If at age 70 one hasn’t yet had a major surgery or—now, here’s something that should be widely resonant—is not yet a diabetic, chances are one could live to 90.
Indeed, by my own survey of friends, looks like I can look forward to a good-sized fellowship of nonagenarians.
But while predisposed to be hopeful, I must confess to certain reservations about some of my respondents, for they betray symptoms detected in my own mother, who died in her sleep at 85, which, come to think of it, is close enough to 90.
Mom had been willing to accept her condition, but only to the point where injecting herself with insulin seemed a real prospect (“Ano, parang addict!”) and dialysis a not-so-distant one. She avoided doctors and remained in a happy-enough state of half-denial till the end.
My friend Beevie is an increasingly obvious case herself. She’s been going to the ladies room oftener and oftener—before curtain call, in the middle of the first half of the performance, during intermission, in the middle of the second half, and finally at the end, racing the normal theatergoers, most of them going for the first time.
Though well past menopause, she keeps fanning herself in the freezing auditorium, and produces bottled water and a sandwich now and then from her handbag for a gulp and a bite.
“What’s the matter, are you diabetic?” I can’t help asking.
“No, not yet, although sometimes my sugar count is high.”
Questioned about her restroom visits, she looks at me with incredulity, and goes on to bring the rest of us down with her, “Ikaw naman, I don’t go much oftener than everybody else.”
Then, there’s Cely, who rings to greet from overseas. At least, she readily admits to excess blood sugar, but in the same breath declares she can manage it.
I’ve learned to be especially conscious of rules governing my age-groupies, and an immediately relevant rule is that, as with a woman’s age, it’s bad form to ask for blood sugar numbers. Enough to know that they’re, well, rather high—near, close to, almost, but never quite diabetes.
“Borderline” is Cely’s preferred term. “But I take medication. I limit my M&M’s and only allow myself little bites off a bar of Symphony every day…. What, you don’t know about Symphony?”
Like a far-gone chocolate addict, Cely goes on to describe heaven in a chocolate bar.
The only self-confessed and also the longest-fighting diabetic I know happens also to be a most famous celebrity, Gary Valenciano, son of my old friend Grimmy. Gary, who used to shoot insulin and now relies on a device that automatically pumps it on demand, is a perfect example of how success, even in a profession so demanding of energy as song and dance, does not excuse diabetics.
My friend Baby should find inspiration there, but she has become instead yet another type—a singular type—of self-denying diabetic. She’s been under medication for a few years now, but that’s precisely why she believes she isn’t a case.
“How can I be diabetic when I’m already taking medication for it? Eh ‘di wala na.”
“If you weren’t, your doctor wouldn’t give you medication,” I decide to hammer on.
“Well, basta it’s controlled!”
It’s probably really about control, especially when one begins to realize, as one ages, that more and more things do slip out of one’s control. In one of mom’s visits to her diabetes doctor, I, aged 50 and beginning to be concerned being her genetic inheritor, made the mistake of asking him if there was any way I could myself escape it.
He looked at me as if I had just made a joke, and replied in kind, “Don’t live beyond 60.”
But who wants to feel helpless about anything, much less a disease? If a half-denial gives one some sense of control, why not?
My husband, who himself battles cholesterol, and I do play a game of that sort. Advised to monitor our blood pressure, we do it in our most relaxed state, usually while watching television. The first numbers that come up, we have observed, don’t usually match our hopes, so we keep at it until the right combination appears.
It’s not exactly cheating—Omron does not lie—although sometimes it takes us all night trying, shifting to find the most relaxed position, breathing deep and exhaling long until the breath settles in its right rhythm.
Just last night we hit the jackpot, and we’re not pushing our luck: we’re keeping away from the machine for the time being, after it has declared us in great shape for Christmas.