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May 17 2017

I’d Wish You Get Your Risk Factors Straight

Today is Day 3 of Diabetes Blog Week (#DBlogWeek) and today’s topic asks us to reflect upon a person who has passed judgement on us and envision them saying something differently. What would we have them say to us instead of what they actually said.

Here I go…

I can’t think of a particular person because I have had so many experiences with people and information about diabetes, that I would like to envision them all saying this to me.

I am sorry.

I am sorry that you were born in a society that has yet to rectify the ill-treatment of black Americans and the lasting effects of inequality.

I am sorry that you grew up in a poor neighborhood and because of that your ability to access fresh foods at affordable prices was almost non-existent.

I am sorry that you grew up in a neighborhood that was saturated with drugs, drug addicts, and drug dealers, and it made going outside to exercise dangerous. So you learned to stay inside.

I am sorry that so many things were scarce or absent from your family and neighbors for so long, for so many years, decades, and centuries that food and ample portions of it was the way in which your family came to express love.

I am sorry that the environmental stress of being in the skin you are in wears on your mind and has negative effects on your body.

I am sorry that your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother carried her in a womb toxic with worrying about her safety and that it was still true for your mother’s mother’s mother and your mother’s mother and your mother and even you as you carried your daughter in the height of the Black Lives Matter Movement and that science is just now getting around to discovering that anxiety, stress, and worry affects babies at the cellular level.

I am sorry that we have yet to know the full extent of what 400 years of this trauma does to the bodies of African Americans and how it may weaken organs like the pancreas.

I am sorry that you’ve had to worry about your safety daily and that most of the times that trumped your ability to think about whether the meal you were eating was “healthy” or not.

I am sorry that no one came to your school, to your neighborhood, to your church to teach healthy eating with the foods that are important to your culture.

I am sorry that you didn’t have access to proper medical care and physicians who saw you as a person.

I am sorry that no one explained that these socio-economic factors are the primary risk factors that caused you to develop Type 2 diabetes, but rather just stated “Risk Factor: Being African American.”

I am sorry that when you read or are told, “Being African American is a risk factor of Type 2 diabetes” that it makes you feel that there is something, yet another thing, wrong with the skin you are in.

I am sorry that messages like this hurt you so much emotionally when you were in the hospital newly diagnosed that you sunk into depression not fully understanding why.

I am sorry that these messages turned you away from learning about diabetes because you couldn’t take another kick during the very fragile and vulnerable state you were in.

I am sorry that your beautiful blackness and cultural identity isn’t celebrated while simultaneously condemning the conditions to which you were exposed and which you are forced to survive in as the real risk factors of Type 2 diabetes.

I am sorry that when you leave your home you pass seven fast food restaurants with glaring signs of complete meals for $5 and five corner stores before you reach a grocery store where $5 won’t buy you a complete meal made with fresh ingredients.

I am sorry that it is not clearly stated that if someone, not matter their race or ethnicity, were exposed to the same historical and societal experiences as African Americans and Native Americans, they would face the same risk factors.

I am sorry that by not saying this, it feels like another assault.

I am sorry that the secretary at the podiatrist’s office assumed you were on Medicaid and denied you an appointment until you asked her what was Medicaid. It was then that it became very transparent that she assumed you were on Medicaid because you were African American. It was then that it became very transparent that those on Medicaid aren’t treated the same.

I am sorry that in that moment you realized, as if you didn’t know before, that being African American navigating the Health Care system is multifaceted and having a PhD with “good insurance” meant little on first sight.

I am sorry that an Endocrinologist treated you like “all the other” African American patients at the office until she realized that you had a PhD and told you immediately that “you’re not like the rest” and her level of care, treatment, and attitude changed.

I am sorry that you walked out, sat in your parked car, and cried after that visit because you couldn’t deny the reality of the differences in treatment some African Americans receive and your soul poured out like a river in Springtime overflowing with grief, despair, compassion, and confusion.

I am sorry that this type of pain from frequently feeling hopelessness is a risk factor for an array of health problems.

I am sorry that you felt that it was better to give yourself insulin injections inside filthy public bathroom stalls because you feared that someone might see you, think you are a drug addict, and call the police because you know that an encounter with the police could become brutal.

I am sorry that you were told you shouldn’t have children because your babies would come out with defects and you needed to be on birth control, rather than being told how to properly manage diabetes to ensure you will have a healthy baby.

