PERSONAL UPDATE: 2011
I was far too overdue on an update.
First of all, welcome to everyone who finds this site. You are welcome
here, regardless of whether or not you have Native American blood. Although the main thrust of the site is to help Native
Americans (many of whom suffer from terrible lack of medical care), I welcome each and every one of you. This is a diabetes
that knows no barriers. We're in this fight together, all of us.
What's happening with me:
I am now down almost 200 pounds from 410. The final deal breaker had
nothing to do with myself. My husband and I happily adopted two Native boys, (one a cousin from my Cherokee tribe, the other,
a young man from my elder's tribe, Seneca, who were both homeless), who needed a home and love. I gave a lot of thought and
prayer to what best to do. I had a reason to live, but it would be a terrible risk.
I lost the first 53 pounds on my own; finding filling food that is
healthy is a lot easier than it sounds. I did it for my family, and we pulled together; today we are tighter than ever. It
requires some creativity. I used the Calorie King calorie counter (which is an outstanding book, btw) and then used the Calorie
King diet journal, both available at Calorieking.com, and then underwent gastric bypass, Roux en-Y. No bones were put in front
of me. I was told, point blank, 1 in 1000 do not survive the surgery due to complications. I was further asked to write a
will. At less than 50, I was told to write a will, and address my final requests. If that doesn't kick you into reality, nothing
certainly will. But these two youngsters, they believed in me. My husband believed in me, as did my mom and the rest of my
family and my extended family through my tribe. I knew I never wanted to be 410 pounds ever again. EVER. So the decision was
made, and after six months of education, I went under the knife. One of my boys clutched my fingers as I was hauled off to
surgery. "You sure you want this, Mom?" "Bring it on, baby," were my last words before I went under.
The Roux-en-Y was successful (look it up on Wikipedia under Gastric
Bypass for more details; I don't recommend it as a cure all. Please try to lose weight without surgery before you take this
drastic and final step because it is a very final step that can never be changed). I suffered setbacks for
five years due to my arthritis. I learned a lot about who were my support, and a lot more on human cruelty, when some who
knew I had the surgery actually were very insulting and cruel because to them, the GB should melt the pounds off. It doesn't.
It sure as hell won't when one leg can no longer work and the bones grind daily on each other. I lost a friend or two, one
of them a long time friend. Hard to do. But if someone isn't willing to be there, when you need them the most, when you need
them the hardest after you have been there for them, that is no friend and never will be. In the past month, (November 2011
is when I am writing this update), 22 pounds of hanging flesh were removed. The pain on this is excruciating. I have no more
cartilage holding my right knee together. In January I will undergo what we hope is the last of the surgeries, to repair the
knee that has been the bane of my existence for five painful years. If you want to know more about Gastric Bypass, the best
reference out there is "Weight Loss Surgery for Dummies" which I found absolutely invaluable and covers all the particulars.
Worth every cent.
Today I am the smallest I have been since high school. I have a lap;
my cat is still getting used to the concept. Things are closer than they were before; a bit of a revelation for me. I am learning
to reshop for clothing. 22 pounds of hanging skin was cut off about three weeks ago, and my body is small. It's hard to get
used to things; counters are closer. Clothing fits differently. I am going to, for the first time, go and see if I can purchase
something off the rack at a regular chain store than a Large women's store.
It's weird. The cruel taunts I've heard most of my life on the street
aren't as frequent. I still remember the one father and son who walked by me when I was in my twenties, and the father telling
his son to go ahead and say terrible things to fat people, "because they don't deserve to live." Thank you, but I think I've
won the right to live, and I have a damned good reason for sticking around. Thank you, to my family: this site is a labor
of love done for all of you, with all my love.
Heartbreakingly enough, this disease has claimed another victim among my close family and friends. A dear friend and tribal
brother, Mark Anthony Rutchik, passed from this life at 59 years old. He was a big help to my brother and sister-in-law over
the years, helping them with their shows. I have added Mark to the site dedication, continuing this fight in his name as well.
I miss him very badly.
SITE UPDATE, 11/2011:
This is what I am more excited about. More than anything.
I have never publicized this site. I don't take ads; Tripod puts up
ads, which allows me the free space, and I hope they will continue to be related to the diabetes cause. I put up the site
in 2000 and in 2002 dedicated it to my father's memory.
And then the strangest thing happened. People started finding me. At
first I was surprised by it, then stunned. Native diabetics came out of the woodwork. Some were very frightened people, afraid
to talk about it. I put them on the path to their doctor (which is what the site is for in the first place.) What was strange
was how these people were finding me.
My physician from my HMO has been all over the website and loves it.
She has read everything carefully and given it her seal of approval, and understands that it is not a replacement for a physician,
but a band aid until you can GET to a physician. So one question that has been frequently asked has been addressed. My doctor
is a General Practicioner MD, and many diabetics pass through her door.
