Diabetes affects the whole family, whether you’re a parent, sibling, child, grandchild or spouse. This week on the blog, we’ll be featuring stories about loving and caring for someone with diabetes.
Name: Elizabeth Carolina Cruz
Location: Northridge, Calif.
I love my mom and dad with diabetes!
My mom was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1984 while pregnant with my brother. Almost three years later she had me.
Being Mexican-American, she was more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. It does run in the family, as my cousins, uncles, aunts and others have also been diagnosed. But she was ignorant of the consequences of not properly treating her diabetes, so she never really took care of it. However, in the coming years she was diagnosed with breast cancer and beat it!
After 20 years with diabetes, my mom finally started experiencing the complications. Her vision worsened, she started swelling, she became more tired than usual and she was diagnosed with renal failure. From 2004 until 2013 my mom had hemodialysis and then peritoneal dialysis. It was hard seeing her so drained after each session. Her vision, nausea, exhaustion and organ function all worsened. She changed so dramatically in just a few years. I hardly recognized her at times.
Around 2005 my father was also diagnosed with type 2. He was forced to stop working due to other physical issues, so he began taking care of my mom. He took her to doctor appointments, helped prepare and give her medicine and assisted her in any manner she needed. Their dedication to each other during this chapter in their lives was so touching. My mom’s doctors and nurses were always in awe at how much he took care of her; I guess they weren’t used to seeing that.
In 2007, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer a second time and beat it again! But in 2013 her diabetes took a turn for the worse. After her fistulas and access sites kept deteriorating, it became nearly impossible for her to continue hemodialysis. We began peritoneal dialysis and saw some improvement—she had more energy, her appetite improved and we had more control of her numbers (weight, blood glucose, etc.).
Unfortunately, her access site became infected. She had surgery to remove it and go back to hemodialysis, but there were some complications. My mother passed away in September 2013 after 29 years of living with diabetes. It was 18 days before her 63rd birthday.
I will always love my mom. I just wish I understood diabetes’ consequences when I was younger. Maybe she’d still be here. So now, we focus on my dad. We are determined he will have an easier path than my mom, now that we know diabetes’ destructive effects.
As for my generation, my brothers and I are conscious of Hispanics/Latinos’ high risk for diabetes and we will try to avoid going down the same medical path as our mom did. We go to regular doctor check-ups now. We have signed up for martial arts classes to remain active. We eat out less and try to choose healthier food options than before: more turkey, chicken, vegetables and water instead of soda, fried food, chips, cookies and candy. As a family we go on three-mile walks about three times a week. And my dad likes riding his bike now, as opposed to driving everywhere.
I’ve asked my brothers and dad to participate in walks and rides in hopes of fundraising money and awareness for diabetes and cancer. Last year we did Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes® in Los Angeles. We will do it again this year, along with Tour de Cure® Ship to Shore! I also participate in the EIF Revlon Walk for women’s cancers in Los Angeles.
Every Sunday we spend time together as a family. We remember the old days and stories about mom, both funny and sad. We are determined to keep her alive within each of us. We motivate each other to stay active, lose weight and live healthier.
My parents will always be my heroes.