i'm naturally sweet.(wink-wink).. probably why i've got sweet tooth. all of us in the family are. our craving for something sweet runs in the family. imagine us during family reunions - all huddled up at the tables and in front of us would be our favorites: cakes, fruit salad, leche flan, brownies, biko, or whatever kakanin is there available... much to our gustatory delight! oh, i almost forgot to add, diabetes is in our genes. awww.. but how can sweets be so fatal?
when i was young, i first realized how dreadful diabetes was during this one time when our family went swimming. i didn't know how to swim (i still don't until now, by the way) and what i usually do is to accompany any of the older members of the family so there'd be somebody looking out for me. i'm not a precocious child. i just stay still and would just wade through the sandy beachline, of course. and should my older companion decide to swim out to sea, i'd be tagging along with my ever-dependable 'salbabida' (life-saving device / life buoy).
that time, my lola susing (mom's mom) was the one who accompanied me. she normally makes several laps around me as she loves gliding through the water. on this occasion, however, i noticed that she was not her normal self. she was treading water stuck opposite me in my salbabida, with her eyes closed. we stayed that way for about half an hour when i couldn't contain my curiosity any longer, i just had to ask. so i rocked my salbabida a little to catch her attention then proceeded to ask, "La, ngano wala man ka mulangoy didto sa lawod? (Granny, why are you not swimming in the depths?)"
she opened her eyes a bit, looked at me and answered, "Dili na man ko kaayo kakita. Halap na akong mata. Uban na lang ko nimo dinhi. (I can no longer see clearly. My eyes aren't that sharp anymore. We'll just stay here together.)"
and the naturally curious child in me just had to ask again. "Ngano man nahalap imong mata? (Why did your eyes grow dim?)"
"Kay tigulang na ko. Ug sige pud ko makatulog nga basa ang buhok. (Because i'm old. And on top of that, i sleep with my hair still wet.)", was her reply.
"Ha? Makahalap diay na ug mata? (What, that can ruin the eyesight?)"
"Oo. Busa, ayaw katulog nga basa ug buhok, ha. (Yes, so you better not go to sleep with your hair wet.)"
"Hala, lola, ayaw katulog dinha. (Hey, granny, don't sleep yet.)"
Little did i know that i was witnessing the first signs of the complications wrought about by diabetes on my grandma's body. Her vision was slowly waning, and this effect was downplayed by the perpetration of old folks' belief regarding sleeping with wet hair as a cause of loss of vision. the conversation that transpired between us seemed innocently true to my young mind. and for a time, i would refuse to go to bed if my hair is wet. i insist on playing till late night just to ensure that i have already dried my hair.
most of my relatives on my mom's side suffered from diabetes and died due to complications arising from this disease. and now, i learned that i also have relatives on my dad's side who have diabetes. it's official. i have double the risk. my predisposition comes from both sides of the family. and i have seen how it has wreaked havoc on the lives of some relatives - vision loss, amputated legs, kidney failure, lung disease, liver disease, heart disease, and more.
today, my mom has it, too. and she continually monitors her blood sugar level so as to be able to better manage her diabetes. her older sister is also diabetic. but if there's good that's come out of it, it's that they are able to share experiences and reach out to each other well because of their similar situation. when aunty madeilyn brought us her insulin plant which she sells to doctors and diabetic patients, my mom and aunty tata (living just beside us) immediately planted it so that we'll have plenty of plants at home. this insulin plant (scientific name: Costus igneus) seemed to be a miracle plant as it has been proven to keep sugar levels at bay. one should not eat too much of it though as one might experience sudden weakness (especially if you're not diabetic, like me). there was this one time, after sweating it out cleaning our garage, i happen to be resting a while and in front of me was the insulin plant. out of curiosity, i picked out one leaf, cleaned it by the faucet and began chewing on it. about 15 minutes from then, i suddenly experienced mild weakness at the knees, that i just had to sit down and my head was feeling buoyant. so after about 10 minutes of rest sitting down, i went into the house and looked for anything to eat inside our ref. i realized i should not be eating this plant which seems to drain sugars from circulation so fast, i really got dizzy. but still i have been taking care of my own plants here in manila. i brought stems from back home and planted it here. who knows? somebody just might be needing it. just have to carefully inform her/him of its use though. and there's also some caution to be made when taking medicinal herbs for curing illnesses.
mom's insulin plant initially intended for selling was not sold at all. a lot of the people who my mom had talked to about the benefits of the plant would come by our house and ask for it. and my mom would happily give it away. when she sees that there's only a few left, she would start re-planting again and these get to be given away again. the good thing about it is that my mom has helped a lot of fellow diabetics like her and encouraged them to learn how to properly take care of their health. once you know of someone with diabetes, you start sharing your experiences and your knowledge about it and so in some way be able to make a difference in another. not necessarily that one might depend on the plant. she shares with them the need to take regular meals, learn what kind of food to eat and how much to eat, learn to include physical activity within the day, make sure to monitor sugar levels, etc.
the plant may not be a cure-all. nothing ever is. the important thing is that people get to learn how to properly take care of their health, make correct lifestyle changes and thus better manage their disease.