January 10, 2007 Edition

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Facing facts

Vivian Heyl
TD Staff

On Monday, my doctor announced that I needed to go on insulin. I guess until that moment I hadn't really admitted that I wasn't going to get over having diabetes. Always somewhere in the back of my mind was the thought that like a cold it would eventually go away.

I don't think the enormity of those words has registered even yet. I have diabetes. It is the fifth deadliest disease in the United States and the percentage of people with the disease is rising each year. It's up there with cancer, heart disease, stroke and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and there are just a few percentage points between them. The good news is deaths from cancer and heart disease are decreasing each year.

The doctor was kind enough to tell me all the ways diabetes could affect my health including: increased risk for heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and loss of limbs. He also told me that taking the insulin would greatly improve my chances of avoiding them.

Eventually I will have to face the fact that I have a disease for which there is no cure. I also know that my lifestyle is partly responsible for my having the disease. The inevitable rant has already started. Why didn't I take better care of myself? Could I have done something to prevent it? Why didn't I exercise? Exercise! I had five kids. The list goes on and on.

Minimal research tells me that people do quite well on insulin and most of them continue to lead normal active lives. The American Diabetes website even assures me that taking insulin doesn't mean that I am a failure who couldn't take control of the disease. On the other hand it does say that I need to learn to manage my diet better than I have been (more complex carbohydrates and fresh fruit and vegetables), and get on that exercise program I have put off for the last 40 years.

Can I do it? I don't know yet. This is all pretty scary. Old habits die hard, and I know how easy it is to think I'll start tomorrow.

I haven't started taking insulin yet and I am definitely not looking forward to it. I can't imagine jabbing a needle into myself every day for the rest of my life. Without a doubt though, when the time comes I will do what I must.

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