November is a great time of family, giving thanks, remembering our loved ones and more. I’m going to take a pause from my turkey obsessed mind for a second, though, and talk about something near and dear to my heart. November is American Diabetes Month. It is a time where we take pause and think about those living with diabetes and who are pre diabetic and we reinforce our commitment as a community to find a cure.
I really have a grudge against diabetes. My dad is diabetic, my grandfather is diabetic, my grandmother died from complications of diabetes. I really think this disease is a jerk. So many people at the clinic where I work have diabetes…about 30% of our patients. And you know what, the number keeps growing!!!!
Diabetes is a frustrating disease. There are so many obstacles to come about. It affects your kidneys, your eyes, your feet, your hair, your emotions, your bowels. Everything. It comes in and doesn’t go away. It can be controlled and yes there are cases where people have done x, y, or z and they have completely rid their bodies of this.
According to the UT Health System’s website, roughly 16% of South Texans have diabetes, we have an actual prevalence rate of about 30% (Read the article here) and the CDC sates that roughly 9.7% of our country suffers from this disease. According to the American Diabetes Association website (diabetes.org) Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed as children and young adults.
I know what you are saying! WOW what’s up with us down in South Texas? Is it our diet? Our lifestyle? What is going on? Its not me, its them. Its not them, its me! This can never affect me.
I’m here to tell ya, yes, it can affect you, it can affect me, and it can affect everyone. So many factors weigh in on diabetes. Yes, it has to do with a lifestyle and choices. But, guess what, it also has to do with our mental health. It has to do with our bodies.
At the clinic, we see so many families with this chronic illness and many times we see them lose hope or see them paralyzed by the fear of a diagnosis that they don’t want to know options for health. I hear so many times ‘I’m not going to take my insulin b/c my wife/ brother/ etc took insulin and then died’ or ‘I’m diabetic but I’m not going to change the way I eat, and I don’t have time to exercise.’
RGV Diabetes Resources
Diabetes is confusing! There are so many definitions, types, and categories. The American Diabetes Association has a great website with a page giving basic definitions you may want to know. I refer to this pretty frequently.
I reached out this past week to Debora Franco from the South Texas Juvenile Diabetes Association. I’ve heard her speak before and met her in the non profit world. Her story is one that is all too common. Her son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and she saw him struggle with the sadness and depression a change in lifestyle makes with this particular diagnosis. He felt isolated and alone and no doubt afraid. Debora reached out to others who’s, children were diagnosed as well and created a bond. Her son saw that he wasn’t the only one and felt hopeful. She stated that they have such a great network that even folks from out of the valley call them for resources (we AREN’T behind!!!). She shared a great video that can be used for children or adults to learn from.
We have the RGV Diabetes Association. We have an amazing resource right here for the treatment of diabetes, the Joslin Diabetes Center whose mission is to prevent, treat and cure diabetes. We have a Diabetes Registry and a Diabetes Project. With HOPE I am part of a group called Unidos Contra Diabetes and we are tackling pre-diabetes. Testing is being done at the pulgas, doctors offices, at homes and at pharmacies.
Many clinics and organizations are having events this month to bring awareness to diabetes ( I will put a list in the comments with times/dates). November 14 is World Diabetes Day (more info here). Our clinic is having an even this month, but I’m also going to make a commitment to check my health, check my lifestyle, check my diet, my thoughts and my understanding of diabetes.
The reality is that we know this is a huge problem and one that our community is really doing a huge amount to help those diagnosed and pre-diagnosed. Being diagnosed is difficult – difficult for the person with the illness, difficult for their family and difficult for the community as a whole. Our community is one that pulls together during difficult times. This is a difficult time in chronic illness healthcare. Diabetes won’t win because we will pull together to help treat, prevent and rid the valley from it one person at a time, together.