Monday, November 01, 2004

Autobiography, Part III

My sister Ann began losing weight very quickly when she was sixteen. When she dipped below 118lbs, my mom told her to Stop. Ann tried, but the weight just melted off her body.

I remember the shouting matches between them. Mom screamed, "I know you're on drugs, dammit. Stop lying to me!" And Ann would respond, crying, "Nooo, I'm not! I swear."

This went on for about a month. Finally, mom took Ann to the doctor and she was diagnosed with diabetes. She would have to strictly regulate her diet and take two shots of insulin daily for the rest of her life.

Ann went into shock and became depressed. Adding to this tragedy was my family's inability to acknowledge and deal with the situation. My mother felt guilty and blamed herself. She would sit at the dinner table, rock back and forth and cry, "Oh God. It was me. It was me. My Uncle Eddie died from diabetes." The rest of us were unsure of what to say. Mom's guilt turned into Ann's shame. And to this day, this horrible pattern still exists.

This started Ann on a pattern of total denial. Her diet included donuts, chocolate and ding-dongs. None of her friends were ever told that she had diabetes. I was sworn to strict silence. Ann refused to participate in a maintenance program that mandated twice-yearly visits to her physicians. Eventually, she began having sinus headaches that lasted for months. Still, she refused to go to the doctor. One day she woke up and had lost the sight in one eye. At that point she began treatment to save the other eye, but she developed toxic shock about a year later and that destroyed the blood vessels in her only good eye. My sister Ann was blind at the age of 30.

To this day, Ann does not talk about being blind or diabetic and none of her friends or colleagues know about her illness. My other sister Denise and I harp on her to go to the doctor...and she swears that she does, but we have our doubts. Ann falls into diabetic shock frequently - about 3 times a month. If she stays in that state long enough, she'll fall into a coma. Consequently, my sister Denise makes it a point to talk to Ann every single day. She and her husband have found Ann in a semi-coma so many times, she's scared to death to not talk to her at least every three hours. Yet Ann continues to cut her insulin down very low (it takes a lesser toll on her body and organs) and the science isn't perfect.

It would help, of course, if she would go to the doctor.