By LeRae Haynes –
I have been chased by a pugnacious five-point buck during rutting season. I have encountered snarling dogs who looked at me like I was a dish of pate, and been pelted by ice, rain, sleet, and hammering wind.
I know I look like an eccentric walking-stick-flailing nut job galloping down local streets and rural roads at warp speed all seasons, all year round, pounding along with incredible intent as if pursued by the hounds of hell. I look like I’m windmill-running for my life. And in a way, I am.
A year and a half ago I went to the doctor after a stretch of time not feeling well at all—dizzy, not sleeping, constantly sweaty, persistent weight gain over 10 years, bloating, and facial numbness, to name a few. And this was after a lifetime of healthy eating and exercise.
This new doc marched me right off to the hospital for blood work and said the clinic would call if there was anything to talk about. Days went by, two weeks went by, and no call. I felt worse and worse and finally stomped back in with severe head-ringing and facial paralysis.
I was faced with yet another new doc. I started over, explaining my history and current symptoms. He was looking at my chart on his computer screen as I talked, and suddenly became very still.
“Nobody called you, did they?” he asked. “No,” I answered, with my heart in my throat. “I’m sorry: I have very bad news for you,” he said. “You are severely diabetic and are going on needles or going in the hospital today.”
I fought to breathe, fought to hear. He continued, “And your cholesterol and blood pressure are incredibly high—you are at risk of a heart attack or stroke right now.”
I almost fell off the table. He went on to explain that all my numbers were sky high: normal blood sugar is 4 – 6 and mine was 29. A huge risk of organ failure, loss of hearing, loss of eyesight.
He put me on pills and gave me a week to get my sugar numbers down before putting me on insulin. I staggered over to Kornak and Hamm’s, got tag-teamed by some wonderfully helpful women with all kinds of info, and went home armed, terrified, and determined to stay alive.
You see, this is what killed my dad 23 years ago when he was exactly my age. Far too young—a huge, enormous loss to all of us. That was not going to be me.
I tweaked my diet (already vegetarian, sugar-free, organic, natural, non-processed, and low-sodium) and doubled my exercise. I made my health a part-time job and became my own advocate. I researched even more natural treatments. I power-walked three hours a day with walking sticks—half with a walking buddy and another session alone later in the day. Within a week my sugar numbers were 15 instead of 29 and in another week they were 11 and they kept going down. For the past year they have been in the normal range.
In three months I lost 50 lbs. A year and a half later my numbers are still good. I still have a fairly tweaked and monitored diet and walk every day. Because of an interface between standard medicine and natural medicine I maintain good results.
It’s been humbling, to say the least. For me, it’s apparently not enough to live extremely healthy, eat like an organic Earth Mother, and exercise. For me, it’s not enough to just take standard medication and follow my doctor’s orders. I need both. I need to be my own advocate and I need to research absolutely everything. I can’t believe everything I hear about herbs, the miracle of okra, cottonwood bark tea, and cinnamon capsules, and I can’t believe everything I hear about big pharmaceutical cholesterol and high blood pressure meds. I can certainly not believe everything I hear from the Canadian Diabetes Association.
It’s extremely challenging to eat out in restaurants, at potlucks, or at other people’s houses, but I do it. I bring my own food, figure out extreme menu variations, or eat ahead of time. I take my own food everywhere. And, just so you know, even though I don’t eat potatoes, carrots, beets, peas, corn, fish, chicken, seafood, meat, bread, pasta, pastries, desserts, most grains, or fruit, I eat like a king.
OK, maybe not like a king: maybe a cheerful, falafel-gnawing, lettuce-scarfing court jester. Being chased down the road by a deer.
LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.