Friday, February 22, 2013


I can't sleep. While I was lying in bed, I kept thinking about my feet.

I have two healthy, functioning feet. Admittedly, they need orthotics and old lady shoes, but they carry my considerable weight and don't cause me too much grief.

I have two perfectly good feet and I don't have heart disease and I don't have diabetes.

In early October, 2000, I was about to turn 15. I came home late one day after going to a friend's house after school. I turned onto my street and saw an ambulance in the distance. I just knew that it was at my house... and I was right. My dad had had a heart attack. Thankfully, my older sister was home and he got help in time. He had quadruple bypass surgery and was in the hospital for about a month. On Christmas Eve, 2002, when I was in grade 12, my dad had to have his left foot amputated due to complications related to his diabetes. A few years later, in 2007, they amputated his right foot.

My dad suffered immeasurably during the last 15 years or so of his life (besides what I've mentioned so far, he had to deal with further surgery on his stump after the first amputation, another heart attack, diabetic retinopathy and eye issues, kidney problems, congestive heart failure, and related complications... all of which meant chronic pain and many, many hospital stays). It felt like as soon as he recovered from one setback, he experienced another one. But my dad never gave up. He maintained his sense of humour. He was always the life of the party. He kept working, as a high school English teacher. And, perhaps most inspiring, he kept exercising.

My dad was an athlete his whole life. He excelled at any sport he tried - hockey, baseball, football, squash. He was a natural. When I was growing up, he would also go for long walks every single night. I went with him only once or twice (I'm sorry to say, walking really wasn't my thing). He also loved riding his bike: there were a few summers where we would go for a bike picnic in Mount Pleasant Cemetery almost every single day.

I can't imagine how it felt for him to lose his feet. And even without his feet, he still exercised. He would lift weights in his wheelchair and use his old rowing machine religiously. When we were at the cottage, he would go out for long trips in the rowboat. He would go for walks, with his prostheses and two canes. And he would swim. Almost every day, he would wheel himself down to the non-wheelchair-accessible pool in our condo building, alone, and use his upper body strength to lift himself from his chair, to a stool, to the steps, into the pool. With no feet.

And sometimes often I'm too lazy to take a 10-minute walk to the gym.

If I don't make a permanent change, I will get diabetes. I will have a heart attack. Of this, I am certain.

Sure, I wish my clothes fit better, but honestly... I've had my fill of hospitals. The thought of open-heart surgery makes me squeamish. So... let's avoid all of that, shall we?


Anonymous said...

I just have to say, I’m glad to see you blogging more often, Katie. I miss you!

My grandmother died recently. She also had complications for her last few years as a result of her diabetes. Though she never had amputations, the circulation in her legs became such that she was virtually confined to a bed for the last few years of her life, in and out of the hospital as she rebounded (slightly) or regressed. It was a roller coaster of a time, especially for my mom.

I find it interesting that the deleterious nature of diabetes is so seldom mentioned in relation to the trend of obesity we see in North America. People will invoke diabetes as a serious consequence of obesity, but I wonder how many people realize there’s more to it than managing one’s blood sugar levels.

I think you need to post soon about a good book you’ve read!

Anonymous said...

Your dad sounds like he was an amazing person, Katie. I enjoyed hearing about him (although it seems really unfair that he had so many health problems).

Thanks for reminding us what's really at stake with all this extra weight we're carrying around. I'm reading a book right now called Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease that goes into a lot of the issues.

Jess said...

What an amazing story and a legend of a man! Health is so important. So easy to take it for granted!!! Thanks for sharing.

Lemma said...

Yes, let's. I need you around for a long, long, long, long time.
p.s. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree everyone, Katie is one of the best people you'll ever meet!