In 2015, my doctor’s office called a few days after my annual checkup. The nursing assistant was nonchalant about the life-changing information she was about to share. It was almost a side note in her comments.
“You are pre-diabetic, so the doctor has called in…”
I don’t remember hearing much after that carefree diagnosis. My stomach dropped and my hands began to shake. I had avoided chronic illnesses for decades, and now I’m being met with a common enemy in the black community: diabetes, aka “Da Sugar!”
Fortunately my glucose levels did not warrant my taking insulin; however, my doctor did prescribe a regiment of metformin. He also gave me a very strict diet guide, limiting my caloric intake to 1,200 per day. Let’s not forget the super aggressive workout schedule that arrived in my Inbox as well. There was no immediate follow-up on how the medicine would treat me nor how the exercise and diet regimen could be properly incorporated into my lifestyle.
I felt as though, in the mind of my PCP, I was just another black man on the road to worsened health by way of diabetes. The way he handled the communication of my condition implied that there was very little concern and I was piled into a very large list pre-diabetic, black patients. I decided to get more information and take control of my health.
After speaking to other family members who share this condition, our conversations actually normalized how I felt about where I was in terms of managing this condition. I gathered cooking magazines from my uncle, began walking in my subdivision in the evenings, and was referred to a top endocrinologist to further customize a plan for reversing this condition.
After months of moderate diet end exercise, I lost 10 pounds. Cutting out sodas, breads, and (most) pastas led to another ten. Lifting weights removed another ten. Listening to my tribe and going beyond the basic recommendations of my PCP is what improved my quality of life and ultimately removed my pre-diabetic status.
Thanks to my family, friends, and a wealth of information, I was able to customize a plan that worked for me while building confidence in my family that they don’t have to take what’s being handed to them, not even a diabetes diagnosis. I’m thankful for the serious news being minimal in delivery but huge on impact. That’s how we should receive information about our condition – not from a place of inferiority, but of power, consistency, and truth.