Its true. Type II diabetes occurs in one in seven Native Americans, and there is no cure, but many diabetics are beginning to discover that the risk of serious complications can be reduced with proper diet and daily exercise. It means the difference between living and dying, according to Cowlitz elder, Jerry Bouchard. In today’s Health and Healing, Rose High Bear interviews Jerry about his life experience with diabetes.
You know, I’m 67 and I’ll be 68 in December, and it is very hard to be active. I’ve reached an age when I should be old enough to sit around and enjoy life. And yet with the diabetes, I know I can’t do that. With the diabetes, I have to be active somehow or another.
Jerry Bouchard didn’t have diabetes during his younger years. During high school he played sports, and then as a young adult, he kept active in his work, and went hunting and fishing on the weekends. When an injury sidelined him in 1977, he became sedentary. And then he started to gain weight.
In 1985, my appendix ruptured and I was hospitalized. During the blood work at that hospital, they discovered that I had some high blood sugars. So the doctor brought me into his office.
Jerry struggled with the pills and the rigid diet. But sometimes he would pass out from low blood sugar, which made him afraid not to eat. So he began overeating. This caused him to suffer from high blood sugars, and he developed a fatalistic attitude. The resolution I finally came to when I was put on the insulin is that I had diabetes, and my life was going to be shortened, and there was nothing I could do about it. So I continued to abuse my diet. The most I weighed was 317 pounds. And then I went back on the diet.
Everyone is different, and their bodies react to the disease in different ways. So in the process of struggling with his disease, Jerry made an important and life changing discovery: to stay active.
Most of my exercise comes from working in the yard, from wheel barrowing dirt, and digging in holes, and carrying various pieces of concrete around for my wife’s Japanese garden, planting trees and shrubs, and making a pond. I am the major carrier of the garbage up and down the steps. And I don’t try to minimize trips up and down the steps. And it’s good exercise for me. Now, I don’t know how many men vacuum floors, but I do.
The main exercise that I use is walking. We live on a hill. I go to the top of the hill and I walk down the other side, and then I come back up to our house. But I also do some exercises. I seen it on television. I can sit in my easy chair and do exercises with the rubber band. I do arm lifts and leg stretches and what not.
Managing a life with so many restrictions can cause some to have anger, resentment and depression, but this battle within the mind has helped to deepen Jerry’s philosophy and his resolve to live.
I wished I could say that I control the diabetes, but I don’t. The diabetes controls me. The diabetes dictates when I am going to eat, how often I am going to eat. It dictates how much medicine I am going to take for it. It dictates just about every aspect of my life. Now what I found out, and this is the important thing, is because I have diabetes doesn’t mean it is the end of my life. Now I engage in those activities that are fun activities. I know they are healthier alternatives than to just sit around and let the diabetes take its toll.
I want to live. I just didn’t want to sit and die anymore. Yes, diabetes is shortening my life, but it doesn’t have to shorten it today.
For Wisdom of the Elders, this is rose High Bear.