I’ve been in a reflective mood lately. Maybe it is because my eldest child just got married, or maybe it’s because I have not been feeling well. Whatever it is, it has made me a little morbid in my train of thought. (Just a warning.)
When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I went on the Internet for information not given me by my doctor. That is when I first noticed the blame. I’m sure anyone with type 2 diabetes has heard it. Diabetes is caused by obesity. Diabetes is caused by poor diet. Diabetes is caused by a lack of exercise.
In other words, I caused my own diabetes.
About the same time I was diagnosed with diabetes, my mother was diagnosed with COPD. Being newly divorced and unwilling to work for a living, she turned to a lawyer to file for disability. She was told the courts consider COPD a self-inflicted illness, therefore she was not eligible for disability. As a pack a day smoker for more than thirty years, she thought that was reasonable.
Those kinds of blanket statements annoy me.
Yes, I was obese at the time of diagnosis. Yes, I did not exercise on a daily basis, at least not in an organized fashion such as running on a treadmill or taking a long walk around the neighborhood. I still don’t, though I make more of an effort than I once did. But when I was diagnosed with diabetes, I had three children, two of whom were under six, and my daily routine consisted of a lot more running around than it does now.
At the time I was diagnosed, I also did not eat as well as I should have. In fact, the morning I was diagnosed, I had donuts for breakfast. That sticks out in my head for some reason. I eat better now–haven’t had fresh baked, donut-shop, donuts in years. I don’t eat fast food anymore, don’t drink sugary drinks or order pizza automatically at the end of a busy day. But I still can’t resist the occasional piece of candy, the fresh baked brownies my daughter struggled over all afternoon, or the Mexican food that is practically a staple in my family (we live in Texas, for goodness sakes!).
So does all that say that I brought diabetes on myself? Does it say that the complications I have begun to struggle with are my fault?
On the one hand, I fell like this:
Blanket statements just don’t fit every situation. What about skinny type 2’s who have never eaten a piece of candy or drunk a real Coke? What about obese type 2’s who have gastric bypass to cure their diabetes, only to have that 53% have their diabetes return a few months down the road? What about fat type 1’s?
To that end, what about healthy athletes who die of heart attacks? (Remember that ice skater some years ago who died while training with is wife/partner?) What about the health nut who suddenly drops dead from a stroke? What about my healthy, twenty-two year old son who suffered months of chemotherapy to battle MDS? (Statistics show that acute myeloid leukemia, of which MDS is a precursor, normally only develops in people in their forties.)
On the other hand:
I have type 2 diabetes.
I have gastroparesis.
I have mild neuropathy.
Now I have some sort of lung issue. Could it be COPD caused from years of erratic blood sugars? (I don’t smoke, two rare instances aside. I did smoke, twenty years ago. Could that have caused this? I lived with two parents who smoke off and on throughout my childhood. Is that my fault?)
Did I cause these things in myself? If so, what does that mean about my future? If I had been diagnosed with type 1 instead of type 2, would I be facing a different future? Will my family suffer if it comes to the point where I cannot work and cannot get disability because my illnesses are ‘self-inflicted’?
Who gets to decide these things?