Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Lethal Legacy

When I was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago, I knew full well that I wasn't the only one in the family who had had it. After all, one of my late uncles had suffered from it too.

But I didn't know until a few years after my diagnosis that my late maternal grandfather had had it too. And so did some of my paternal cousins in Detroit. Had I known all this, I'd like to think that I would have arranged my life differently and avoided getting the disease. But then again maybe I would have gotten it anyway.

Anyway, I had long feared that my siblings were at risk for the disease as well. And last week, my worst fears came through. Not only was my middle brother diagnosed with a similar condition to my own, he was also revealed to be suffering from kidney problems and high blood pressure.

His doctors are attempting to control his condition through diet and medication but my brother is not quite as optimistic as he should be. He keeps asking me for advice and the only advice I can give him is this: listen to your doctors.

My late father died before he waited too long to consult a doctor about his health problems. I don't want my middle brother to suffer the same fate. Yet I know from experience how easy it is to react to bad news on the medical front by going into denial. When I was diagnosed with a thyroid problem, I went into denial. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I went into denial.

I like to think I'm smarter now but when I think of the time I wasted not acting like I should because I was too proud to see myself as a victim of such-and-such medical condition...

Anyway, I have since discovered that my younger sister also has a thyroid problem. Moreover, heart trouble seems to run in the family as well. My paternal grandfather died of heart trouble and if not for an operation I had around the age of 12, I'd probably be dead of a congenital heart condition as well.

Thus far my mother and my youngest brother appear to be healthy and I pray they stay healthy for a long time. But I always thought my middle brother would stay healthy as well. And I can't help but find it curious that though my family has long prided itself on being more open with each other than most families, certain medical facts don't seem to get shared that often among us. Perhaps because it's hard to relay information that one would rather not admit knowing in the first place.

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