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In Sickness and in Health

Posted on June 6, 2022 | No Comments on In Sickness and in Health

Diabetes is an epidemic, and older adults are particularly affected. The good thing about it is that with early detection and treatment, serious health consequences of diabetes can be prevented or delayed. And the task is made easier when you have someone to share it with, literally speaking.

For the David couple, it was Pie who got diabetes first and underwent treatment in order to keep his condition under control. Rina, on the other hand, was already in her 40s when she was diagnosed.

“He was already undergoing treatment for diabetes when he would consistently convince me to have my blood glucose measured as well whenever he would have his,” Rina shares. She finally complied, and her glucose test revealed she had an abnormally high blood sugar level. Pie also added that he noticed back then his wife’s numerous trips to the bathroom every night. Alarmed by these findings, Rina, together with her husband, decided to consult Dr. Beth Pacheco (who was also Pie’s doctor when he was still working for San Miguel Corporation). The news wasn’t good: Rina was also diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

When complications start
Perhaps similar to many people with type 2 diabetes, Rina, too, experienced having hypoglycemia (an abnormally low blood sugar and common side effect of insulin and other glucose-lowering drugs), especially during Christmas season.

She recalled an incident when she was rushed to the hospital because of hypoglycemia. At that time, sheincreased her dosage of glimepiride and wasn’t eating very well because of her toothache. As she was rushed to the hospital, she drank a glass of iced tea and felt better when they finally got to the emergency room. “It was very embarrassing because the doctors were asking me, ‘What’s the matter, Ma’am?’ and I was already feeling well,” Rina admits.

Pie has also had his fair share of experiencing hypoglycemic reactions, having started taking insulin 8 years ago. “There are times when I’ll skip dinner, and, before I know it, around 3 am, I’ll feel that hypoglycemia setting in. I would immediately rush to the fridge to get me a quick sugar fix,” Pie shares.

Borderline in denial
In 1999, Rina needed to go to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, for a public health communications workshop. So she went to the U.S. Embassy to apply for a visa and came to a realization that she has put off for a very long time—her application was denied because of her diabetes. “Before, whenever people would ask me whether I’m diabetic, I would always reply, ‘borderline in denial’. That was the time when I realized that, my God, I’m really diabetic,” Rina shares.

So, during her stay in the United States, she renewed her perspective toward her diabetes and strictly followed a proper diet and walked every morning. But when she got back to the Philippines, she slid back to her old ways. She even admits that she’s a delinquent patient. “Dr. Pacheco would often scold me because I don’t visit her as often as I should…and she would always say, ‘I won’t be proud thatyou’re my patient anymore if you’ll continue on being like that’.”

Cutting it down and working it out
The complications of type 2 diabetes can be delayed—or even prevented—by proper diet, regular exercise, and proper medications. As for Rina, she was prescribed metformin and urged to watch her diet. Rina then regularly consulted a dietitian, but she followed the diet half-heartedly.

Preventive measures were prescribed to the couple, such as taking proper diabetic medications, cutting down white rice intake, and eating matchbox-sized meat. “Before, I didn’t follow what my doctor told me. However, I’m very careful when it comes to preventing having open wounds, especially when I have my toenails pedicured. I really act on it at once,” Rina says.

Rina also proclaims Pie as the “diet police”. Back in San Miguel Corp., Pie was given by a nutritionist an hour-long lecture on the food pyramid and calorie intake. Since then, he has cut down his rice intake. Rina and Pie also tried doing light exercises, such as walking and stationary biking. “I was once talking with my friend Dinky Soliman, who’s also a diabetic, and we conclude that it’s a no-brainer. All of us know that the most effective solution for diabetes is diet and exercise.”

Rina admits that she just doesn’t get as motivated as she needs to be until something serious happens. Indeed, it takes a lot of effort and motivation for her—who is not a fitness buff—to be physically active.

Wonder of wonders
It is not surprising that many antidiabetic supplements have recently popped up in the market. Trying to get away from proper diet and exercise, Rina has tried yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius), a root crop native in South America believed to have antidiabetic properties; virgin coconut oil; malunggay; and ampalaya capsules. A few years ago, she consulted her doctor on what the outcome will be if she took these supplements. “It is, as of yet, not known; we still have to do studies. But the good thing is that there are available proper medications!”

Pie also couldn’t take ampalaya capsules because he’s taking Coumadin (warfarin) and the vitamin K in ampalaya might interact with this drug. He instead chose to follow his doctor’s advice on taking proper medications.

Being older, Pie admits that he now must be more vigilant and must continue monitor his heart, liver, and kidneys, all of which can be severely affected by his diabetes. His brother’s experience with diabetic complications also made him more aware of the consequences of his disease.

Supporting each other
Living together for 31 years has also made them more supportive of each other. More so since they have both started battling diabetes. And between the couple, it is Pie who is more determined with lifestyle modification. He used to swim for an hour every day, while Rina was lenient when it came to exercise. Before, she used to attend aerobics classes until shegot pregnant with her second child. After that, she hasn’t been able to return to doing formal aerobic exercises, so she instead tried light walking, stationary biking, and walking on the treadmill. Unfortunately, she was unable to continue any of these exercises either. Rina suggested that they buy one of those Nintendo Wii consoles and do video exercises, so she would have motivation to be fit at home.

A piece of advice
Pie advises his fellow diabetics to be unafraid of their disease. “One thing that would be affected would be our lifestyle—water instead of soda and reduce rice intake. The condition can still be managed and that people should have nothing to fear about.”

Rina, on the other hand, advises people with diabetes that being too relaxed and easy also has its downside. “Don’t let diabetes stop you from living a life, but you have to be on the lookout,” she shares. Whenever Rina gets colds, she calls up her brother-in-law, who is a doctor, and asks for medical advice and medications. “It is difficult to be a diabetic because your immune system is weak, and when you experience an infection, it can get out of control,” she shares.

Living their life
The couple has been working for the print media for many years now. Rina writes a column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Pie is the creative director of Food magazine.

During weekends, the couple stays in their house in Alfonso, Cavite. Pie cooks and plans their meals during their stay. He also tends to their garden as a break from his work. “It also helps that you don’t allow yourself to get stressed,” says Rina, who always looks forward to being in Alfonso during holidays.

Being in Alfonso gives the couple a time to relax and unwind from their stressful life. Pie also reveals that it might be the reason why his blood sugar hasn’t shot up. “I know I really should start working on it and be more active.”

Rina and Pie express their love and support by helping each other manage their health. “Apart from being the blood sugar police in the family, Pie has always been the nurturing one,” Rina shares. Indeed, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, the strong tandem of Pie and Rina will be able to conquer any hardship, including diabetes.

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