Living the WELL Life

Throwing Money at Diabetes - by Steve Rockstein

Monday, April 26, 2010

If God gives you a choice between cancer and diabetes, pick cancer.  Believe me, by comparison, it’s a cakewalk.  Okay, I understand how offensive that sounds to anyone who has suffered from or lost someone to cancer.  And I am sorry.  Truly.  Please allow me to explain.

Diabetes is a disorder characterized by an extremely high blood sugar level, which leads to hyperglycemia, vascular, nerve and organ diseases. Type 1 diabetes is hereditary, and accounts for only five percent of all cases. Type 2 diabetes is created by poor life-style choices.

While in their 40’s, both of my parents developed Type 2, the epidemic lifestyle disease plaguing America today.  Mercifully, thanks to massive coronary failure at age 63, mom went fast.  Dad was not so lucky.  He lived to see his 80th birthday.  But he endured a suffering beyond imagination. Because he refused to follow dietary orders from his doctors, my sister, brother and I stood by helplessly for two decades as his body slowly rotted.  Eventually the doctors began to cut him up one piece at a time.

Diabetics never heal.  Your doctor won’t tell you this.  So if any infection gets past a certain point, your fate is sealed.  Dad hid his first infection until it was too late and they took his right foot.  That wound took months to heal and for the first time in his life he confessed to having nightmares…featuring a buzz saw cutting through flesh and bone. Three months later they gave him a prosthesis and hope.  False hope.  After just a few weeks, friction from the prosthetic caused small blisters.  The blisters got infected and were surgically removed.   He was bombarded with antibiotics but gangrene returned.  His second amputation, just below the knee this time, followed.  And that pattern, a minor cut…infection…amputation… continued for years.  Next they took the ring finger from his right hand and, within a few months, his index finger.  A year later they cut off his other leg and didn’t even have the decency to make them both the same length.  Eventually he lost two more fingers and his thumb from his left hand, leaving him five fingers…total…across both hands and two uneven stumps for legs.

He was hard to look at.  I clung to an image in my mind where, through the trick of memory, he was still a giant of a man.  Perhaps I was channeling his denial…the same denial that led him to this fate.  He knew it was not a good idea to hit the Mister Donut drive-through for two boxes of deep-fried jelly-filled crap, half of which were inhaled before he reached home.  But he could justify anything.  “It’s my only pleasure,” he would say as he “washed down” the donuts with milk, straight from the container.  Gulp, gulp, gulp.  I can still hear him.

Before his final end, no longer satisfied with wreaking havoc on mere limbs, the diabetes turned inward towards his vital organs and his eyes.  He was getting weekly antibiotic injections in his eyes.  Yes…you read that correctly…needles (!) right in his eyeballs (!) weekly!  Do you still think losing your hair to chemo is a big deal?

Know this…  I do not mean to diminish the devastating effects of cancer, nor the debilitating results of treatments offered by our medical establishment, but it is possible to survive cancer with your dignity intact.  With diabetes that is not an option.

It’s easy to think that my father was some one-of-a-kind, off the charts, sugar junkie. Sadly, he was right on the charts in the forefront of what the CDC now calls an epidemic.   In the US, nearly 10 percent of the population has been diagnosed with diabetes and computer model estimates push the real number as high as 40 percent.  Sadder still...95% of all diabetes in this country is preventable with a whole-foods diet and exercise.  That’s all it takes.

And that’s why I was appalled this week when I received an email asking for a donation to find a “Cure for Diabetes.”  A cure?  Are you kidding me?  We’re going to throw money at that now?   No…no…no…we are not going for that.  The cure is right here in our our kitchens…in our organic markets…it’s all within our grasp.  We can end this epidemic now, one person at a time.  Here’s how.  Refuse to consume any processed food…eliminate white flour, white sugar, corn syrup, saturated fats and trans fatty acids from your diet…. deep six the microwave… exercise… and never eat the popcorn at the movies.

You’ve heard this all before.  Me too.  So let’s do it together, shall we?  Instead of sending a donation to the American Diabetes Association, take out a gym membership… take a whole-foods cooking class (hint: whose website are you on?) …buy organic food…cook it yourself.  And pray you don’t get cancer.

Former social worker, baker and national award-winning photojournalist, Steve Rockstein is the owner/chef of Chef’s House on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, which offers charming accommodations and inspired Vegan, Vegetarian and Macrobiotic cuisine. Email:


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