The Sweet Life: A Diabetes Awareness Month Post


November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and Kendra is sharing her experience with diabetes – generationally and personally. Learn more about diabetes by visiting

I grew up with diabetes. That’s not to say that I had diabetes as a young person, but rather that many of the adults in my life had diabetes. Both sets of my grandparents had glucometers and insulin needles on their tables, and later, both of my parents were diagnosed with diabetes in their early 50s. I understood what it was, but vaguely.

My understanding of diabetes came on full force when I “failed” the fasting glucose test and then the three-hour swig-the-sickly-sweet-stuff test when I was pregnant with my second daughter in 2016. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and told that I would most likely develop type 2 diabetes.gestational diabetesThe second and third trimesters of my pregnancy were marked with checking my blood “sugar” levels three or four times a day and monitoring the effects of different foods on my blood glucose. I was determined to limit the medications I introduced to my system to lower my daughter’s exposure to anything extra, so I rejected medication and insulin and decided to address the disease with diet and exercise alone.

Initially, I felt like I was a failure, but I learned to tell myself, “It’s not you, it’s your pancreas.” As I learned from research, some people are predisposed to gestational diabetes (GD) by lifestyle and heredity, and being diagnosed with GD correlates with a 50% probability of developing type 2 diabetes. After my daughter was born in 2017, I had a year-long respite where my A1C, the three-month average of blood glucose levels, stayed acceptably low, but I soon learned that my gestational diabetes had morphed into regular type 2 diabetes.

I repeated my “pancreas mantra” to myself regularly throughout the first year after diagnosis. Once again, I struggled with feelings of failure and worry about the long-term effects of the disease. I wasn’t so worried about how long I would live: my grandfathers both died before they were 70, but both of my grandmothers lived into their 90s. I was more worried about the effects of the disease on my body. I already deal with chronic pain from fibromyalgia, so finding exercise that builds me up instead of wearing me out is already a struggle, and I must monitor my liver and kidney function because of the medications I take. 

Diabetes can also contribute to problems with your eyes, blood vessels, feet, and skin as well as increasing the likelihood of heart attacks, strokes, and infection. One of my grandmothers managed to refine her diet and lose weight to the point where she convinced her doctor to tell her that she didn’t have diabetes anymore. My other grandmother, on the other hand, spent the last several years of her life struggling with chronic urinary tract infections, which at times led to hallucinations, and was unable to stand for more than a few seconds at a time.

I know that people don’t just stop having diabetes, despite Granny’s insistence, but I know that there are different ways that diabetes can influence my life. I go through phases of monitoring my food intake religiously, and there are times when I fall off the diet wagon. As you know, it can feel impossible to manage a family’s meal plan, especially when your kids seem able to subsist on macaroni and cheese alone, but I’ve learned that, as with everything, balance is key. I still make mac-n-cheese, but I add Greek yogurt to the mix for protein and supplement it with a big pile of broccoli. We still have cake for birthdays, but we try to share it with friends, family, anddiabetesneighbors. We still trick-or-treat, but we only eat our favorites and treat candy as food, not a forbidden temptation. My husband was recently diagnosed as well, and together we’re trying to ensure that our children don’t follow in these particular footsteps, at least not if we can help it.

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Aside from being a writer, Kendra is a Birth Trauma Doula at KarysMa Birth, where she helps moms find their joy after birth trauma. A former middle school English and theatre teacher, she has an insatiable love for learning and a flair for the dramatic. Among the best moments of her life, she counts marrying her husband Steve during a dream rainbow wedding, planning a princess picnic on the beach with her eight year old daughter Karys, giving birth to her one year old daughter Saryn in the middle of a blizzard, and sitting on stage with Glennon Doyle. A Navy brat for the first 13 years of her life, Kendra settled in Virginia for eighteen years before she was finally ready to move again, relocating to Portland in 2014. You can find her work on Portland Moms Blog, The La Leche League Blog, and The Not Your Average Mom Project, as well as the hard drive of her computer.