November is National Diabetes Month, and I want to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to my endocrinologist, Dr. Thomas Huff, who dedicated his life to diabetes research, teaching interns at MCG and serving countless patients like me. He is semi-retired now and has cut back his practice to one day a week.
Even though diabetes is not a terminal disease, complications can develop over time, and they are now showing up in me. I would be blind today if not for my diabetic retina specialist, Dr. Narendra Patel of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. He has operated on my eyes several times. After one operation, I was amazed to be able to see clearly again in my right eye. I told him that he had the gift of healing like Christ. He quickly corrected me.
“No pastor,” he said, “I’m the technician. The Lord does the healing. Give Him the credit.”
I have given my diabetes to medical science since 1987 through MUSC. After being screened and approved, I became one of 1,441 volunteers in 29 medical centers in the U.S. and Canada for the seven-year Diabetes Complications and Control Trial.
After the trial, those of us in the MUSC center were brought together for a great celebratory banquet. The researchers told us that the trial definitively showed that stringent blood glucose control could postpone, prevent or slow the progression of retinal, renal and neurological complications in individuals with Type 1, insulin-dependent diabetes. They said it was the greatest discovery for diabetes since insulin in 1921.
The National Institute of Health now has so much money invested in us that they rolled over the DCCT into the Epidemiology of Diabetes Intervention and Complications and will probably follow us until we die. I have been cut on for tissue samples, spent two days in the hospital after a violent reaction to an experimental test and have been pricked and poked more times than I can count! But it has all been worth it. I am grateful to have a tiny part in improving the life of diabetics worldwide through these studies.
Diabetes never takes a vacation. I have to deal with it every day. I am subject to mood swings based on whether my glucose is high or low. Diabetics are prone to depression.
I am now semi-retired, but I never missed a day of work because of diabetes, even when I worked three jobs – teaching in a public school, coaching the school’s baseball and softball teams and being pastor of a church. There were days I felt lousy, but diabetics can live a full and meaningful life. Even today, I teach part-time at Evans Christian Academy, lead my small congregation, write and publish a devotional newsletter and do other freelance writing.
I say all this to encourage you who live with this chronic, incurable disease. There are 26 million of us in the United States. You can do it! You don’t have to let diabetes control your life. You can control it.
The verse that gives me strength to keep fighting every day is Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I pray that you will find the strength to keep on keeping on, too.
THE REV. DAN WHITE IS THE PASTOR OF NORTH COLUMBIA CHURCH IN APPLING.