Friday, October 20, 2006 | 9 comment(s)
New ResearchBeing the only person in my family with diabetes and with a grandmom with Alzheimer's, I have found the recent research that has hypothesized that Alzheimer's may be a special type of diabetes (some have gone so far as to call it "type 3" diabetes) to be particularly interesting. I certainly hope that something of benefit for either disease comes from the findings.
She was first diagnosed more than 10 years ago, and I haven't seen her since she went into a nursing home over 7 years ago. She hasn't been cognizant of her surroundings nor able to recognize close family members for the past several years. Despite this as well as his own recent health issues (including a heart valve replacement and by-pass surgery) my grandpop visited my grandmom regularly in the nursing home. My grandparents were married for 59 years, and the most difficult part of the funeral was seeing how heart-broken my grandfather was. In a sense, it was a very long good-bye, which can be all the more difficult, really. My aunt put it best when she said the most difficult part happened many years ago. Slipping into oblivion with this disease is really one of the worst fates in life (though watching a loved one go down that path may be a very close second).
Unfortunately, I was never very close with my grandmom, even when I was a kid and before her dementia set in.
There is one time I remember well, though.
As a kid, I went to a private, progressive (read: hippy-dippy) elementary school. I then went to public school starting in 7th grade, and went through quite a culture shock.
I remember telling my grandmom about how different and difficult it was in my new school and about how much trouble a kid in my class had gotten into for cheating on an exam. I remember sitting in the nook at her kitchen table telling her this story when she interrupted me and said:
"You know, when you cheat, the only person you're cheating is yourself."
I've thought about this sentence many times, and I think it's pretty profound.
I believe it can be applied broadly in life. In academic settings, you're cheating yourself out of an opportunity to learn. You may think you're so smart when you're cheating, that you're pulling a fast one, beating the system, and really getting away with something great. But cutting corners deprives you of the rewarding sense of accomplishment when you complete a difficult task. Taking the easy route will always lessen an experience, regardless of what that experience is.
As a diabetic, the concept of cheating runs deep. People who are trying to lose weight will often talk about cheating on their diets in a casual manner. But the concept of cheating on a diet is rarely a light matter for a diabetic. The psychological weight of cheating on such things when you're a kid with diabetes can be tremendous. Sneaking Halloween candy that's been stashed on top of the refrigerator or some extra cake at birthday parties when your a kid shouldn't come with the kind of guilt associated with cheating, yet it often does for kids with diabetes.
As an adult, I still feel like I'm "cheating" when I indulge in sweets. Even with the advent of short acting insulin, the change in the dietary guidelines to include all carbs as equals, the ease of insulin delivery with an insulin pump, and power and freedom granted by having well-tuned basal rates and carb ratios, I still feel guilty when I'm eating something sweet.
Before all these things, I cheated.
I know I cheated.
At times, I cheated a lot.
And I know I was cheating myself.
Now, however, I have learned to (mostly) bolus appropriately for my indulgences. But even so, there's still a lingering feeling of guilt that comes from this notion that I'm cheating. And then there's the shock (and a little fear, too) when I test a few hours later and I come up with a perfect blood sugar reading. The fear comes from the eventual thought that creeps into my head: "Heck, that was easy. I can do things like this all the time." This is a dangerous place to be -- a very slippery slope.
It's a strange thing, and I don't think I've been able to explain it fully (or at least to my satisfaction). And it may be strange for me to go on about cheating when my grandmom has just recently passed, but this is indeed the most salient memory I have with my grandmom.
It was a simple phrase, but it has meant a lot to me.
Thank you, grandmom.