Substitutions: A Way of Life

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I’ve only had diabetes for three years, but I’ve been around it all my life. My little brother Reeves was diagnosed when he was four. We discovered his diabetes after he went missing one day.

Everyone in our family and neighborhood was out looking for little Reeves, and it had been a few hours. The last place he’d been seen was in our yard and around our house playing. No one had any idea of where he could have gone without someone seeing him.

As it turns out, a few hours later a neighborhood friend found him passed out inside our house behind a fold-up Ping-Pong table. Who knows how he got there, but he fell asleep behind the Ping-Pong table and had been inside our house the whole time people were on the hunt.

As his 10-year-old brother at the time, I didn’t know what to think. I remember that my parents took him to the hospital and we soon discovered that Reeves had diabetes. As a kid I can only remember hearing the first syllable of the word diabetes: When they said diabetes, all I heard was “Die.” I immediately assumed that my brother was going to die and that his days were numbered. I was young and had no idea what the disease was, but I knew what die meant.

After I realized that it was just a lifestyle change, our whole family became more aware of what we put into our bodies. I remember baby-sitting for Reeves years later, checking his blood glucose levels on urine strips and making sure that he ate the right amount to cover his insulin doses. Diabetes was in our family’s life, but it wasn’t in my personal life, yet.

My pancreas gave me a solid 28 years before it decided to start misbehaving. And now that I’m completely absorbed in the diabetes lifestyle, I’ve realized that I’m constantly in search of substitutions. Especially when it comes to food. When I want to relive the comfort of Sunday dinners of southern mashed potatoes and fried chicken but feel like I should be a little healthier, I eat cauliflower and chickpea “potatoes” with a boneless, skinless breast of chicken. It doesn’t quite take me down memory lane, but that’s not always such a bad thing. The “potatoes”—or as I call them “Faux-ta-toes”—are made very easily. Boil some cauliflower, drain it, add a can of chickpeas and a little butter, milk, and sour cream, and whip them until they’re smooth. Enjoy your diabetes-friendly Faux-ta-toes.

Diabetes is all about substitutions. I often substitute exercise for insulin. My recent morning routines have been to take my morning insulin glargine (brand name Lantus) injection and then eat breakfast. While I’d normally take a couple of units of insulin aspart (NovoLog) as well for oatmeal/grits, I don’t take any if I’m going to go work out in 20 minutes.

I’m always on the search for substitutions to break up the constant hassle of diabetes. If you’ve got any, send them my way.

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