“Fight back—don’t give up. Don’t accept your fate.” These are the words of my father, Robert Frazier, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2004. Since his initial diagnosis, he has become a healthier and happier father, brother, and husband, but his journey wasn’t without strife.
I began with interviewing my father to better understand his experiences and condition, but the more I listened, the more aware I became. My father’s story, though his own, was just like that of so many people living with diabetes—it is an aggressive disease that snuck up on an otherwise healthy person. Nobody ever thinks it could happen to them, until it does, and they’re left with the realization they’re mortal.
“I was terrified. I’d seen first-hand what diabetes could do. I had a girlfriend in college whose mother slowly lost pieces of herself due to the disease. First a foot, then a leg. Then another leg and finally her life.”
At the time I was too young to see the terror that had been struck in the heart of my father. Diabetes didn’t seem to be that big of a problem—after all, it seemed like a perfectly manageable disease. Yet here my father was, about to undertake the fight for his life. Now that I’m an adult, I too, have seen first hand what the disease can do; which is why the older I get, the more pride I have for my father and his courage. So few of us can admit we’re afraid, much less in the face of our own mortality, but even fewer of us face that fear head on—and fight it.
The first months of his journey were fraught with frustration and adjustment. There was a new focus on medication, diet and exercise in order to manage the diagnosis my father humorously called “his second job”. First there were medications to help manage his blood sugar, then what would become his best friend and worst enemy: the glucose meter.
“I was terrified of the lancet of the glucometer. I thought it would be like getting a shot in my finger. I had your mother take my hand to stick my finger with the lancet device. It didn’t hurt that badly at all, and I thought I was being too wimpy. It was no time before I could manage for myself.”
Yet results started to occur—my mother commented how his mood had improved, and how he seemed less tired. He was starting to feel better, to feel a little like his old self, but new and improved. The more improvement there was, the more time he was able to put between glucose readings. It’s during this leg of the journey my father rediscovered a passion once lost: cycling.
Cycling had been a passion for my father when he was a young man in the army. As I interviewed him he waxed on nostalgically about how much he enjoyed it, but that over the years he just didn’t have time for it anymore. Funny that an aggressive disease rekindled that passion with the single thought that, “If I can’t beat diabetes, I’ll out run it.”
Through cycling he was able to find others like him—people trying to live healthier lives, and raise money and awareness for diabetes research. The first race he attended was in 2012, called the Mesquite Rotary Bike Ride, and later that same year, the Tour de Cure. I remember being a young twenty something on break from college, and watching my father huff and puff over the finish line. His entire family was there, cheering him on, egging him to lap his diagnosis on that track, again and again.
Since his first ride, he’s gone on to participate in six cycling events a year across the country for both his health and to raise awareness. It’s been twelve years since my father was sat down and told he had an aggressive disease, and twelve years of championing over it.
The initial fear my father had has been replaced by hope. In his lifetime alone, diabetes has become a disease that can be fought, managed, and even lived with—perhaps even cured one day. We never know what the future will hold, and the progress that’s been made in my father’s life time alone is reason for hope. It’s for that reason alone that my father advocates fighting back and advises to hold on—life isn’t over until we say it’s over.
by: Astrid Frazier, ADA North Texas Intern