Life is Sweet: Raising Diabetes Awareness
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 23.6 million people in the United States – nearly 8 percent of the population – are diabetic. African- and Mexican-Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes, with prevalence rates at 11.8 percent and 11.9 percent respectively.
I never realized how alarming these rates were until diabetes directly affected my family. My younger brother was diagnosed with Juvenile diabetes two months before his sixth birthday. Alex had always been a healthy boy, hyperactive and obsessed with dinosaur cartoons. One morning, my mom noticed he had wet his bed. She didn’t take much notice in the incident, not until Alex began to lose his appetite, was constantly sleepy, and the urinating problem only got worse. Three weeks later, a late night phone call from our pediatrician explained Alex’s abnormal behavior: he had diabetes.
My parents and I had to learn how to administer insulin shots, count carbohydrate intake, and monitor glucose levels, but the most difficult part was telling a first-grader he would have diabetes for the rest of life. It was heartbreaking. Nobody could explain how or why Alex had developed this condition. Our family had no history of diabetes and we led a rather healthy diet. But one thing was for sure, the family would have to work together to control Alex’s glucose levels if we wanted him to lead a normal life.
It’s been over ten years since my brother was diagnosed. Alex is a healthy young man. He plays Rugby for his high school team and spends his free time either on the phone with his girlfriend or playing video games.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the country; therefore, raising awareness about this disease is central. We must inform the public how to identify symptoms and cope with diabetes after diagnosis. I trust that in the near future, there will be a cure for this disease. The month of November means so much more to me now.
To learn more about diabetes, please go to: http://www.diabetes.org/?
Sara Salas is currently a senior at UC Berkeley majoring in Ethnic Studies and Political Science. She is currently an organizing intern with Books Not Bars and has plans to attend law school.
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