Making Lemonade: Living With Multiple Chronic Conditions
Sometimes I think that I’ll write a book called Diabetes is my Lemonade. While diabetes is a condition that can be a lemon full of complications if you let it, you can transform it into the most tasty and healthy lemonade.
Diabetes is the one chronic condition that gives you a choice between lemons and lemonade. That makes diabetes empowering for us.
Personally, I have three chronic conditions that I am essentially powerless to deal with. My doctors are totally in charge of them.
My urologist treats my benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) pretty well with a couple of prescriptions. My audiologist fitted me for hearing aids that give me almost normal hearing. And my opthamologist wrote the prescription for my bifocals so I can see normally again.
I rely on a physician only to prescribe Byetta and set up quarterly lab tests to check my A1C, chloresterol levels, and other such things that my blood sample with tell us. But the rest is up to me.
The rest is nothing but diet, weight control, and exercise. Before I found out that I had diabetes in February 1994, I didn’t pay any attention to any of these factors that are crucial not just for people with diabetes but for everyone who wants to live healthy. The consequences of my inattention was that I started to feel and act a lot older than my chronological years.
When I got my diabetes diagnosis in 1994 my A1C was 14.4. I weighed way too much. But most demoralizing was my crippling arthritis in my left knee a couple of years ago.
Now, it’s no problem to not act my age, which is 72. I wrote these words yesterday as I neared 11,900 at the Rogers Pass in the James Peak Wilderness. I reached this pass that crosses the Continental Divide on an 11-mile hike.
View of James Peak (13,294 feet) from the Continental Divide (CD) trail at 11,900 feet yesterday
Can I inspire you to control your diabetes too? My inspirations are my grandfather, Francisco José Mendonça and my father, Alex Mendosa, who had worse lemons to handle.
As a recent immigrant from the Azores, my grandfather was working in a sawmill when he lost his right arm in an accident. Worse, he had a wife and eight children to support. So he started a store that survives more than a century later.
Poverty and lack of education are chronic conditions for many people. Before my father could start high school, he had to go to work in the sawmill and the family store. It wasn’t until he was 21 that he was able to leave home in order to get an education, working his way through high school, college, and graduate school. With his quest for education it’s not surprising that he taught in high schools and colleges for most of his working live.
Life isn’t fair. Most of us end up with one or more chronic conditions, if we live long enough. Some of us – those whose chronic condition is diabetes but who can avoid complications by controlling it – have all the luck.