In her own words:
By Linda J. Vann
I was recently asked to write about diabetes and what it meant to me, but before we begin, I must tell you that I am no author.
Shortly after visiting the Kanza Health Clinic, I received a call from Dr. Dona Veal. She told me that I was now a full-blown Type 2 Diabetic.
After taking a really deep breath, I asked her what was next? She was really surprised at my demeanor and asked why I was so calm about this devastating news.
Reflecting back, I told Dr. Veal the story of my oldest sister, who 35 years prior was also diagnosed with diabetes. In those days, little help was available to Native Americans or to their family members. My sister continued to eat whatever she wanted and continued to take more insulin. Over the next 15 years she had a massive heart attack, followed by a triple bypass, lost her left leg 2-3 inches below the knee, lost her eyesight and battled with leukemia for 2« years before passing away. It was difficult to witness this, not only because she was my sister, she was also my best friend.
Watching her suffer through all of this, I told myself that if I should ever get this nasty thing called diabetes that I will do everything in my power to become the best diabetic I can be. I will never get to the insulin stage, no matter what.
Dr. Veal told me to come to the clinic and to visit with the Diabetic Nurse. The nurse showed me how to use the lancet and meter. She said to come back on Friday and that we will get started. There was only 48 hours to get ready to head on my journey, and it has been one big glorious journey.
After receiving all the literature they had for diabetes, there was one book that stood out and became my diabetic bible. The food exchange list has a wealth of information.
It’s funny now, but I went to the Clinic on Friday morning for seven weeks in a row, there was not one person who had the heart to tell me that I was only supposed to come once every three months. However in those seven weeks, I shared with them how overwhelming it was for me, and that my first four visits to the grocery store ended up taking 3-4 hours. The most overwhelming thing was to get a handle on the things to watch and count, such as calories, carbohydrates, fats, sodium and cholesterol. My head just swam in all of that. So I decided to pick two things to start with: it was to eliminate Trans fat and to start counting carbohydrates. I didn’t really worry about starch, vegetables, fruit or dairy products.
My mother, who was still with me at the time, was 90 years old. She told me not to fix for her and then have to fix for myself, that she would just eat what I ate, and that she would have her candy and cake when I wasn’t looking. This is when I asked God for more strength and more willpower. Let me tell you, I actually thought I was going to starve. Never in my 60 plus years, have I ever felt hunger on purpose. This was a new experience.
One year into my diabetes my weight dropped 90 pounds and my A1Cs were holding 5.5 and below. Now 6« years later all of my work has paid off. I no longer take meds for my diabetes because I had worked hard at being a good diabetic.
Throughout my 6« years of giving up all that I thought was me, the old me, I held onto smoking, to feel something of the old me was left. What a thought, and a false sense of well-being. However, I felt good enough about my accomplishment and my ability, that I quit smoking for good.
In the past 6« years, not once has my diabetes been a burden or a curse for me, it was actually life saving. Dr. Dona Veal and the Diabetic Nurse, Cindy Wilson, both told me they were really worried about me at that time because my diabetes was so far out of control. In fact they didn’t expect to see me through the next year and were both surprised and thankful about my attitude toward diabetes.
There are so many blessing we should be grateful for: the Kanza Clinic, Kanza Wellness Center and all the staff who takes time with each patient and sincerely cares how they are doing with their diabetes.
We are very fortunate that our heritage allows us to have these services available to us as Kaw tribal members. As an elder, I receive an abundance of help and don’t think for one moment that I am not thankful for everything that my tribe has done and continues to do for me. May God bless all of them.