Friday, October 20, 2006 | 9 comment(s)

My grandmom passed away last weekend. I went to her funeral on Wednesday. She had had a long fight with Alzheimer's
New Research
Being 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.

, so the loss was not a terrible surprise. With a disease like this, death can seem more like a relief than a loss.

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.

9 Comment(s):

Blogger Major Bedhead said...

I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother. It's always sad to lose someone, even if it was a long goodbye. I think the lesson she gave you was a fantastic one.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My father died this summer from Alzheimer's. This is a terrible illnes both for the patient and the entire family. Humans are "thinking-beings". When this ability disappears, one has difficulty fixing a date for when death has actually occurred! Yes, it is a very slow and prolonged death and so horrible for the family and particularly the spouse! The wise advise she gave to you so many years ago is a beautiful memory to hold on to, to cherish.

I was worried about your tick bite.... and on top of that you have this too! Take care.

Blogger Lyrehca said...

So sorry for your loss.

Blogger Johnboy said...

Peace, brother.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your grandmother, Kevin. A little over four years ago my grandmother died in the same fashion. And what you and your family should remember is to keep a close eye on grandpa now! It's very common for elderly couples to "follow" each other into death. Three months after my grandmother died, my uncle found my grandfather in the house (he had gone over to investigate after not hearing from him for several days) and found that he had fallen and hurt his neck. He didn't last long after surgery... We perhaps could have helped him more if we'd found him earlier, so work out a system, if you can, to make sure grandpa's getting checked on regularly.

Blogger Minnesota Nice said...

My aunt has been living with Alzheimer's for over 15 years - it's a long, long journey.
My condolences.

Blogger Sarah said...

My grandfather died of Allzheimers a few years back. Watching the process of Allzheimers was very painful. In talking with my Grandmother, it seems the only end she really truly fears is Allzheimers, as she was so touched by how it touched my grandfather. This is a really really hard thing, and I am very sorry for your loss.

Blogger Scott K. Johnson said...


Sorry for your loss, my condolences to the family.

I too feel very touched by the whole "cheating" thing. As you said - the concept runs deep.

So many messages that are just simply ingrained into our minds.

Blogger Kerri. said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Kevin. I'm thinking of you and sending comfort your way.

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