I was reading about Angelina Jolie losing her aunt to breast cancer just two weeks after the actress revealed she'd had a double mastectomy to prevent the disease. While her aunt's death might serve as confirmation that she did the right thing to save her own life, I doubt it makes the sorrow of losing a loved one any easier. Sometimes the harshest, most important lessons we learn from our relatives come in the form of watching them battle diseases passed from one generation to the next.
I've said many times before that diabetes is a family plague. My mom and 5 of her 8 siblings have diabetes. In my heart I wanted to prevent it and after my diagnosis I wanted to control it, but I felt sabotaged at every turn by a powerful sweet tooth and close to 40 years of bad eating habits. My sassiest aunt, Reacie, adopted an "oh well" attitude and I'll admit to copying it for a time. We had the "sugar gene" and we were big girls. That wasn't going to stop us from eating and drinking whatever made us feel good and wearing the styles we wanted to wear. Diabetes wouldn't stop us from living life to the fullest, even if that meant that our glucose issues could take a deadly toll on our bodies. You have to die of something, right?
I'd done research on gastric bypass surgery and knew that it was the closest thing to a cure that a diabetic could get. However, it took me nearly two years to get from my first seminar to the operating room at Catawba Valley Medical Center. It wasn't until a dear friend's brother-in-law died of diabetes-related kidney complications that I decided I had to do something to turn my life around. When I was back in Ohio for Aunt Nell's 80th birthday party a few weeks ago she took one look at me and told me that I was a role model for our family. She said she was proud of me for setting a new health example. Her daughter has gastric bypass surgery scheduled for the end of this month. Her granddaughter had the surgery earlier this year. Take that diabetes!
My challenge now as it relates to my family's harsh health history is to help my younger cousins understand that they simply must take our genes seriously. Hopefully we can healthy-up some old family recipes and put as much focus on moving our bodies as we do dressing our bodies (we're a pretty stylish bunch if I must say so myself).