Thursday, March 28, 2019

Taking the Bitter with the Sweet

Chandrika Gadiewasam

Some of the deprived sad food my whole family has been forced to eat due to my diabetes. Ok you know Im being snarky (Photos courtesy Nadeesha Paulis)

Some years ago,  when I was hovering on the magical brink of becoming a symbolic 39, I went in for my annual overall check up and the reports came in with a positive diagnosis of diabetes.

Well, yours truly, Chands, was in shock for a while and thought it was some kind of mistake! This was an OLD PEOPLES disease! It was one of those incurable inconvenient things that happened after you are sixty or something! This went along with Alzheimer's, dentures and incontinence, in my list of geriatric issues.   This wasn't for me; I didn't deserve it,  I didn't really do any of the things I imagined would make me into a diabetic. Ok I was rather lazy about the exercise thing although on and off I would try to keep in shape, not for health reasons at all but because I wanted to wear some dress…and I liked having a coke once in a way but actually, I couldn't even afford junk food, so why had this happened to me? I was by no means overweight, my BMI was acceptable, I didn't eat half the oil or ice cream that I saw my relations down day after day, (even the diabetic ones, once they had taken their daily insulin)- I was the careful one, probably because I was an older sister and a mother, and we actually get used to giving up the food to other family members, particularly the sweet treats. Have you noticed? Most of the moms I know take home any chocolates they get at work to give the kids, and I was no exception. 

So why me? First there was the hazy denial stage… Maybe this was a mistake and it could be reversed…maybe it would go away and just be a bad dream and not end up in me having to lose my left foot (something I have been paranoid about since signing up for a Life insurance package which gave you double bonus if you lost limbs on OPPOSITE SIDES …think about that carefully – to claim you need to lose a right hand AND a left foot… tricky, but I'm sure it can be organised if you remember to stick them both out at the last moment before the train hits! Looks like the insurance people think of everything !…pardon the deviation here) …maybe a completely starch free diet and running five miles a day would work – I didn't know Fanny Adams about diabetics and it looked like I would have to learn fast…here, I figured out,  were some of the practical downsides: 

anything you previously spent on chocolates and sweets to pamper yourself, you now have to spend on medications and strips for the tester machine;  those are quite expensive

insurance companies automatically double the premium if they learn you are diabetic, and if they know you are OLD and diabetic they can even treble it 

you can't skip meals anymore since you go into a state of dizziness and nausea caused by having low blood sugar. So forget high-pressure jobs, unplanned journeys or in fact any real adventure

Diabetes also can make people feel sad, angry, or lonely because most of your friends are not watching their blood sugar levels! in Sri Lanka you get a lot of unfeeling comments too, like " oh, you must have eaten lots of sugary stuff!" (as if you are the only one, and the person saying it completely abstains from any!) and " oh my, at this age! How terrible !" (as if your entire future just went)

This is apart from the disease itself which involves gradual nerve degeneration and higher risks of cholesterol, heart disease and another boatload of more nasty sounding stuff, and of course, eventual amputation of feet.

Yes, it can be at first glance quite a damper on life…until-  in the spirit of Chands, you look for the possible positive bits! And here they are:

You automatically get the exercise you need, because if you don't you get in actual trouble. So exercise is compulsory. And then little irritations in life, like 'having" to walk a further 200 yards because you miss a halt, become positive opportunities. Compulsory walking, you find is exhilarating, interesting, time for creative thinking and saves on fuel and transport costs! And you retain a moderately youthful figure for free!!! 

Watching your diet becomes compulsory so now there is no fighting with your self-control. You settle on a diet and you get used to it and its actually good for you! No nonsense with new year resolutions which you mess up in February! 

You begin to realise how good something gooey and sweet tastes because you can't have it often. So you have a new perspective about the good things in life! 

You won't ever have to worry about growing obscenely, decrepitly, disgustingly old and being a gibbering, geriatric burden on your children. Statistically, most diabetics are usually quite dead by 73 or something.

Ok, I have to end by saying none of this is expert medical advice of any kind, and Chands is just an average person with a common problem, now, more common than it ever was, sadly due to modern lifestyles. Why it happened and what will happen next I do not know,  but I can leave you with some useful and honestly playful tips by the real experts which I found here:

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