I recall several years ago when my mother was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Without any information from her doctor, we were left to figure things out on our own. This is common for many families. One of the first things I learned was how, in my own family, there was no agreement on what being told she had ‘a little sugar’ really meant. I thought it meant she had type 2 diabetes but my older sisters believed having ‘sugar’ was simply not the same as having diabetes. Hmmmm! My sisters are both well-educated and informed, so it just proves how misconceptions about diabetes have lived in our families and communities forever.
The second hurdle we had to get over was what to do about it. Along with giving my mother her diagnosis – which he implied was not a big deal – the doctor also told her to just ‘watch what she ate’. Her doctor was in his late 40s so I thought he would have overcome the misconceptions himself, but not so. His practice was primarily older adults and, like both my parents, most of them respected, admired and trusted him. His word was golden. So convincing my mother she had type 2 diabetes was no easy task.
I have learned so much about type 2 diabetes since that time, so if you have been recently diagnosed, here are 5 things you should know:
1. Learning about diabetes is a lifelong process. Read about it. Ask your health providers questions and feel free to express any concerns you have about your diagnosis, symptoms and treatment. Talk to others who have the disease, especially those who have learned to keep their condition under control and enjoy a good quality of life.
2. You can manage your type 2 diabetes. It is so much easier to prevent it than it is to control it, but if you do have it you must learn to manage it. Ask for help when needed and take advantage of the support offered. Change those negative habits into positive ones. Reduce your stress. Keep track of your blood sugar levels. Get the sleep you need. Take your medications as prescribed. Learn how to manage your pain.
3. Forgive yourself. I have learned there is a lot of self-blaming that occurs with people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. In fact, there is often a sense of shame. As a result, people end up stressed out and overwhelmed which can affect their blood glucose level.
4. Your family members should get tested. First of all, it is important to know that diabetes is preventable. However, however your diagnosis means your children and siblings are also at risk. 29 million people in the U.S. have type 2 diabetes. One in four of them don’t even know it. Use what you learn to help empower your family and if several of your relatives have the disease, work to break the cycle of type 2 diabetes now!
5. You really can make lemonade out of lemons. While this is something you would never wish for, you really can turn it into an opportunity. Perhaps you have not made the best decisions about what you eat and how active you are. Now is your chance to replace those negative habits with positive ones, lose weight and increase your physical activity. Consider attending a diabetes support group, taking a diabetes self-management class or meeting with a nutritionist.