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It is always interesting trying to observe something that we don't ourselves live with. Though I do not have diabetes, I am surrounded by it through family, friends and work on a daily basis.
This is a blessing in disguise, both for the education I receive on living a healthy lifestyle to ensure that I don't develop the disease (which is prevalent on both sides of my family) and for helping me assist the one person closest to me in this world - my dad.
When I returned home to Australia in November - kind of an annual pilgrimage for me - I found myself once again at my dad's house keenly observing his type 2 diabetes management (he was diagnosed in 1997), which, as I understand, is downright poor. My dad is my role model, mentor, father and best friend. So I decided to bring him a new Bayer Contour meter after learning he had not checked his blood sugar in more than six months! It was a gift that he assured me he would use if I brought it with strips - which I did.
One day my dad had just come home from work and we were preparing a big Aussie BBQ. It had been a long, hot day - my toddler brothers were bouncing off the wall and everyone was getting hungry. The stress level was high. Dad had begun to become more and more uptight, and after he commented that his blood sugar was low I asked him how he knew it was low if he never tested?
Have you ever tried challenging a person with diabetes at a high-stress time? Now I'm sure we all know someone who feels the need to justify his lack of pro-activity in managing his diabetes. But it was the next thing Dad said that motivated me to write this: "I don't care about my health right now."
A feeling of defeat shot through me, although I knew this was ultimately not my fight or responsibility. All I could do was continue to encourage change. Pictures of his beloved mother, who passed away at 65 from a stroke due to poor diabetes control, suddenly flashed through my mind. I asked myself, "Is this when he will begin to care, after it's too late?"
Having someone so close to me visibly affected by diabetes made it frustrating for me to be around him. I felt like a nagging son. I was really hoping that he would receive a message coming from me better than coming from his doctor. As my visit stretched on, we got into constant discussions about testing blood sugar, eating better, not smoking, and of course, exercise! In the end, though, I believe my whole trip went by without him taking even one BG test - something I continue to work on from abroad encouraging him to do.
Although my visit went by without much visible progress, both of us did experience a definite feeling of achievement. My dad agreed that he needed to make some lifestyle changes and even went in numerous times for lab work to check on his cholesterol, glucose and other indicators. In the end, I did begin to see a small shift in his attitude, from that of a man who says, "I just take my pill everyday," to that of somebody who saw that he could control his diabetes rather than have it control him.
I could go on about the ups and downs of diabetes management I witnessed, but my goal was to support someone I love dearly so that he could live a healthy and prosperous life. As I told my dad that day, "You may not care about your health, but I do." He is a brilliant man of whom I am so proud, and I just want him to know that he has my unconditional support, always.
Jan 30, 2008
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.