This week, advocates from around the country will convene in Washington, D.C., for the biannual American Diabetes Association® Capitol Hill Advocacy Day. What does it mean to be a Diabetes Advocate? Let’s hear from Association volunteer Chuck Malloy, who will be joining us from Idaho.
Call it the grace of God, or dumb luck. Either way, I will take it.
When a person’s health starts to go downhill in his or her 50s, it often serves as a prelude to an early death. My health was on a free-fall during my early 50s—and there was no question that my life was in peril.
During my time as an editorial writer with the Idaho Statesman from 1999 to 2003, I remember frequently going to work with the feeling that my head was in a fog. It wasn’t anything that anyone noticed, and I attributed my situation to heavy stress and long work hours.
As it turned out, this “silent killer” also called type 2 diabetes was taking its cruel toll. In retrospect, it was amazing that I could write anything that made sense, let along thought-provoking editorials for a capital city newspaper. Meanwhile, the effects of diabetes were eating at me in other ways. I noticed my eyesight was deteriorating over time and, finally, in December 2003, I had to leave the paper because I couldn’t see well enough to read letters on my desk.
Blindness was only the beginning of my complications. The “fog” that I was feeling in my head probably was the result of diabetes clogging my heart. Within a year of leaving the Statesman, a cardiologist told me I was a prime candidate for keeling over at any moment. Shortly after that, I had a five-way bypass surgery that essentially reconstructed my heart.
But this is not a story of gloom and doom. It’s one of personal triumph and beating the odds—with a lot of help from a lot of smart, and compassionate, medical professionals. Of course, they could not have had success without the technical advances in heart surgery procedures and diabetes care. I owe my life to agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health, which have been game-changers for millions of Americans battling this horrific disease.
I am now 65 years old and feeling better than I have in decades. My eyesight has recovered completely, with the help of a lot of procedures, and my heart is strong and healthy. My cardiologist told me recently, “The best thing I can do for you is stay out of your way.” My golf game is almost where it was 30 years ago. If you assume that bogey is the “new” par, as I do, then I’m breaking par on a regular basis.
More importantly, my diabetes is under good control. A 7.4 A1C isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot better than the 9.5 readings I had been getting. Doctors are no longer seeing black helicopters when they read my medical chart.
The moral of this story is that diabetes is not a death sentence. It can be managed, and I am living proof that many of the horrible effects can be reversed.
I am blessed and it is a privilege for me to tell my congressional delegation, and other members of Congress, that continued funding for diabetes research and prevention is money well spent.
Just because you’re not joining Chuck on the Hill doesn’t mean you can’t help. Anyone who is affected by diabetes can be an advocate and take part Capitol Hill Advocacy Day from afar.
Please sign our petition to Congress at http://stopdiabetes.com/petition. Together, we can win this battle!
The Association also asks that you join our Thunderclap and dedicate your social media status to help spread the word about our advocacy efforts. By inviting your friends and family to participate we can ignite a dialogue about the importance of preventing, treating and curing diabetes.