In the coming weeks, Podder Talk will be featuring stories that show how diabetes can impact the path a person takes in his or her professional life. In this first installment of “Careers in Diabetes” you will read about Diabetes Health Editor-in-Chief Nadia Al-Samarrie.
I could not possibly have scripted my professional career in diabetes. It was something that evolved without any conscious intent on my part. But, looking back, it seems almost fated.
My History with Diabetes
As a young teen, I used to watch my maternal grandmother hide her candy wrappers when my parents came to pick me up from visiting her. When it came to her candy and diabetes, Grandmother taught me, “Mum is the word.” Her secret was safe with me.
On my paternal side, my grandmother managed her diabetes by using saccharine. This was in the early and mid 70’s. In the 80’s, I met the man who would later be my husband for almost 20 years. He had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child.
In 2003, my mother passed away from diabetes complications. In October 2011, my loving brother passed away from diabetes complications.
Ironically, both my mother and brother lived in an era where they had access to superb diabetes education. But their daily eating habits proved to be stronger than the discipline that would have helped them to better manage their disease.
All these experiences have taught me not to judge people’s struggles with maintaining perfect blood sugars. Some can but many can’t. A bright spot for me was that my former husband was a model in maintaining good A1C’s over the years, while my family members’ food habits finally got the better of them.
As a preteen, I grew up in a country where getting attention was considered bad. Women were not to bring attention to themselves. Then I came to the U.S. where I received more attention than I could handle. By the time I became a teen, I consciously chose to put on weight to make myself more invisible. After my weight gain, life became much easier for me because the energy of maintaining a shallow looks-oriented social veneer was now removed. Connecting intellectually in deeper and more personal ways with all of types of people was more gratifying.
But there was a hidden cost: The consequences of my teen eating habits morphed into a disposition for type 2 diabetes. I don’t have it, but if I’m not careful, the tipping point for me is not too far.
How Diabetes Has Influenced Me
So, as a publisher with a family history of type 2 diabetes, I understand how complicated this disease is. It’s not as simple as just controlling your blood sugars. My personal struggle with my weight has given me a broader understanding of the challenges both people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes face in maintaining normal blood sugars.
On paper, a perfect A1C isn’t supposed to be all that hard to attain. It seems so simple. Most of us know what to do: Certain foods equal good blood sugars. What’s not factored into this perfect equation is our emotional socialization around food and body image.
This isn’t to say that I support high blood sugars. Or, that I’m giving people with diabetes a sympathy card that allows them to set lower health standards. My point and purpose in being a diabetes publisher is to give everyone a voice that shows us that the diabetes spectrum is wider than we often envision.
The goal is that rather than judge our fellow people with diabetes; we become a positive support system. That includes trying to understand the broader psychological challenges people face that might not be so visible at first. Most importantly, it’s refraining from judging people on their weight or habits. People who are struggling with these are quite aware of them. It does little good to remind them of something they live with every second of every day.
Offering compassion, understanding and education is what Diabetes Health magazine stands for. Our tagline is “Investigate, Inform and Inspire.” This means, investigating the disease (and understanding other people who have it); informing others with what you learn, and in doing so, becoming an inspiration.
Diabetes has played a large role in my life. It has influenced me to take better care of myself. Professionally, it has been rewarding to help people stay positive about what can be perceived as a burn-out disease.
You can view the history of Diabetes Health on video here: http://www.diabeteshealth.com/tv/play/221.html.