This is a continuation of “My Story“, my life’s journey towards becoming who I am today. Since it is rather long, I have broken it into sections, so you can read it at your leisure. Each step along the way has had its own particular relevance to me today. This is the second. Please click here to read the first section –My Story.
THE CATALYST – What I thought was the beginning
That day, I told her the story about my Aunt Gloria. “Aunt Glo”, as we called her, worked for a school district in a low income neighborhood in Houston, TX. She too was petite.
Over the years, we watched as her health deteriorated. Aunt Glo was once a vibrant woman. Although she never bore her own children, she was a “mother” to many and a friend to everyone who knew her. It was at my brother’s college graduation that I first noticed that the light that used to shine so brightly within her, had started to dim. It was obvious that she was sick, but it was equally obvious that she was embarrassed about her condition.
I did in that moment something I am extremely ashamed of- Nothing.
I didn’t want to ask any questions, partly because I didn’t want to make her more uncomfortable, and partly because I wasn’t prepared to hear the truth.
It wasn’t until years later that she told us that she had diabetes, or as some would say, “a touch of the sugars.” From that moment, life happened to her very quickly. She wasn’t an active participant; it just started to pass her by. The warning signs were there, but the lack of education about the disease made them meaningless. They were wasted opportunities to save a life when we had the chance.
It felt like I was watching a foreign movie with really bad subtitles. Others were giving me information, and I was trying to interpret what it meant.
Them-“Aunt Glo has diabetes.”
Me– “Okay. That’s why she’s been so sick?”
Them– “Aunt Glo stubbed her toe. It will need to be amputated.”
Me– “What? Why? “
Them- “Aunt Glo was dropped off at the hospital for her procedure. She didn’t want anyone to wait around for her, because she didn’t think it would be a big deal. She died in the waiting room before they could amputate the infected toe.”
That day I was distraught and confused. I had realized that my perception of diabetes was wrong. I had grossly underestimated this “Silent Killer”.
It was at this moment that my questions began.
How could this happen? Aunt Glo memorized the pages of the dictionary and used it like a tablet for note keeping. She encouraged children to make the necessary changes to live a better life. Didn’t she deserve the opportunity to learn how to manage her diabetes to save her own? Then it hit me.
WHY are the stereotypes surrounding this disease so hurtful, that a person would rather suffer in silence than seek help from those who love them?
Aunt Glo opened my eyes to see a problem that I could no longer ignore. I had questions and needed answers.
Less than one year later, I was hired by a company to do intensive market research on diabetes and prediabetes (which was a new term at the time). Six months of research only lead to more questions, but now it was less about understanding the disease, and more about how to stop it.
We created a Wellmobile that went into the community for 1 year to provide health screenings. I had the opportunity everyday to encourage people to manage or prevent diabetes. I learned more with each person I talked to. I saw the importance of treating the person, not just the disease. Everyday my passion for prevention grew stronger and stronger. I needed to know WHY we weren’t doing more to educate those at-risk, empower them with the information and support they needed to prevent diabetes.
In 2005, my husband and I moved to California. I did some consulting for awhile, but I couldn’t escape the need to follow my passion for prevention. Two years later, my passion met my motivation. It was like it had been written in stone. There was no going back. My life would now be dedicated to preventing diabetes.