When it comes to living with diabetes Mother Love is all too familiar with the good, the bad, and the ugly of the disease. In a candid interview, Mother Love shared her journey with diabetes, in a way that only Mother Love could – with love, laughter and common sense solutions.
Mother Love, co-host of dLifeTV, CNBC’s premier weekly diabetes program, and host of The Mother Love Show on LA Talk Radio, has been living with type 2 diabetes since 1990. The memories of her diagnosis still linger vividly in her mind.
For Mother Love diabetes was no stranger. Although most African Americans are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, 1 out of every 10 will be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and require daily insulin injections in order to live. Mother Loves’ younger sister was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 10. “At that time it was called Juvenile Diabetes” she recalls.
“My mother was very proactive with taking control of health and she sent me to the American Diabetes Association” to find out as much as possible about diabetes. But Mother Love couldn’t find answers to her questions. Why did her sister develop diabetes? “The doctors didn’t know, ‘young lady we don’t know that,’ the scientist didn’t know. I didn’t get information about diabetes until I was well in my thirties. That is why I understand the importance of research; I understand the significance of research”
So, when Mother Love began to experience the symptoms of diabetes she went to her doctor and asked for a glucose tolerance test – a blood test used to diagnosis diabetes. Initially, the doctor dismissed her. “He thought I didn’t know what I was talking about, but after I got real ugly and sat my big butt on the floor and said I wasn’t leaving until he tested me, I was given the glucose tolerance test.”
Although Mother Love asked for the glucose tolerance test, she experienced some denial – which is not unusual when it comes to a diabetes diagnosis. She left the office thinking “Oh this is not touching me, I will not have this. I flashed back to my mother and my sisters ‘sticking’ themselves with insulin… watching soap operas and ‘pumping’ insulin into their arms… forgetting to eat and ‘pumping’ insulin in their stomach. I thought of all the mismanagement. Eating everything they were not suppose to, the deep fried chicken… the soda… the cigarettes… having their cocktails.”
The next day she received a call from her doctor, “Oh Mother Love I wish all of my patients were as diligent as you are because you have type 2 diabetes.” In addition to denial many people experience anger when they receive bad news and Mother Love was no exception. “I was mad…I was mad…girl I was so mad I went into my ‘Florida state.’ I was mad because I thought I had gotten away from everybody in my family that had diabetes. I came out to California because this is where the beautiful people are and beautiful people don’t get diabetes.”
The reality is having family members with diabetes makes you a prime candidate to develop type 2 diabetes. Other risk factors for diabetes include; being older than the age of 40, overweight or physically inactive, a history of diabetes during pregnancy, given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds, or being African American, Latino American, or American Indian.
It’s easy to ignore the symptoms of diabetes, which sometimes can be very subtle. But if you have symptoms and any of the risk factors mentioned above, you should take Mother Loves’ lead, go see your doctor and have your blood sugar checked.
Symptoms of diabetes are; increased thirst, extreme hunger, frequent urination, feeling tired, itchy or dry skin, slow-healing cuts or sores, more infections than usual, tingling or numbness in hands or feet, unexplained weight loss and sudden vision changes.
Diabetes is a serious disease that requires discipline and motivation to take care of yourself on a daily basis – often referred to as the dailyness of diabetes. When speaking about the seriousness and dailyness of diabetes, Mother Love was moved to tears. “I really truly had to change my mental capacity for this [diabetes] because this can get you down. I watched what it’s done to my sister. It’s taken her eyesight…heart strength…she lost her left leg from the knee down…the front of her right foot and she’s on 33 different medications.”
“I didn’t have a positive role model for living well with diabetes, because the people I knew just didn’t take it seriously. I only had negative role models…all I saw was the devastation of the disease…the destruction of it.” And that is what drives Mother Love today, “I wasn’t looking to be a poster child for diabetes and diabetes information and awareness” but God has a purpose for everyone. And Mother Loves’ purpose is to help spread the news about living well with diabetes, how to prevent complications and make healthy lifestyle changes.
God also uses Mother Loves’ sister to bare witness. “My sister comes to my events and testifies regarding living with diabetes. She says ‘don’t do what I do – do what my sister does. She aint perfect but she sure is excellent’.”
“This can be done…it is not easy…it is not a quick fix…it is a lifestyle change” requiring you to make daily choices. Mother Love says it’s all about common sense. “What is more important to you; a pork chop sandwich and some chittlins or being able to use your kidneys? What is more important to you; some fried chicken now or being able to see your grand children walk down the aisle when they get married? What is more important to you now; to be financially responsible for your well being or losing everything because of your healthcare cost…because you’re on dialysis? What is more important to you now?
Mother Love knows having diabetes requires change. “I have changed my lifestyle and I change my lifestyle on a daily basis…I learn on a daily basis…I grow on a daily basis.”
When you know and accept the truth – you have diabetes – that is when you can begin to live well with diabetes.