This past March I shared my news of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. My physician gave me the window of a few months to turn things around before we started down the road of meds.
While my news was met with mostly supportive people, there were those who were giddy with excitement that the drum beater for prevention was a flawed leader. No doubt I did feel some shame in sharing my story, but my friend Miles O’Brien had encouraged me that it was important I share. And now in hindsight, I see that as in so many things Miles was correct: many, many people have shared their gratitude for inspiring change in their lives.
At my most recent visit to my doctor last week, I was excited to share news of my weight loss on Facebook. And it’s true, the threat of a life-long regime of meds is now in the rear view mirror!
Unlike past “diets” in which I have lost weight, with this one there are no cupcakes or cocktails at the finish line, but rather the determination to use what I have learned: that staying on the path is a lifelong commitment.
In my case diabetes was a disease of convenient survival. When I would lose energy, I would reach for sugar by way of chewing gum or Twizzlers. As a child, I had seizures, and though they were few and far between and I eventually grew out of them, I was told to be careful with stimulants such as coffee, so sugar at the time seemed like a good stand-in.
When I had spinal surgery years later at age 48 for a Schwannoma tumor, I would battle the fatigue that comes with chronic pain with little sugar boosts, even though intellectually I understood the sugar was making me more fatigued.
A recent Facebook post of my news brought home the fact that my reversal of diabetes was not a solo flight but was the result of much help from friends, family, and contacts.
My diabetes came seemingly as a result of work-related stress: seven-day work weeks, driving state to state thousands of miles a month for Less Cancer. Obviously, in hindsight, an unsustainable way of operating.
My chiropractor and acupuncturist, Perry Vanderhurst,D.C. observantly made the point that I had been in the car so much it was not unlike an arm in a cast. Acupuncture and gentle chiropractic are practices I use to unfetter myself and support my well-being.
I learned that while diabetes is preventable, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to avoid or turn around. I did it with resources and access, and, yes, health insurance. For me, it also entailed stepping back from the maelstrom I experience answering every call, email, post and knock on the door for Less Cancer. That’s hard for me to do.
As a privileged white male, I have enough access to go around. So while I report my success, I am reminded that this is not the case for all.
On this journey of regular exercise, no dairy, no alcohol, no red meat, no refined sugar, no processed foods, I have better understanding of my situation with more clarity in the proverbial reflection of the“reality mirror”. So clearly I see what I could not in my own funnel cloud responding to the call of the Less Cancer, that eventually put me on the dangerous path to diabetes.
I have never been about salad shaming a person or making judgments about poor choices, as sometimes “poor” choices are the only option.
As an ex-smoker among other things, I am now an ex-diabetic, so it’s a good idea for me to stay away from the practice of “judging.”
I founded Less Cancer to end the suffering that comes with the disease. Unlike the model of the last 100 years of “break and fix” treatment and searching for the cure which I have wished for so many times; the science tells us the best answer for cancer is prevention. My commitment to the public is to take better care of myself, so I can continue the stewardship of education and policy that works to prevent cancer.
As part of my commitment to the public is addressing the issues of poverty as it relates to health. Poverty is like an invisible pair of handcuffs, hidden and yet powerfully preventing a healthy life, often increasing risks for disease, including cancer, and diabetes.
That said, people living in poverty need this information the most so they can make better choices whenever possible. While access to healthy foods and lifestyles has been a consistent problem, more organizations like Less Cancer are reaching out to help them stay healthy with information about food, exercise, and the environment.
So while I jog the “victory lap” of beating diabetes, I understand the win here is the gift of time and that in actuality the “victory lap” is just a warm-up lap.