to get his diabetes under control that the nerves in his feet slowly began to die, which left him unstable and hardly able to walk, even a block down the street.
He was told that the condition was not able to be reversed and his feet were so bad that he needed to go on disability.
When I asked if he were going to accept the disability letter so he could take care of his health, his response to me was that taking disability meant he would lose his manhood and his pride.
He also said that he is in such constant pain, that he is now completely depressed and not quite sure of what to do with himself.
What did he know? That he needed help and quickly. He also realized with his current job, he had no access to health insurance. As a direct result, the doctor told him he had to find somewhere else to go.
I made a recommendation to a friend of mine who is a diabetic nurse to see if she could help him in any small way until we could find a place for him to go and get sufficient medical help.
I feared quietly that he may end up losing his legs, and as soon as I thought of it, that is exactly what he said, which left him even more distressed.
This man has done what many before and after him continue to do; suffer in silence and shame with a disease that there is nothing to be ashamed about.
In a report written by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) —NCHS Data Brief No. 319, September 2018 — data was compiled on diabetic numbers in the United States of America. Here were some key findings:
* In 2013–2016, the prevalence of total diabetes was 14.0%; the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes was 9.7%; and the prevalence of undiagnosed diabetes was 4.3% among U.S. adults.
* The prevalence of total diabetes was higher among men (15.9%) than among women (12.2%).
* The prevalence of total, diagnosed, and undiagnosed diabetes increased with age.
* The prevalence of total, diagnosed, and undiagnosed diabetes was higher in Hispanic adults than in non-Hispanic white adults. The prevalence of total and diagnosed diabetes was higher among non-Hispanic Black adults compared with non-Hispanic white adults.
* The prevalence of total, diagnosed, and undiagnosed diabetes increased with increasing weight status category.
Diabetes is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Diabetes can be present but undiagnosed, meaning that a person can have diabetes but not report having ever been told by a doctor or health professional that they have the condition. Type 2 diabetes can progress over an extended time period with gradual, often unnoticed, changes occurring before diagnosis. If left unmanaged, diabetes may contribute to serious health outcomes including neuropathy, nephropathy, retinopathy, coronary artery disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease (4). This report presents the prevalence of total, diagnosed, and undiagnosed diabetes in U.S. adults in 2013–2016.
What continues to alarm me is the stigma attached with diabetes, despite how many people are diagnosed and undiagnosed each year. So often I hear things such as “I want to keep eating what I want to eat,” “I do not like the medicine,” and “I feel embarrassed.”
Walking around feeling like an embarrassment has led far too many people to suffer silently and pretend that the disease that is ravaging their body daily does not exist, until it is too late.
All around the city of Philadelphia, we see dialysis centers and amputees from this dreaded disease. And while type two diabetes can be reversed with diet and exercise, type one diabetes is an autoimmune disease that requires insulin dependency for the rest of one’s life.
This gentleman could quite possibly save his feet, if he could get past his pride and manhood to seek the help that he so desperately needs. I could see him struggling to get past the pride of his manhood being damaged for having to be on disability, but I gently reminded him that his life was worth so much more than the pride that he was currently experiencing.
It is past time for us to remove the shame attached to diabetes; if we are able to fully express what our needs and concerns are, we may be saving so many more lives, versus staying in a corner and hiding in shame.
In African American families, we often call it “a touch of sugar,” but it causes so much more than a touch of harm.
Should you become one of the millions of Americans that are diagnosed with prediabetes or full-blown diabetes, I implore you to take it seriously, follow the directions you were given, and adjust as needed, because your life literally depends upon it.
Disclaimer: The advice offered in this column is intended for informational/entertainment purposes only. Use of this column not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. This column, its author, the newspaper and publisher are not responsible for the outcome or results of following any advice in any given situation. You, and only you, are completely responsible for your actions.