Thursday, October 19, 2006

Breathing deep and treading water

So . . . hmm.

Last night, I took the kids to Johnny's NY Pizza to meet up with my uncle (my mother's brother) for dinner. He wanted all of us kids to gather there to talk with him about my parents, their (delapidated) house, their (dwindling) finances, etc.

We all gathered there, me and my kids, my sister and her family, one brother, his kids, and my uncle brought my mom. It's not often that we all gather together, and I can't remember the last time all 6 of my mom's grandkids were in one spot at the same time.

When the food starts to arrive (calzones, spaghetti, and pizza for most, Greek salad and some kind of low carb chicken wrap thingy for me, not bad), the conversation turns to me, and not in a good way.

"You know, you can cure that diabetes with deep breathing and lots of drinking water," Uncle announces to me and the rest of the table. He goes on in this vein, making me feel like, evidently, I have failed to care for myself properly, and with a few obvious changes that I should know, I could be restored to perfect health.

This, embarassingly enough, spins into a discussion about weight management there at the table, which feels strangely familiar to me. For whatever reason, my family has always felt free to discuss me in this way whenever we have gatherings; I can't ever remember it being any different. Being a fat girl in an normally-weighted family is no fun, trust me.

Sometimes the discussions start out on a good note ("Hey! You've lost weight!"), and sometimes they start with a confidential whisper ("Rita, you have to try this new diet that my best friend's mother's hairstylist found.) It's a strange thing to be dissected that way by people that are supposed to love you, but I figured that was just my penance for being a fat girl in a thin family.

He said some other stuff between bites of pizza that I wasn't really listening to, because I was thinking about when he would come to visit us when I was a little girl; he would produce a portable minibar out of the trunk of his Cadillac, and he would have a (nearly) permanent glass of some concoction or other in his hand for the entire visit. I always looked forward to his visits; he lived in Florida in a beautiful house with an indoor pool, played golf, had lots of money, and was always the life of the party. Very Rat Pack. Very charismatic. It dawned on me that even though I admired him, I never felt very good around him.

He was still lecturing when I started thinking closely about my mother's siblings. While he wasn't diabetic or heavy, he was an alcoholic. Ditto for one of my mother's sisters. Two of her brothers were diabetics (one also alcoholic), both ended up on dialysis, losing this or that limb as things progressed. Their offspring (my siblings and first cousins) are comprised of a fairly high percentage of regularly-weighted alcoholics and addicts (my oldest brother included in that count.) In the entire family, there really is only one other cousin that is heavy like me, and like me, he becomes the center and focus of most of the family's clucking and fingerpointing. He just had a quad bypass last month, and everyone down to a person seemed to openly blame him for his poor health, but never mentioned his brother, who has been a longtime addict and alcoholic. Interesting.

It didn't dawn on me then, but it was crystal clear to me last night, sitting in that pizza joint, picking at salad, and listening to a sermon: no one really ever discusses the rampant alcoholism, drug addiction and diabetes in my mother's family, but discussing weight is fair game.

I also realized that maybe my dad wasn't the only one in my family deep in denial. Taking a closer look, it might be the whole damn bunch.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Getting by with a little help from my friends . . .

So, some of you know, some don't (the ones of you that DO know are probably tired of the complaining), but I am a newly diagnosed diabetic.

After a really wierd woozy reaction at a Braves game a few weeks back, I visited the doctor when I was still feeling wierd a few days later. It didn't take him very long to find the culprit, and just like that, I was given the news.

It took a couple of weeks to stop cursing God, Dairy Queen, Russell Stover, potato farmers, my potato famine-surviving ancestors and their fucking "thrifty" genes, people who have ever caused me any stress at any point in my life, my parents, my ex-husband (the rotten bastard), my CURRENT husband (poor guy, putting up with my bullshit) and my damnable luck and tendency to forlornly turn to Chunky Monkey like a smack addict when I am feeling the pressure, but I think I have reached a place of acceptance and have started forming a battle plan.

It hasn't been easy, trust me. Counting calories, planning out meals and snacks (planning? what is this planning you speak of?), incorporating regular exercise into my day (what?!?) and eliminating as much stress as possible from my daily routine has been like being a stranger in a strange land.

I have pretty good incentive to stick to the straight and narrow, though. Unfortunately, along with my sarcasm and sense of humor, I have also inherited my sketchy sugar management from my dad. Family lore is that my grandfather (my father's father) would often be caught in the pantry sneaking spoonfuls of jelly and other sweet treats. He dropped dead at 55, in the midst of a screaming match with my uncle's (now ex) wife. My dad, every bit his father's son, is a "diabetic in denial". I guess if he had ever bothered to actually GO to the doctor, he would have probably been diagnosed several decades ago, but instead, we watched him suck sugar like a Hoover vacuum. He held his own until his early 60s, when everything started to go to shit. He has lost most of his eyesight (common complication of poorly managed diabetes), and he is wheelchair-bound, unable to walk at all now (ditto).

Based on that kind of history, I am not 100% shocked with my diagnosis. I have had doctors give me the stinkeye for years because of my weight, and because the law of averages states that someone that has my history would certainly BE diabetic, but I would gloat every time my blood tests would come back normal, inviting fate to pucker up and kiss my chubby round ass, feeling like I had escaped the clutches of death for one more round.

It's been a long, hard chase, but I have finally been caught.

Sooooooo . . . in the interest of breaking the family cycle of denial and bodily failure, I have decided to fight back. I have loaded my quiver with a few good arrows. Luckily for me, I recognized the patterns a while back, and I had made some changes that may have given me a leg up. Along with changing up the diet, adding a handful of vitamins, reading books and online info, I have formed a grudging respect for, the online place of reckoning for what goes into my mouth all day long. Like a daily confessional, I throw myself at the feet of Saint FoodDiary, and await the penance or the reward.

Another member of my taskforce is MapMyRun ( ). This thing lets you click on maps of your neighborhood to chart your walk/run paths, lets you save the paths, and provides the distance of the walk, etc.

At this point, its a crapshoot. I could be a model patient and reverse the trend. I could do everything right, and still end up being a human pincushion, shooting insulin all day long. Time will tell.

I am surrendering to gravity and the unknown
Catch me, heal me. . . lift me back up to the sun
Help me survive - I want to live
Gravity / A Perfect Circle
(thanks for turning me on to this one, Jimbo. It's become a mantra.)
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