I am sorry you were told this while living in North Carolina, a state known for forcefully sterilizing black women, (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=205548336) and you once again left that appointment, sat in your parked car, and cried those tears of hopelessness because the experience of being black meant your experience with health care was different. Emotionally damaging. Depressing.

I am sorry that when you told a physician that your parents and grandparents did not have Type 2 diabetes that she replied by saying, “Someone in your family is lying,” because she believed that all African Americans had to be living with diabetes or would get it eventually.

I am sorry we don’t use the right language, definitions, and descriptions about the real risk factors and the pain that that causes you.

I am, however, extremely proud that you demonstrate the outstanding resilience of African Americans. I hope that your diabetes advocacy has an impact on the world, so keep going because there is so much work that needs to be done and I am here to support you 100%.

____

Had I been told this, I would have certainly be able to stand taller and smile brighter quicker. I have taken a few blows, tripped over a few hurdles, been knocked down a few times; but I am still standing and I hope that my openness about my experiences will be a catalyst for change.IMG_7868

 

13 comments

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  1. Melissa

    I forgot to add: WOW, that dress!!! You’re stunning.

  2. Melissa

    I am in tears over this post. You have said exactly what I have tried to say (and said it so much better than I ever could) in discussions of stigmatization of T2 here in the States. We don’t do a good job helping and educating, we do a bang-up job doling out blame – especially to communities of color. It needs to change. I am in a position to have these conversations, even if just one person at a time, because my husband lives with T1 and it comes up often. I do not stand for “but he has the kind that he didn’t give himself” and “at least his isn’t from being fat” – I am convinced that steam actually does shoot out of my ears like a cartoon when I hear those things. So, this white stranger from NY commits to you that I will always speak up and out about exactly the sorts of things you said in this beautiful post and not let the conversation end with the medical aspects of diabetes, but the inherent social factors that play into the disparate risk factors for black and brown people and the differences in care before, during, and after diagnosis. With your permission, I would like to refer folks to this post because my voice should be used as an amplifier, but your voice should be the one they hear.

    1. Dr. P

      Yes, Melissa. I would greatly appreciate you sending people to this post. I am so happy to hear that a “white stranger from NY” is now a FRIEND from NY who is committed to the cause with me. May our word and work be a light to the world. Thank you very much!

  3. Carmen

    {I’m not sure if I hit submit comment but it disappeared so I will try this again.)

    First of all, thank you for this post. I am still trying to take it all in. I am sorry. I am sorry that this has been your experience. I know that there are no words that can make any of it right but I am sorry all the same.

    Please make sure you attach this to the daily master list of posts. Most people check that each day to read the postings rather than checking the participants page. You can find the link for the list on the daily topics page. Your voice is important and needs to be heard.

    Thank you again. Sending love your way.

    1. Dr. P

      Thank you for being one of the first to comment on my blog post. I added it to the Day 3 post. I will add it to the other days.

  4. Carmen

    First of all, thank you. it’s hard to digest everything I just read. I am sorry that you have had these experiences. There are no words that make any of it better. But I am sorry all the same.

    Please add this post to the Master List of Posts for each day. There is a link on the topics page that will take you to each day’s list. I just happened to click on your name from the participants list but most people check the daily master list of posts to read each other’s posts and comment. Your voice needs to be heard!

    Thank you again. Sending love your way.

  5. Connie Oliveira

    Hi. Thanks for sharing. My nephew died at an early age from diabetes. I felt guilty because I know that I didn’t say the right things to him. I wish that I had said, ” I understand that you are having a difficult time changing your diet and trying to live a healthier lifestyle, but I am here for you. Let’s find a support group that we can attend or let me pray for you”. It’s easy to pass judgment until you are faced with a challenging situation that you can’t handle on your own. Thank you for your blog. I am more aware!

    1. Dr. P

      I am sorry your relative passed away from complications of diabetes, may he rest in peace. It is overwhelming and I am glad that my post touched you. Thank you for your comment.

  6. Seo / A Diabetic Abroad

    This made me cry. Such a powerful post that brings up so many things we don’t hear about enough. Thank you for sharing your voice.

    1. Dr. P

      Thank you. I cried too from releasing it all. It is a weight and it felt good to release.

  7. Corinna

    I’m sorry that these historical and social factors are not more widely recognized as having an impact on people’s health.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, hopefully it will help people understand the very real impact racism and discrimination has on our health.

    1. Dr. P

      Thank you for your reply to my blog post. It means a lot!

    2. Dr. P

      Thank you for your reply.

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