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It was one of those standard New Year’s resolutions that always pops up in your mind, but you never really get to it - get a full medical check-up and keep it a regular thing. After all, it was practically ten years since I got one, and I did it anyway because my then-new employer requested I get one. So, for that 17th ‘anniversary’ I finally decided to do one. And all I wanted was just a regular checkup.
I ended up with diabetes. Actually, I ended up with it sometime before that but that is when it hit me straight in the face with me finally noticing it. My family physician kept on listing the symptoms I could have picked up sooner, they were all there: large intake of carbohydrates, craving for more, drowsiness any time of the day, dryness of the mouth, occasional pain in the spit glands, continuous runs to the toilet…
Ok, I told him, I could have picked it up, my father had it, and it is probably hereditary. Actually, he responded, it can be hereditary, but it is mainly hereditary through your mother’s line, so that is probably not how you got it. But, I responded, getting wearier by the second, I am not overweight, I don't eat too, much I rarely have a drink, and I smoke an occasional cigar once every few months… Look, he responded, these days the key cause of diabetes is the stress of any kind, it accounts for more that 80% of the cases.
It could have been a conversation countless other diabetes patients could have or do actually have. The first thing you instinctively try out to find and reason is - why? Many people kept on telling me, forget about why find out what to do now. Of course, you do have to concentrate on that, but then, knowing why you got diabetes is one of the keys of coping with it. So don’t get nervous and upset. Yeah, sure, easy to say, but then when you start researching diabetes you find out it is a beguiling disease - by itself, it causes ‘only’ high levels of blood sugar. But what it really does is cause all those other debilitating or deadly diseases that hit practically everything else in your body, from your limbs to your heart and brain.
When the initial fear, and then the anger that follows it pass, you realize what your key tool in the fight against this particular disease is - your will and your only. Sure everybody else can help, your family, your doctor(s), diabetes advisors, dieticians, pharmacists… Still, in the end, the fight is up to you. You have to accept some very simple and utterly serious facts - diabetes cannot kill you itself, but the other diseases it causes will. You can ignore it and you’ll start losing your limbs, eyesight sexual potency, life. And you have, not only to accept, but take as normal things like you have to keep on taking your medication, you have to have regular blood sugar level controls, by yourself, and by the physicians taking care of you. But that is probably the easier part to accept. The harder one and probably more essential one is that you have to go through a change of lifestyle.
And the change of lifestyle is probably the trickiest part to take. No more sweets, sugary sodas, a complete overhaul of your diet (you love ‘regular’ pasta, forget it), watching the game from your sofa gets replaced by long brisk walks, and a lot of other seemingly simple, but very tricky everyday details that you were so used to. The thing is - you just have to take it. That was the way you lived up until that moment, this is the way you have to live from now on. If you want to live, that is.
So I decided to stick to it. And a bit more than ten years on from that very moment I found out I have diabetes, here are the key things - I’m here, I’m not missing anything, everything functions as it did and basically all I did is stick to a certain, not regime, but a lifestyle. I’m not even getting upset about everything anymore, and I’m even completely cool when I drive, a true new for me. All it took is a different lifestyle and the will to stick to it. This has not only beat up on stress but on diabetes too. And it all seems completely normal.