Finding your way with diabetes

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The Tulalip Diabetes Care and Prevention program hosted a series of classes for the community during the month of August. Led by Diabetes Educators Jessica Bluto and Miguel Artega, Finding Your Way with Diabetes is an interactive course where community members learn how to manage their diabetes by sharing their personal experience with other diabetics in the community. 

Diabetes is prevalent in many Native communities throughout the country. In fact, Indigenous people are at a much greater risk of being diagnosed with diabetes than any other race in America. However, recent research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that Native America is actively working to change those statistics and saw a huge drop in the amount of kidney failures caused by diabetes in 2017, down by about fifty-four percent than previous years.  Thanks to programs like Diabetes Care and Prevention, Natives have a better understanding of diabetes and how to properly care for the disease by making healthier choices. 

Eight community members participated in the class last month and talked about a number of topics such as nutrition, the different types of insulin and their daily triumphs and struggles while living with diabetes. Miguel and Jessica compiled a list of topics for the participants to discuss before each class. The students then used a conversation map, which resembled a large board game, to lead their conversation throughout the class. 

“Over the past four classes we’ve been doing the diabetes conversation map,” says Jessica. “The first class talked about the basics of dealing with diabetes, from medication to balancing your diet, to coping with your feelings. We also talk about what causes your blood sugar to fluctuate and frustrations that people feel with diabetes. I think it’s important for them to share because they learn from each other and also know that they’re not alone. Even though a lot of people have diabetes, not a lot of people are willing to talk about their experience which keeps them from moving forward and better managing it. When they come to this class, they open up to each other and they’re building a community together.”

An example of community building was on display during the last class of the month as they welcomed a young new comer, who was diagnosed with diabetes a few short years ago. The class embraced the young man as he opened up about his journey with diabetes and encouraged him to keep pushing forward, offering friendly advice and letting him know what lies ahead. 

Tulalip community member and Alaskan Native, Jim Dunham has lived with diabetes for over twenty years and happily passed on his knowledge and experience to his classmates. 

“It’s not easy to change your lifestyle,” Jim states. “When you find out you have a sickness like diabetes you need to change your lifestyle and adapt. A lot of times when you go to your doctor, they give you a lot of information and sometimes you can’t fully grasp everything they’re telling you. I’ve learned so much more by coming to these classes over the last five years and have been able to manage my diabetes better. I’ve been dealing with this for over twenty years and am so thankful for these classes and this program, it really is phenomenal for our community.”

If you are living with diabetes or have recently been diagnosed with the disease, Jessica and Miguel encourage you to drop by the Diabetes Care and Prevention program at the Karen I. Health Clinic so they can answer any questions, provide you with resources and get you setup with a personalized plan to help manage your blood glucose levels. 

“Diabetes can be different for everybody,” explains Jessica. “If you feel the plan you and your doctor made isn’t right for you, let your doctor know because there are wide variety of ways to manage diabetes as well as medication. Come on down and visit, chat with us. We always have prizes at the classes and we always try to feed you. The purpose is to show you different kinds of healthy foods so you have the opportunity to try it before you buy it. 

We have another series coming up this fall or winter, the American Association for Diabetes Educators: The Seven Pillars of Managing Diabetes. Be sure to follow our Tulalip Food & Nutrition Education Facebook page for more information and upcoming events.”