For the first time in my more than 50 years on the face of this earth, I had a real Thanksgiving. Of course, I’ve always celebrated the fourth Thursday in November with family, friends, football, parades, turkey and way too much eating. But this year was different – this year the focus was not on food, but on actually giving thanks. Why? Because six months ago I was diagnosed with diabetes. Not “pre-diabetes,” but the actual pricking your finger every morning to monitor your sugar levels, taking medicines, and changing your eating and lifestyle kind of diabetes. I am not alone. More than 8 percent of the U.S. population – that’s about 26 million people – also have diabetes. For me, the diagnosis came unexpectedly, and was one for which I would never have imagined I would be thankful. But truly I am. In the past six months I have learned how to monitor my glucose levels, what my A1c levels mean, what to eat and when to eat it, the need for exercise and the importance of making and keeping regular doctor appointments. I have learned sugar and carbohydrates are not my friends. I have learned losing more than 80 pounds has been good for my diabetes as well as for my knees. I have come to realize that how I take care of the inside of me is much more important than what I look like on the outside.
All of which leads me to this: gone from my Thanksgiving celebration this year were the candied yams, the mountains of stuffing and mashed potatoes, and the pumpkin pie with gobs of whipped cream. Of course I made all of that for the guests I entertained that day, but I did not partake. Instead, I substituted overeating with gratitude. And, what was I thankful for? First and foremost: my health. I used to take for granted what feeling good and being healthy really meant. Not anymore. I know well-being is a gift from God that needs to be appreciated, safeguarded, and treasured. I am thankful that I can show God that I do indeed value my health. I am thankful for my doctor. She not only discovered I was diabetic, but took the time to explain to me what my diagnosis meant and to teach me what I can and cannot eat. She impressed on me the seriousness with which I must confront this disease. She and her team of nurses have done an excellent job of monitoring my health. They have done an even better job of cajoling, encouraging and sometimes even threatening me to change my unhealthy behavior. I am thankful for family and friends who have shown their care and concern for me. They offer well-meaning advice. They inquire as to how I am feeling. They remained loyal as I experienced a gamut of emotions processing and coming to terms with my diabetes. I am thankful for this second chance at feeling better and living a longer life.