My diabetes story starts with a bit of karma. In August 2006, my dad was diagnosed with diabetes, and as a concerned daughter, I began lecturing him about taking it seriously and taking better care of himself. Then came December 2006 when I received my own diagnosis.
“Tomiko, you have diabetes.”
Yes, diabetes runs in my family, but it was on other branches of the family tree, and I didn’t really think of it before. I’d seen diabetes portrayed on television and in movies, but now, I had to do more than think about it. I had to learn how to manage it in my own life. The first step I was given was to manage it with diet and exercise. Diet has and will always be an issue for me since I am not a fan of vegetables. While I wasn’t in the best shape, exercise wasn’t out of the norm for me. After about a year of this plan of attack, I was put on metformin. From there the medications changed, looking for a combination that worked best for me. For years, my A1C stayed around 7.5%, only going up to 8.5% once or twice. I lost and gained weight, as one does as they age, but the difference for me is that it affected how well my diabetes was managed. There is a stigma that people with type 2 diabetes did this to themselves or that they can “cure” it by eating better. While there may be some advantages to managing weight and eating better, it is not a definitive resolution and it is certainly not as simple as that.
I still dance...age might make dancing a little more difficult,
but diabetes doesn’t.”
Exercise is one of the ways people with diabetes are advised to manage their blood sugar levels. It helps lower the levels and is encouraged but on the flip side, it can also cause low blood sugars if you are not monitoring your glucose while exercising. This happened to me while participating in an adult show choir. I am a dancer who also sings. This show involved two-hour rehearsals every Monday, not so optional rehearsals on Sundays, and a 2 week period of intense show rehearsals and prep. These were very busy times and required a lot more attention to my glucose levels to make sure I had enough energy to endure these long nights of rehearsal. I had to make sure that I had enough carbohydrates to sustain my target blood sugar level, and quick access to some fast-acting carbohydrates in case I misjudged my preparedness. It also helped that one of my good friends in the choir was a nurse and kept an extra eye on me during these rehearsals. I often let my blood sugar drop or ate later than I should have if I didn’t feel like eating. My friend made sure I had a protein shake, at the very least.
Much of how my day goes depends on what and when I choose to eat. People around me likely think that I am constantly eating because I usually have snacks or eat small meals throughout the day. However, those who know me well understand that this is my attempt at keeping my blood sugars steady throughout the day. Of course, in all honesty, some of it is mindless eating. I live with diabetes, but I am also human too. I sometimes feel that my dad is managing his diabetes much better than I am because he makes better choices, but I am a work in progress. I try to incorporate green smoothies into my meal plan, trying to disguise my servings of vegetables. I have also discovered that I don’t hate lettuce wraps, so that has become a staple.
I keep busy and am involved in several activities outside of work, so eating on the run definitely requires planning. I am now on insulin, so watching my carbohydrate intake and knowing what I am eating is important in determining the correct amount of insulin needed. I am also wearing a continuous glucose monitor these days and it is making things a lot better. Well, at least I know what is happening inside my body. Less pricking my fingers and more reports showing my blood sugars, which provides me with information to make better choices and helps me see how those choices affect me.
Diabetes is a serious disease but it is not holding me back. I still dance, recently performing a tap routine and a hip-hop routine at my dance school’s recital. Age might make dancing a little more difficult, but diabetes doesn’t.
Tomiko L has been called a truly loyal and caring ally of friends and family. Introverted, she isn’t a big talker, but more of an active, judgment-free listener. She speaks up when it is warranted, and when she does speak, it’s quite the contribution. She enjoys singing, dancing, various crafts, and supporting local theater and charities. Her journey with diabetes started in 2006. The next 12 years would prove to be a rollercoaster ride as she worked on managing her own health. Through a diabetes conference held in Raleigh, NC, she discovered DiabetesSisters, which has been a blessing to her by providing support and encouragement. Members walk side by side through burnout and other issues people with diabetes face. Tomiko admits to being a work in progress in so many ways, but her faith keeps her strong, and those close to her keep her motivated.