Wednesday, January 26, 2011

But You'll Get Diabetes...!

This is me on my first birthday...
As you can see I had more birthdays after that, and like most kids with sort of regular American childhoods I had a birthday cake each time...
7th birthday with
my stepbrother Casey

15 years and
all about band
First time I had a party
with classmates
   That all seems pretty could even call it better than average.  I mean those are really cute cakes!  But it's surprising I got cake at all...

   This is my paternal grandfather, Wendell Thomas.
Wendell was born in 1922 and grew up during the Depression.  He had some difficult health issues early in life contracting what was known as Tuberculosis of the Spine.  He had surgery in Minnesota at what is now called the Mayo Clinic, although then it was called St. Mary's Hospital.  Wendell had to wear a brace on his back for years.
The Wendell Thomas Orchestra
   He came through it ok though and grew up to have a family of his own. When he was a man he learned to play the drums and had his own jazz band that played for clubs and parties.  It was called the Wendell Thomas Orchestra.  I would sure love to find a recording from that time period.  I love big band music jazz combos; I wish I could have heard them play!

Wendell Thomas plays the drums

   When Wendell was an adult he became an insulin-dependent diabetic.  I didn't know my Grandpa Thomas very well, but his legacy was felt often through the ubiquitous admonition whenever anyone saw me eating anything sweet..."But not too much; you'll get diabetes."
   I don't know if it was a common belief everywhere or just in my family, but I was raised with the wisdom that diabetes "skipped a generation."  Thus I lived with constant reminders to not eat too much sugar, watch what I ate, and "you know you're going to have to get your sugar tested when you're older...diabetes skips a generation...and you know about your Grandpa Thomas."  It was an incontrovertible truth I was raised on.
   Once when I went to the doctor in high school I had my blood tested for something completely unrelated to blood sugar, but when they called me in to the exam room, my heart sank because I was sure they were going to tell me that was it, the end of the road, the party was over, no more Hostess Honey Buns (my favorite at that time).  Diabetes was surely here now!  Imagine my relief when they told me I did or didn't have mono or something completely unrelated!
Wendell Thomas
Thanksgiving 1979
   I recently participated in having genetic testing done through 23andme.  I was interested for genealogy purposes, but read the health findings with curiosity.  One of the most triumphant findings of the whole experience was this:  Genetically, I am at a REDUCED risk for Type I diabetes and TYPICAL risk (no more or less than the general population) for Type II diabetes.
After all those years of having that injunction hanging over my head, I can now say that genetically I have no more chance of developing diabetes than anyone else!  It's kind of nice to have someone on my side after all these years.

No comments:

Post a Comment