It’s often said that no parent should ever have to bury a child. Yet, Winnie faced that dreadful day when the casket’s lid closed on her eldest daughter, Talaya. "I don't think she understood the seriousness, how it related to her health," she says.
Ten years ago, at age 30, Talaya, a free-spirited, loving, single mother of three, was diagnosed with diabetes, a disease, according to the National Library of Medicine, in which blood glucose (sugar) levels are too high.
The management of diabetes is a necessity that involves daily blood sugar tests and insulin injections, eating healthy foods and exercise, all of which, when followed regularly, lowers the risk of complications such as blindness and kidney disease.
Winnie, 60, a Type 1 diabetic, pricks her finger to check her blood sugar level at least three times a day and watches what she eats. However, Talaya, a Type 2 diabetic, was reluctant to follow the same routine.
“She didn’t like pricking her finger,” says Winnie. Instead, Talaya preferred to eat something sweet to raise her low blood sugar level. But, Winnie believed there was more to the problem. “I think she was in denial.”
Although a normal reaction, the American Diabetes Association explains that denial can cause life-threatening complications if the disease remains unmanaged. The longer you remain in denial, the longer the disease controls you.
Within six years, Talaya’s 130-pound, 5-foot-5-inch frame had reached 260 pounds due to poor eating habits triggered by ongoing stress of balancing life and motherhood. However, nothing could’ve prepared Winnie for what she saw months later.
“She told me she was dieting,” she says of Talaya’s drastic, 140-pound weight loss. Talaya insisted she was okay. Yet, Winnie knew the complications had taken over and soon after had attacked Talaya’s organs.
“She had neuropathy, IBS, kidney disease,” says Winnie. “She had to use a catheter and a colostomy bag.” Talaya was taking 24 medications and admitted to the hospital monthly and nearly died twice.
A realist, Winnie knew the inevitable was near.
On May 8, 2012, Talaya, at age 40, died from diabetes-related complications.
“It's been very difficult to deal with that,” says Winnie. "I miss her every day."
Simply stated, prevention is management.
She admits that Talaya’s death has awakened her and until that time she had pricked for sugar. Now, she pricks for life.