Thursday, April 17, 2008

Change of Life

From Donna

Most mornings when I’m home, I go downstairs first, make coffee (decaf) and bring up a cup for my husband. He has never been (or will be) a morning person. Except recently, I’ve had to alter this routine. I put the pot on, but now I have to wait for him to go down and take his first blood sugar reading of the day before he has coffee—with Equal instead of sugar. Two weeks ago, he was diagnosed with diabetes.

WHAM—that came out of the blue, sort of. After he’d come back from a family funeral in North Carolina, he started saying he needed to get a check-up. And he said his eyesight was a little blurry. He figured he was kind of run down. When he actually did see the doctor, it wasn’t even during his own appointment. He had taken his Dad to the doctor—one who has become friendly through many years and regular visits. Dr. Marsh asked Hiram how he was feeling and when he mentioned the blurry eyesight the doctor took his blood pressure. It was VERY high at which point he gave him medication, took some blood and said he would be in touch. That was on Saturday. Sunday night at 8:30 the doctor called to tell him how high his sugar was and to get him in to the office the next day.

Just like that everything changed.

I am grateful to Dr. Marsh for taking the initiative to check on someone who was, technically speaking, not his patient. And I’m really grateful that Hiram found all this out before something truly awful—like a heart attack or a stroke—happened.

Does he fit the profile? Middle-aged Black man who weighs a little more than ideal. And there is history of both conditions in his family. Yep, right on target. Still, it was a shock—for both of us. For him, it’s the first big, serious episode of his body rebelling and having to take medications and change his habits to control it. First time he’s taken sick leave for more than the flu or some passing stomach virus. He’s been in a bit of a funk as a result, but he’s following his new dietary. . . readjustments (I almost said restrictions, but we’re working to stay positive here) carefully, and charting his numbers faithfully. And we are both doing a lot of label reading—to keep his carbohydrate and sodium intake down. The changes will benefit both of us. I’ve gotten a bit. . .fluffy in recent years.

And I’ve been in a bit of a fog myself. Making sure he has what he needs, changing the way I cook. I found this salt-free seasoning mixture called Spike that is really tasty. Fage plain yogurt (it’s strained Greek yogurt with an amazingly creamy texture. We’ve been using the 2% variety. They do make zero fat also) mixed with a little Equal and some extract—vanilla, almond, lemon—is soooo yummy and satisfying. Way tastier than diet yogurt, and as satisfying to me as ice cream—that’s saying a lot.

But mostly the fog is about how serious this was and how fast life can slide by. Good grief, it seems impossible Hiram and I have known each other for twenty three years--been married for twenty of them. We’ve been through a lot together. And we both still feel young, which is great in terms of outlook. The numbers, however, are less forgiving. They are what they are. We are both really good about taking care of business—with family and friends, with our jobs. But we’ve truly fallen down on the job in the enjoying life area. He loves doing bike tours, but he hasn’t ridden in several years. We both enjoy camping, hiking, going to hear jazz. . . Haven’t made any time for those things either. And it’s not that taking care of business isn’t pressing. In the last two years Virginia and I have written two novels and a screenplay. We’re working on a plot for the next book, but for the last two weeks my head hasn’t been in it. Goodness, this time last year I got a phone call, “out of the blue,” and raced off to take care of my Mom, who had been in a serious car accident in Arizona (she continues to do better, thank God).

The point is: life is precious, and finite, and while there is always work to be done, life is meant to be enjoyed too. I admit I am still remedial on this point—joy was not featured on the Top Ten List in my house when I was growing up—but attending to our joy levels needs to be right up there with watching our glucose levels.

So, be aware of what your body is telling you. Diabetes and high blood pressure affect African Americans disproportionately. Check out the American Diabetes Association for more info, diet tips and recipes: Click here: American Diabetes Association Home Page . And today is a lovely day. Regular exercise is an important part of controlling both blood pressure and diabetes, so Hiram and I are going to grab some breakfast and go for a walk—and enjoy the sunshine, the budding trees, the daffodils and each other. That’s the business we’re taking care of today.

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 12:05 PM

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