Diabetes: A Real Latino Issue 

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By Liliana Lazaro

By looking at me, you’d never know I had a secret that I was hiding; a secret that I’ve hidden from almost everyone except a few close friends and my family.  I was officially diagnosed on October 20, 2009 at the age of 19.  I say officially because I knew before the doctors told me in the ER that day.  That summer, I had classic symptoms of diabetes; extreme thirst and hunger, constantly having to use the restroom, I wasn’t able to sleep at night, was constantly tired during the day, and the biggest symptom was losing about 50 pounds that summer.  I had gone to the doctor and mentioned my symptoms which prompted her do blood work but I never went back for my results.  I now know that part of me was actually scared of what they would say and the changes I would have to make so I ignored my symptoms for as long as I could until I couldn’t ignore them anymore.

I remember that doctors in the ER saying that if I had gone in a day after, I probably would have died.  Here I was, at the age of 19 having to face the fact that I was a type 2 diabetic head on.  As scary as it was, I knew that I had to make a lifestyle change although it was anything but easy.  I was a college student living on limited money who had to carefully pick and choose what needed to be placed into her body and this got expensive real quick.  I’d like to say it got easier as time went on but no.  For a really like time I just wanted to be a “normal” college student but I had to recognize that wasn’t my life.  

Time after time I was hospitalized for letting my diabetes get out of control until I finally realized that I needed to make a change, for me.  After I graduated, I moved back home with my parents and to start my career and that’s when everything really began to change.  I met a doctor who was concerned enough to be straightforward with me and told me, “whatever it is you’re doing, it’s not working.”  It has been because of her and the team that she assembled that I finally, for the first time in about 3 years, have control of my diabetes.  It is the first time that this disease isn’t controlling me.  

Now, I’m no expert by any means but I do know that Diabetes is a disease that greatly affects the Latino community.  I also know that according to the Center for Disease Control, Latinos have doubled their risk for developing diabetes than non-Latino whites.  Currently, we have over 50 million Latinos in the United States living with Diabetes and unfortunately, unless we make some sort of change, this number is going to continue to grow.  As Latinos, we can all make small changes such as using less oil, eating leaner meats, using oils made of good fats such as avocado oil or coconut oil to cook our food in, and drinking less soda.  As a Latina, I never wanted to deprived myself of tamales or posole or even enchiladas and luckily, I haven’t.  My family made some small changes which have allowed me to continue to enjoy food my cultura offers but feel good about it.  Food is such a big part of the Latino culture that we forget how much it actually affects out health.  

It is hard to wake up in the morning and try to decide whether I want to give myself a shot in the thigh, my stomach, or my arm but I wouldn’t change the way I feel now for anything.  It hasn’t been an easy journey to get to where I am and it’s something that I know I may struggle with for the rest of my life but I couldn’t be in a better space mentally, physically, and emotionally and I am finally truly happy. 

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