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“Sometimes he became disoriented, sweaty and shaky until I could give him a glass of orange juice or hard candy,” she explains. “I wondered how he developed diabetes. Was it something he ate or didn’t eat? Was it his fault? I now know the answer to the first question is “yes.” His diabetes was definitely related to his diet. But the answer to the second question is “no.” Diabetes is not our fault – although educating ourselves on how to live with it once diagnosed is our responsibility.”
Loretta’s father ultimately died from complications of his Type 2 diabetes. While his death made her own diagnosis more than 10 years ago seem inevitable, she still found it overwhelming.
“It seemed unbelievable that as a person who is terrified of needles that I had to stick myself every day – sometimes several times a day,” she admits. “But through my diabetes, I met the most phenomenal and inspiring people. People who were able to reduce the impact and effects of their diabetes by choosing to live better, eat better and exercise more. People who decided that living with diabetes was far better than dying from complications associated with diabetes.”
Just when Loretta had accepted that diabetes would always be part of her life, she got another piece of sobering news.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” she says. “I was at a loss as to why these two major life-changing events were happening to me. I felt frustration, and sometimes anger for having to cope with both at the same time. Sometimes, I felt sorry for myself and would say, ‘I didn’t ask for any of this.’ Managing the pain of surgery and radiation treatments – along with the blurry vision, numbness and tingling caused by my diabetes all seemed a bit too much for one person to endure.”
A community of women fighting their own cancer battles pulled Loretta back from the ledge.
“We bonded over our faith, our desire to fight cancer and the support and compassion we showed one another every day we showed up for radiation treatments,” she says. “Everyone in our community was determined to emerge as a cancer survivor. Today, I am proud to say I am a five-year survivor who is part of a community of survivors. We often say we’ve faced the giant. I’ve faced two – diabetes and cancer – and I’m still here.”
While the cancer is behind her, Loretta is living with the daily reality of diabetes.
“As a person who enjoys living and laughing, I immerse myself with diabetic food plans and a “can do” attitude. It still takes me a long time to work up the nerve to stick my finger or administer my insulin, but I understand it’s all about my mindset. I think God has a sense of humor to allow a person who is terrified of needles the opportunity to stick themselves every day for more than a decade.
“Still, every day I fight a good fight. For me, living with diabetes means I make a conscious effort to eat better, exercise more and make better choices about my health. I choose LIFE and living it well. In the end, I control my diabetes – it does not control me.”
Originally published 10/6/2017; Revised 2022
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