And to answer a question I've been asked a number of times: my former
MD, who sat on my diagnosis for a week before dumping it on my gynecologist to give me the news he was too cowardly to give
me, is no longer working for my HMO. The last time I saw him, I was pulling into a parking space at the office, about two
years after my diagnosis, not really paying him much heed. He did, however, see me. He looked like he was facing a ravenous
Mountain Lion, which is weird because I never even gave him a dirty look. He also ran into the building like a scared rabbit
from what I could only assume was guilt. I found his behavior bizarre; other than reporting him to the administrator per my
gyneocologist, (who was furious at how I was treated, and her fury was only exceeded by the administrator, who told me that
he was stunned I didn't go home and eat a bag of sugar and put myself into shock....this is really what he said, folks) I
never said another word to him other than changing doctors. Next thing I heard is that he left the HMO and is in private practice.
The nurse who also was cruel and acted inappropriately was apparently disciplined as well. Both of them have the incident
on their permanent records; more importantly, I don't think they'll ever treat another diabetic patient like this again, which
is the most important point. It is and was at the time of my diagnosis, the policy for my HMO to hand to a newly diagnosed
diabetic a pre-prepared packet of information, arrange for H1 AC tests, and sign them up for diabetic classes ASAP, with follow-up
update classes every few years.
I later showed one of my boys where I'd received my diagnosis, where
I'd been kicked out of the private office where I was to receive instruction, where I'd received my meds and meter for my
diabetes. He was curious since he read the website, and wanted to see, with his own eyes, where it had all gone down. Let's
just say it was probably a good idea my former MD no longer worked there. He wanted to know why I didn't file a lawsuit; I
said I just wanted to make sure that the HMO took care of business, and the poor actions of one doctor did not overshadow
that my gyneocologist made utmost effort to help me and were it not for her, someone else would have been hurt, possibly worse.
It wasn't the HMO's fault, as their policy was in place and it was up to employees to follow it. The fault belonged to the
physician who wanted to treat people like bodies to shoveled in and out, not thinking about how these people have lives, homes,
families who love them. My boy understood and more importantly, understood why I used Vtla Kaliseji, to help others treated
like me, to help themselves.
My dad's doctor, who nearly engineered his demise, apparently continues
to call me the "Wrath of God" around his hospital. He has tried to get my mother back as a patient; my mother found the guts
to stand up to him, especially after his nickname for me. I understand I frighten him. I can't imagine why. :) He also knows
that if he tries to pressure her in any way, shape or form, he'll be tangling with me. That is apparently something he would
like to avoid for the rest of his life.
I have had the following wonderful contacts and messages:
This past month I was delighted to learn that dear friends of mine
from the Yurok Nation, who live up in Requa. They have recommended Vtla Kaliseji to four different tribes to help battle this
disease. I want to thank the entire Wortman family for their incredible support. Here's the link: http://www.appropedia.org/Potawot_Diabetes_Outreach_Program#Diabetes_and_Nat
I received some wonderful support, comments and information from Mr.
DeWayne McCulley, author of "Death to Diabetes", a truly amazing book on the subject. We talked for a while; turns out his
situation and my father's were very close in how they were treated. His book is incredible; he was kind enough to share a
copy with me which I have in turn shared with other members of my tribal community, including a nurse and a patient advocate.
We all see it as another viewpoint seeking a natural means to combat the disease. Thank you again, Mr. McCulley, for your
support and kindness; I wish you every conceivable success in the future. Here's his link: http://www.deathtodiabetes.com/
I might add, other than Mr. McCulley's book, all books and references
on the website were purchased by myself.
I have received emails from different places. Different Native Americans
have stepped forward to thank me; the furthest being from a Koori from Australia. Their kindness and support, questions, and
opinions have helped to shape this site, allowing me to offer alternate viewpoints as well as open it up for discussion. Every
email I've received has helped; every comment, positive or negative (the latter being very small, but I read and consider
I've also googled the site on occasion, and surprised where I've found
it. Tribes from every which way, Traditional Native religious and Native Christian groups have posted links to the site.
There have been others; including one report to the Texas Senate regarding
the epidemic levels of diabetes among Native American tribes. Thank you, every last one of you. You make this effort rewarding
and worth every bit of time I sink into it.
Native Americans taking the fight in their own hands:
Other tribes have taken their own steps. I didn't inspire these; these
happened because the wake up call went through Native Country. It is NOT my doing. I am proud to say my own tribe, the Cherokee,
have sponsored "I ran with the Chief" runs. There are health walks. Dad would be thrilled; even with his limitations, he kept
himself in as good a shape as his crippled body would allow.
Tribes have begun taking a greater and more active interest in fighting
diabetes as never before. The push towards traditional foods that are not made with government supplied foods, the idea of
going back to the three sisters food groups (corn, beans, squash) is growing; I've seen actual chef competitions trying to
encorporate more traditional foods that are lower in fat, sugar and unhealthy content.
The most surprising response of all:
Has come from non-Native people. People who have thanked me, expressed
gratitude, even though this is a Native American focused site due to the horrible epidemic levels diabetes has cut through
our people, that I have made them welcome. Everyone is welcome to find whatever they need, and if helps, even in the smallest
degree, it's worth it. The most important thing is connect with your physician. Please, do it for your children, and those
yet to come. I was taught by elders that every life has an impact on up to seven generations. Make the right choice. There's
more help now than ever before. Get it; every life you touch makes it worth the fight.
Dohiyi ale Adida,
Vtla Kaliseji Administrator.