A message from Kathy Riyazi, Manager, Population Health Data and Reporting Office of the Chief Medical Officer; and Tessie Harris, Diabetes Educator, Office of the Chief Nursing Officer
Diabetes Awareness Month this year, we are sharing a few stories from First Nations people in BC who are living well with diabetes. There is so much to be learned from those who are successfully walking similar paths!
Key themes of these stories include self-respect, self-determination, self-compassion, mindfulness, balance, and boundaries – things we don't often associate with diabetes wellness.
When people think about diabetes, the first things that come to mind are often carbohydrates, blood-sugar checking, and foot care. While these are, of course, important components of diabetes wellness, there are many other aspects of living well with diabetes that are often missing from diabetes education and services.
The people who shared their stories noted that knowing their personal boundaries – i.e., what feels good to say yes or no to – played a major role in maintaining their confidence and balance with respect to their diabetes care. They felt this was a big part of honouring their emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.
They also shared teachings they'd received from Elders and knowledge carriers about supporting their wellness, balance, and quality of life – and about embracing wellness and moving forward with diabetes as a lifelong journey that includes healing, self-love, and processing emotions.
They noted that coming together and talking about their experiences, hopes, successes, and challenges helped them to better understand their diabetes, and to feel connected, heard, seen, and supported by their community.
Here are some of their stories and words of wisdom.
Cyril Morris, Songhees Nation:
“When I was diagnosed with diabetes, I blamed myself and felt ashamed at first. The nurses were good at speaking to me about self-forgiveness, the journey, reminding me that I am here for a reason. I got through the ups and downs by focusing on the ey stelnexw (good medicine) that my grandparents taught me. Also, my aunties always taught me, 'Don't forget about yourself.' We often lose sight of that because we're wrapped up in family or community obligations. I think part of why I got diabetes is that I always went with the flow, went with what's convenient, and often didn't focus on what I needed, for my own wellness."
Q'umulha, Rhonda Schooner, Nuxalk Nation:
“It took me a lot to start working on myself, to be a kind, loving, caring human being. You have to want to become that, to be able to love yourself and look after yourself. Diabetes, to me, is one piece of the pie, in order to live in balance, the whole circle of well-being and healing has to be looked at."
“Being mindful and positive and keeping busy helps me live well with diabetes. That's why I like to do beadwork and other hobbies."
Gerry Gabriel, Penticton Indian Band:
“I like group learning, workshops, coming together and sharing a meal. It's nice to be in a group, it feels more real and there is more connection."
This November, for Diabetes Awareness Month 2023, we invite you to reflect on the powerful teachings shared above, as well as the message below about diabetes care. Let's share, learn together, and uplift each other's strengths and resilience as we approach diabetes together. You are not alone!