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September 2010 Archives

What is _The Diabetes Chronicles_?

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The Diabetes Chronicles is a multi-genre creative memoir I have been writing.  Its main theme is "inheritance" -- inheritance within the cellular, genetic level; inheritance within a family, society, nation; inheritance within what we choose to accept from the past; inheritance within what we offer the present and future.  The underlying thread is, as the title indicates, Diabetes, and my struggle to come to terms with this chronic disease.

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I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes in the fall of 2008 and this past August 2010, I was diagnosed as having the chronic disease.  My body does not produce enough insulin to break down the glucose in my body (Type 2 Diabetes is what this is called).  If not controlled, too much glucose in ones body can damage the nerve systems as well as the retina of the eye and the vascular areas of the body.  Endocrinologists note these three areas as "diabetic neuropathy, retinopathy, and nephropathy."  The trick is to learn to regulate, through diet, exercise (and medication if necessary), the amount of glucose in ones system in order to avoid complications.

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Regulation of glucose within the body is such a balancing act.  Individuals with diabetes become quite aware of how certain foods suddenly spike glucose levels.  You may think we just need to stay away from the dessert table.  But it's more complicated than that.  Potatoes are a well-known culprit as are corn, grains and even vegetables such as beets and carrots.  Stress, illness, and trauma also raise glucose levels.  Glucose imbalance affects moods (individuals with diabetes have a propensity for depression), mental acuity, physical wellbeing.  Those of us with diabetes have no choice but to jump into a daily routine of seeking "balance" in order to avoid complications.

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I began writing The Diabetes Chronicles much before I was diagnosed.  I have been interested in this disease for a number of reasons.  On a personal level, I saw how my father, aunts, and uncles were challenged to enter a daily awareness of balance.  I noticed how what they ate and how often they ate could so profoundly affect them and those around them.  On a broader level, I seek to continue to study the disease because it remains a serious health problem among Mexicans and Mexican Americans.  Yet, within the non-Latino population, the numbers are rising as well because of the increased fructose and sucrose products being added to our food:  specifically corn by-products.  

I have "inherited" Diabetes but many people today are developing the disease because of our national diet.  Our children are inheriting a national diet that is wreaking havoc on delicately balanced bodies.  

By chronicling Diabetes in my family, I am chronicling a fascinating "inheritance" of genetics, colonial history, and familial struggle and courage.  I include "colonial history" because of what I have found in my research.  An article in the International Journal of Epidemiology traces the ancestral origin of diabetes from the Spaniards to their arrival into Mexico.  

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This past August when I was diagnosed, I could not have written this entry.  In fact, as you notice dear readers, I have been quite silent.  In one of the books I've been reading entitled, The First Year--Type 2 Diabetes:  An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed, there is a section on "denial" and "acceptance."  "If you're like most people, you're probably in a state of shock," writes Gretchen Becker (author of The First Year).  She ends the chapter by writing:  "But for now, just remember this . . . Your diabetes is not your fault."  For me, writing this entry now has me at the "acceptance" stage.  I'm still at times angry and frustrated but I'm spending more time doing something about it, active in my commitment to avoid complications.  Maybe you have been diagnosed recently?  Or maybe you've been in "the club" for a while now.  I'd love to hear from you.  

I leave you with more photos of some of the books I've been reading.  Take care of yourselves.  And a shout out "thank you" to Joy Castro for initiating the prompt "What is _The Diabetes Chronicles_?" and helping me break out of my "denial" and "silent" stage.  Admitting you have diabetes is just another "coming out."  I'm in "the club" as David Mendosa told me.  David Mendosa is a freelance medical writer and consultant specializing in diabetes.  Check out his most wonderful website:  http://www.mendosa.com/

My discussion with David Mendosa will be shared with you soon.  Be well.  

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