Eating large meals is such a big part of our family’s history. We are always together for holiday and birthday dinners, followed by the occasion’s cake. Normally, we would just buy Italian desserts, or my mother would bake cookies or her amazing twelve egg, coffee-and-sweet-liquor-mix, four-layer cake with custard (part of the cake had chocolate custard, the rest was vanilla). The top was covered in simple icing sugar and sprinkles.
In 2010, my oldest brother-in-law, Ralph, was diagnosed with Diabetes, so we toned it down on desserts for his benefit. We continue to look for interesting sugar-free desserts, but he’ll either limit his intake or skip it altogether. My sister, Lisa, will cook with much less salt, and they avoid sugar as much as possible. He’s a champ at controlling his once strong sweet tooth.
I’m so proud of the way Ralph handled the life change. Under the worst odds, he became an example of a true fighter. His doctor initially wanted him hospitalized because of the gravity of his illness. When Ralph told the doctor he would take care of it, I don’t know if he realized how well he would do. My life wouldn’t be the same without him in it.
Ralph didn’t tell all our family right away, so he could have a chance to soak it all in and get into a routine. He gave up chain smoking immediately, with the help of a patch, began exercising and walking every single day, and ate healthy, timely meals to help stabilize his sugar. Within a few months, he looked skinnier and healthier than I had ever remembered him.
He had his own reasons to fight. His oldest child, Claudia, was expecting her first child – his first grandchild. That played a major role in his new and obligatory regimen. Today, he still gets up early for his walk and eats well. He went from insulin and pills every day to just a half-pill.
“Now we both have to stay away from the sugar!” The consequences are quite different for us. It would be detrimental to Ralph’s health to deny his inability to treat sugar; but for me, it would simply cause the runs.
Ralph’s mother was a Diabetic, and died from her symptoms. As a result of possibly passing on bad genes, his family eats healthier. Diabetes can kill you just like cancer can. In the end, does it really matter which disease you get? We must take care of ourselves as best we could – despite our lack of control over certain illnesses and handicaps. I wanted him to feel he wasn’t alone. He isn’t really – I really do need to pay attention to what I eat, but for different reasons and with less-than-life-threatening results.
Hmmm… now I’m craving something!