By: Helen Bileen
All of my adult life my health has had its ups and downs. I’m sure many factors contributed to the lack of consistency with my health. During my annual visits to the doctors, they wrote in their reports that I was managing my pre-diabetes with diet and exercise. I’m a full-blooded Native American of the Navajo Nation. Type 2 diabetes is running rampant among my people. I know too many people who were diagnosed with this disease and eventually died. I used a low carb diet and walking to control blood sugar level and weight. It worked for a short period of time, and my numbers (i.e., blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) would always plateau. Then with a busy lifestyle, I reverted back to eating comfort foods.
After I retired from my career, I served a full-time mission for the LDS Church. One day I was complaining to a missionary friend about my lack of sleep, feeling tired, and my craving for more food. She invited me to her whole food plant-based support group which included missionaries and local people. My first impression was that it was too restrictive. I knew I was addicted to food, and I just couldn’t imagine limiting my diet to whole food plant-based. I needed a brownie or chocolate chip cookie at least once a week. Where I served there was always food everywhere: in the Zone office, the cafeteria, potluck dinners, and dining out. I strived to limit myself to eating comfort foods in smaller portions. Even though I had good intentions, I was not always successful!
After serving two and a half years, I temporarily moved in with my son and his family. Naturally, I ate what my family ate. Also, people in the community drove to their destinations. Therefore, I naturally walked less. It was different from serving a mission in downtown metropolitan city where I walked everywhere.
After five months, I began feeling symptoms of type 2 diabetes that previous doctors had taught me through the years. Finally, in March I made an appointment to see a health care provider at a Public Health Service. Since I was new to their clinic they took my blood and urine samples for tests. My new health care provider was astonished to see my numbers. At the time, my weight was about 147 pounds. He was surprised that my A1c was 14 (normal is below 5.7)! The other numbers were also not within normal range. He didn’t tell me I was pre-diabetic which is what I was expecting to hear. No, this time I was full-blown diabetic! He gave me a choice of taking insulin or Metformin to control my diabetes. Years ago I had my gallbladder removed and the doctor prescribed Metformin for me to begin taking on a regular basis. It had side effects that made me feel sick. Therefore, I told him I would try the insulin, and he assured me that there would be no side effects. At the time, I was totally naïve. I trusted my health care provider.