When I was 22, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
At that time, it was a barely-researched phenomenon. I had been having symptoms since the onset of menses, when I was a completely average weight teenager. I was told that if I were 10 years older, the doc would be scheduling me for a full hysterectomy; rip out the works. That was the solution. I was also told that it would be darn near impossible for me to get pregnant, that I would always be a little fat and that diabetes was a given in my future.
This is not the advice I would be given today. Lack of research and knowledge shaped, and in some ways crippled, my life. I have not truly attempted to have children. I am fat. And now, years later, I have diabetes.
Diabetes is terrifying.
Having diabetes requires daily courage to face down the dragon that lurks in my body; waiting to take my feet, my eyes, my kidneys. It is waking up in a snuggly, warm bed knowing the first thing I have to do is lance myself with sharp, cold metal; to spill warm blood and see what the sugar levels were during the night. I am a walking chem lab where some of the experiments go horribly wrong. I sometimes eat and exercise as righteously as possible and still come up with the wrong numbers. Diabetes requires turning down the hospitality of friends I love and their delicious food; it requires me to make others feel awkward.
My internist told me that once a person is diagnosed with Type II, there is only a 10% chance that they can “thin” themselves out of diabetes. So the equation is not as easy as the judgers (myself included) perceive. I was told originally that I was one of these 10%, and that I had the ability to make the diabetes in my body go away through proper food and exercise.
For the first two years after my diagnosis, I was a “gold star” patient. My sugar levels were good enough that, to my body, it was as if I did not have diabetes. But circumstances changed in my inner landscape and I went through a bout of depression. Crushing fear of my life with diabetes led to physical inactivity, my financial hardship made it hard to consistently get meds and I took a job that (I did not realize) did not provide insurance.
Years later, when I was able to get back on meds, the doctors became increasingly agitated. I was then told that I might no longer be one of the 10%, that I had broken my pancreas permanently and that I needed meds—so many more meds. They railed me and threatened insulin injections. So I took more oral meds and started to live in fear all the time. Because the meds weren’t working the way they should, I thought that I might really have to go to injections.
“People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.”
~ Wendell Berry
I am beginning again—Again. With eating, moving and testing.
Those of you that may have read Groovy Backyard Farming, Beginning at the End know that I have been cooking and eating at home due to the economy. The fact is—it is often more delicious than going out. And the more I cook at home, the more I think the food I do eat out tastes nasty. Good for the pocketbook… and the tastebuds!
When I had tried to get back on the wagon in the past, I had been eating out almost all of the time. As I said, the numbers I was getting were terrifying, and I thought the doctors were right. I needed meds—more meds. I had finished breaking my poor beleaguered pancreas, for good.
But not this time…
This time, my numbers are better than they had been in my other efforts, much better. I am not yet through the period of time that it takes for the meds to build up in my blood, and I am already reaching rockstar sugar levels. Now I am on only one type of pill, instead of three!
The only difference: I have been cooking and eating at home for months now. It is one thing to believe something in the mind, and another to experience it in our own body. Food is medicine. I know it now, in my mind, as well as my very bloodstream.
I am still terrified. But I am no longer hopeless. I can see a way of life that will work for me now. It is beautiful that a practice I had adopted due to lack of money can deeply address the worst fear of my life. I walk toward financial health only to be met by physical health.
All things are connected. All that is true, beautiful and healthy produces health; not only in the mind, but also in the body and soul. Surely as I walk toward life, I will be met by Life. It is pure amazement to me. I hold it in awe.
And I am so grateful.
“One eats in holiness and the table becomes an altar.”
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Assistant Editor: Jennifer Moore/ Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Jennifer Moore