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Scarlet D

Diabetes Guilt

JUNE 27, 2011 | PAULA WRAY

Diabetes has been a part of my life going back to age eight in 1965 when my father was diagnosed. In those days, we called it "sugar diabetes." When I think of those early years, I recall the bitter taste of saccharine-sweetened soda. Insulin vials and syringes were as normal as silverware in our home.  Injections were performed in the kitchen, a practice Dad continues this to this day, though his aseptic technique has gone by the wayside. Now he plunges the reused needle straight through the seat of his trousers.

As my father's daughter, I always knew that diabetes was a possibility for me.  In 1988, I had gestational diabetes.  Then in April 1991 I was diagnosed with DMII, the same month my divorce became final.  It was a banner month.

How did the disease hit me?  With tremendous guilt and shame.  I knew that I should lose weight to delay the onset, but I wouldn't or couldn't do it.  I had brought this on myself!  I was not deserving of sympathy.  Even after I was diagnosed, I could have improved my health tremendously by losing weight, but I could never lose enough or keep it off for long.

For me, it's all about the obesity.  Diabetes is a side note, a huge inconvenience, and a scarlet letter proclaiming that this woman has no self-control.  For many of us, it's embarrassing to see the doctor, and humiliating when we don't meet our objectives.

Not only do I blame myself, but I blame the $35 billion diet industry for selling us a bill of goods.  For most of my adult life I was on a never-ending dieting cycle - losing with glee, then gaining with self-loathing.  It always ended the same way no matter the quality of the plan.  The body adapts to lower rations, and you must eat less and less to see any loss.  Soon you are subsisting on very low calories and exercising as much as you can, but you are no longer losing. You give up in discouragement. Like 95% of dieters, every time I lost, I regained more. To keep repeating the cycle is madness.

The only logical course of action, despite the risks, is weight-loss surgery. Today I am in the 6-month pre-surgery program consisting of support group meetings, classes, doctor visits, medical testing, weight loss, daily exercise, and practicing new eating methods.  I've lost weight, my HbA1C has dropped, and my cholesterol is so low that my Zocor was cut in half. This leads my family and even some health care providers to ask, "why not keep doing what you're doing instead of having surgery?"  The answer is one paragraph above.  I cannot keep this up much longer without the help of surgery.

Gastric bypass surgery is virtually a cure for DMII and obesity.  It requires a dramatic lifestyle change, but alleviates the hunger and feeling of deprivation.  It will not be easy, but it's the best solution I see at this time.