If you follow my column even occasionally, you've probably had more than enough of my ongoing battle with cancer. You may have even started to tune me out by now. If so, I understand. But I hope you haven't done the same with what I learned along the way.
My columns may not be worth remembering, but these hard lessons are:
1. Half of all women diagnosed with breast cancer have no history of it in their families. (Don't think it can't happen to you.)
2. Regular mammograms can literally save your life. (An annual mammogram is vital for women over 40. Insurance covers it, but even if you're not insured, it's worth it at any cost.)
3. Early detection makes a huge difference in the severity and duration of treatment. (Don't wait. A month or two can be the difference between a simple lumpectomy and complex double mastectomy.)
4. If you're fighting a battle with cancer, don't go it alone. There are many people who care and help is available from organizations like the American Cancer Society. Reach out to them. (You'll find a world of comfort and assistance. A simple Internet search of the word cancer will lead you into their open arms.)
Having said all that, let me also remind you that cancer is not the only enemy out there. In the last few years another beast, Diabetes, has become practically a national epidemic, particularly among women. Here, family history is a leading risk factor, but again, many women with no family connection to the disease are being diagnosed with diabetes.
I have a cousin who is currently suffering from severe diabetes complicated by heart disease. It turns out, 80 percent of women diagnosed with diabetes also develop heart disease. The two are deadly partners, yet few women know it. If you have any of these symptoms, excessive thirst, frequent urination, constant fatigue, and/or sudden weight loss or gain, you could be diabetic.
If detected early, diabetes can often be managed with diet alone. A low-fat, carb-controlled diet is recommended, and there are many special products, like glucose-balanced shakes, to help manage blood sugar levels.
Medication may be needed, but the good news is that recent medical advances have perfected a variety of oral medicines as well as injections using a very fine needle that comes already loaded in a device the size of a ballpoint pen. They need no refrigeration and can be carried easily in your pocket or purse. Best of all, diabetic supplies, including a meter, test strips, and the pen injection system are covered by most insurance plans, including Medicare.
There is no cure for diabetes, but it can be managed and survived for many years. My grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes at age 42, long before I was born, and she lived to be 84. As a child, I remember watching her drop saccharin tablets into her coffee when everyone else used sugar, and dip her portion of homemade applesauce out of the pot before she added sugar for the rest of the family. She did it because she wanted to live to see all of her 45 grandchildren grow up. I, for one, am so glad she did.
The point is that neither diabetes nor cancer is an automatic death sentence. Not these days. You've got a long life to live. If you detect symptoms, don't delay. Get treatment. Fight back.
God loves you and so do I.