When I learned recently my mother had Type 2 Diabetes, I felt like Forrest Gump when he learned his mother was ill. In the movie, before a family friend could finish telling him about his mother’s condition, he took off running to be at her side. I have wanted to take off to Ohio for a few weeks now and am still surprised I’m still in Minnesota.
The first thing I thought about when she told me was surprisingly not her. I thought about other family members and friends who are living with this disease and even those we’ve lost from complications from it. Her older sister, Amelia, and my “Aunty Mimi” has Type 1 diabetes. She takes an insulin shot every day and has to watch what she eats. Growing up in Ohio, I knew when it was time for Aunty Mimi to eat and when she had to take her shot. When I learned of my mother’s recent diagnosis, I was scared and still am to think if her sugar levels are not monitored correctly and medication doesn’t work, the outcome could be fatal.
I’m a mama’s girl. I don’t hide it and my father respects it. He knows I love him. My mother and I are so close, people have said I am a younger version of her. It’s true, and it freaks people out when we finish each other’s sentences or say the same thing at the same time. What can I say? I’m even named after her. This is only natural. My mother’s name is Leiza. My grandmother added “Ta” to her name and named me TaLeiza.
Though I worry about my mother, the distance between us makes me work harder to learn about this disease. It also has made me watch what I’m eating. Initially I started to interview her every time we spoke. “What did you have for breakfast?” I ask. “Did you take your medicine? How are you feeling?” One of the things her doctors required was for her to attend a weekly group meeting with other people recently diagnosed with the disease. This was to help her learn how to navigate this new way of life. I liked the idea my mother was not alone. I’ve also eased up on grilling her as she seems to have it under control. Every day is different.
According to the American Diabetes Association, Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. Some groups have a higher risk for developing it than others. This type of diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, as well as the aged population, according to the organization. Well, that includes my Mommy.
In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy. Information on the association’s website explains when you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause your cells to be starved for energy and over time high blood-glucose levels can hurt your eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart.
Reading about the millions of people living with diabetes is still scary, but the important word in this sentence is “living.” They are living with the disease. Any disease is life-changing and diabetes is no different. This is the case even if you’re not the one who has it. My mother is more than 800 miles away from me. But ever since the “D-word” has arrived, I find I think more about what I eat and feel a little guilty about ordering the fries when I could have chosen a salad. I’ve already started to notice my groceries have more fresh greens in them versus my usual frozen entrees. Pizza rolls have been replaced by rice cakes and more whole grains. It’s funny how your parents have an impact on your life no matter how far away they are from you. I just figured if my mother has to transform her diet to be healthier, why can’t I?