As older Americans we have “stuff” that we carry/have carried through our life cycle. Sometimes it’s family issues, sometimes it’s work issues.
My “stuff” has been health issues. I am a diabetic. There. I said it. I admit it. In 1994 I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and was in denial about managing this chronic disease. After all, food has been the center of my life – it is over Sunday dinners that my family maintained family ties; it is food that is the social foundation of my church; and dinner is where my friends and I meet to talk life issues. In 2007 I was informed “You have lung cancer." It was then I realized that unmanaged diabetes could affect the treatment of this scary diagnosis.
I could’ve kicked myself! But I thank God every day for the lung cancer diagnosis. It was my wake-up call to live better! It has been a challenge but a few things helped in my quest for a healthier lifestyle:
After the successful cancer surgery I took charge of my health. In full disclosure, it didn’t happen overnight…(baby steps!) I scheduled medical appointments – and kept them! I discovered diabetes, though chronic, was a manageable disease. I let family and friends know. I expanded my community. I took exercise and healthy cooking classes and developed new friendships that provided emotional and spiritual support.
Don’t be ashamed of your story
Recently I volunteered at an American Diabetes Association health fair. I identified with the people that stopped by and confessed they didn’t know how to live with diabetes – especially the seniors. From my own story, I encouraged them that they could do it! It wasn’t too late!
Someone once said, “You cannot control the length of your life, but you can control how you want to live it.” I refuse to berate myself for what I didn’t do – instead I focus on the steps I AM taking. Modifying eating habits, exercising and following medical advice helps manage some of the unhealthy consequences that is associated with diabetes.
May is Older Americans Month. Let’s celebrate it by managing our “stuff” – whatever it is. We have a lot to live for and a lot to give! Through all my “stuff” I’m excited to be living as an “older American!"
Ruth Jenerson is 59 years old and a Rochester OASIS member. She was ordained as a minister in 2007 and is the Director of Morning Start Community Services - a volunteer community outreach with focus on school age children (5-12 years) and their families. She has a 25-year old son.