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Lucy Vanderberg

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Lucy Vanderberg

Lucy Vanderberg

Arlie Neskahi:
One in seven Native Americans suffer from type II diabetes. In response to this epidemic, there is a groundswell of support from native health professionals, herbalists and traditional healers supporting the recovery of good health to diabetics. In today’s Health and Healing, Rose High Bear introduces us to a person who has met the challenge of diabetes and shares her experiences.

Rose High Bear:
Despite the widespread occurrence of diabetes among American Indians, the first diagnosis often takes a person by surprise.

Lucy Vanderberg:
Growing up I didn’t know any of my family members had diabetes. It was a rare thing.

Rose High Bear:
The youngest of fourteen children, lucy Vanderberg grew up in a traditional household on the Flathead Indian reservation. She had an active childhood, eating traditional foods and practicing traditional Salish ways.

Lucy Vanderberg:
There wasn’t a lot of candy in the house. We ate a lot of wild game. We had our own garden so we had fresh vegetables. We didn’t have electricity until 1964. So we didn’t have a TV. You didn’t sit on the couch and watch TV for eight hours a day. We were out all the time if, either doing our chores or, something physical, you know. My family, I think everyone lived to be real old.

Rose High Bear:
Many of Lucy’s elders lived into their nineties. Her grandmother, Mary, lived to be at least a hundred and ten.

Lucy Vanderberg:
They called her sack woman. She still had all her teeth. She could hear. She never sat in a chair. She always sat on the floor with her legs under her. And if she wanted to get up, she’d just get up. If I sat on the floor, and I’m 59, if I sat on the floor, I couldn’t just get up and start walking.

Rose High Bear:
Lucy’s world changed suddenly when she reached what she calls the magical age of eighteen.

Lucy Vanderberg:
And then when, when I graduated high school I went to Chicago. All of a sudden, I was in a different world. It was a different setting, a different food. And somewhere along the line, threw it all away, and bring on the doughnuts and (laughs) the cakes.

Rose High Bear:
Highly processed, sugary foods are poison to a diabetic. Nevertheless, it was years before Lucy started to show signs of the disease.

Lucy Vanderberg:
I knew I was overweight. I should have been exercising. My vision sometimes it would be clear. Sometimes it would be blurry.

Rose High Bear:
A diabetic’s vision is affected because the walls of the blood vessels become swollen, constricting blood flow to the eye. Working with her doctor and a dietician, Lucy made radical changes in her diet.

Lucy Vanderberg:
If you don’t eat your whole system is shooting out the blood sugar to keep your body going. And then that’s when you get hungry. And you just have to eat. So when you do eat, you over eat. You have to teach your body, okay. We’re not going to eat white bread. We’re going to eat wheat bread. And we’re not going to eat pasta. We’re going to eat brown rice, the fruits and the vegetables. You can have all the vegetables you want, you know (chuckle). And you develop a taste for it.

Rose High Bear:
To balance her body’s sugar level, Lucy must take insulin injections twice a day. But she is determined to get off the medication despite her doctor’s skepticism.

Lucy Vanderberg:
I’m trying to convince my doctor that I can. (laughs) that I’m going to do this. You know, I’ve joined the fitness center in Polson, and I work out once a day right now, but I’d like to work out twice a day. I’d rather not be taking insulin every day, twice, you know. And I’d like to prove that doctor wrong.

Rose High Bear:
At 59, Lucy has done what many people her age find next to impossible: change her habits.

Lucy Vanderberg:
You’ve got to have that mindset. There was a, a tradition that we had. When I get up in the morning, the very first thing we did before we even got out of bed was to pray, and thank the Creator for waking up. You know, being able to enjoy the world. And I still do that.

Rose High Bear:
For Wisdom of the Elders, this is Rose High Bear.