Putting It On The Page At A Sports Bar

Do you ever have days when nothing could possibly go wrong and then it does? I was peacefully sipping on a vanilla latte at the Julius Meniel Café when suddenly I overhear the waitress say they are closing the café at 7pm to wax the floors. Gulp!  As an event organizer (and control freak) this is the last thing I want to hear because  we were supposed to be having the writing meet up at this location. Glad accidental Proyecto Latina attendee Claudia Martinez was there to help me laugh my way through this venue snafu!

What to do?

Well, when in doubt, pray to St. D’Augstino patron saint of pizza and beer. Before I knew it, we were across the street surrounded by a basket of fries, laptops and giant TV screens showing the White Sox game. After we settled in, I looked up from my notebook and saw everyone writing in their laptops and notebooks. Maybe it was the blaring music but everyone was diving deep into the cenote of their writing. I watched the waiters give us curious looks as they walked past with people’s orders. There is something very powerful about coming into a space like D’Augustinos and showing up to the page regardless of what’s going on around you.

So who showed up to write?

Christina Rodriguez ended up writing two blog posts; one on the importance of your teeth and diabetes  and the other on Latino identity. Stephanie Diaz Reppen found herself  working on a piece that she had been opening, reading, putting away and hadn’t revisited since her Hedgebrook residency. She is also working on a piece about a Guatemalan Saint named San Pascualito Rey.

Maribel Mares came all the way from the Bridgeportzlan neighborhood to move some of her writing forward. Funny lady Ruth Guerra is writing 45 pages of creative writing for a fiction class she is taking at Morton College.

Cristina Correa almost went home upon seeing the venue change. Glad she stayed because she divulged a wonderful writing secret that will be made public soon. She began to work on her Axolotl salamander story.  Jessica Mondres was working on a story/collage on the theme of women, tapestry and faith. I was excited to see Jazmin Corona (writer, dancer, photographer) come out and work on some of her own writing.

What do these women have in common besides being writers? At one point the majority of them have all been Proyecto Latina features and have powerful stories to tell.  Afterwards, Ruth shared her pitcher of sangria with us and we dreamed up a Proyecto Latina field trip next year to New Mexico for the Latino Writers Conference and possibly a holiday clothes/jewelry swap.

Lastly, mil gracias to everyone that came out and for being flexible and most of all setting aside time to write. For those that didn’t come out remember whether you are writing with us or on your own carve out the time to write and tell your story.

The next writing meet up will be in Pilsen at Effebinas. Time TBA and in November we will be back on the north side somewhere. If you have any suggestions of places on the north side please let me know.

 

Diabetes: Prioritizing my heart & health

"It’s hard to take care of a Latina and even harder to convince one that she needs help."

“I hope you never get tired of hearing your eyes are healthy,” my ophthalmologist told me  the last time I saw him.

Oh, no, doc. I don’t think I ever will.

Diabetes is a multi-organ disease and I have to see about six doctors a year.  Diabetes doesn’t just deal with a malfunctioning pancreas, it affects every part of the body; from your toes to your salivary glands and even your heart. So my doctors test my  liver enzymes, check for protein in the urine and determine sugar percentage in the blood stream over a three-month span.  These are only a few of the many tests I undergo; and that’s just the order of the endocrinologist, it does not include the dentist, ophthalmologist, optometrist or podiatrist.

I’ve been seeing these specialists since I was first diagnosed as a child and they have kept me aware of what could happen if I am not cautious. Especially since the first endocrinologist I ever had used scare tactics to get me to stick to my “diabetic diet.” He literally threatened me with stories about losing my feet, going blind and dying as a young person.

“If you don’t take care of yourself now, you’re going to see a lot of complications in the future,” he said. My mother bought it and I guess I did, too.

As a diabetic I am also at higher risk for stroke and heart disease.  Over the years, my doctors warned me to control my cholestorol because bad cholesterol builds up faster in people with diabetes–it can lead to artery blockage and compromise the strongest and one of the most important organs in my body–my heart.

Diabetes among Latinas is very prevalent.
Latinas are 17 times more likely to die of diabetes than non-Hispanic white women, according to WomensHealth.gov. In addition, the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates lifetime risks to be higher for Latinas than white women. Go figure. But I think the most shocking discovery of the journal is that Latinas born in 2000 have a 52.5 percent risk of developing diabetes. Not only are we at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, but we are also at greater risk for gestational diabetes, which develops during pregnancy and is troubling for a possible overweight baby and may lead to complications during delivery.

Another alarming statistic is that of the eight million Latinas  living with heart disease, only one in six believe that heart disease is their greatest health threat.  According to Go Red Por Tu Corazon, heart disease is the number one killer of Latinas, which outranks all forms of cancer combined. In addition, heart disease is two to four times more likely to appear in a person with diabetes.

Heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a broad term used to describe a range complications; from congenital heart defects to problems affecting your arteries, blood vessels and valves. It basically includes anything that affects your heart, meaning heart attacks, strokes and chest pain.

“…heart disease is the number one killer of Latinas…of the eight million Latinas living with heart disease, only one in six believe that heart disease is their greatest health threat.”

This is a scary thing and I’m not trying to scare anyone into taking care of themselves. But if you know that changing your diet and taking preventative measure every day can help stop the onset of heart disease and diabetes, why not do it?  In fact, the good news is that heart disease is preventable–just like diabetes.

These statistics alone should inspire Latinas– strong, powerful, head strong women– to take care of themselves. So, why don’t we?

Help everyone but yourself
It’s hard to take care of a Latina and even harder to convince one that she needs help.

The theory I have is this: Latinas attempt to help everyone and care about their families before themselves. Because they want to make sure that their children, parents and relatives are doing well, they neglect their own health.

I once met a young woman who told me about growing up with a mother who worked very hard, taking a job at McDonald’s because she couldn’t find another one, and on her feet all day–never making it to the doctor. When she finally did,she was diagnosed with diabetes–a result of  the food she was eating, being overweight and not having the time to exercise. But you better believe that her daughter was going to school and her grandchildren were put into good day care programs.

It’s circumstances like these that lead Latinas to believe that they don’t have time for themselves, when in reality, if they don’t care for themselves, who will? So ultimately, it is up to us to find the time and the care and consideration to make sure our hearts and our health are up to par. Besides, who’s going to be there to take care of everyone else if you’re not?

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez is the editorial director at Extra Bilingual Newspaper and has been living with Type 1 diabetes for the past 20 years of her life. Developing a need to educate her peers and those around her about the long-lasting and lethal effects of unhealthy living especially within the Latino community, Christina started blogging for ChicagoNOW on her blog titled Check Yo’ Self,  which delves into the complications, nutritional insight, stresses and successes of living with diabetes. In addition, she is also the Communications and Social Media committee chair for the American Diabetes Association Young Professional’s Board. Christina has been a featured guest on Poco A Poco radio as a diabetes activist, is a monthly guest blogger for Latinos in Social Media’s Salud Saturdays and also talks to high school health classes when asked. To get more of her musings and diabetes insights, follow her on Twitter at @kiki416 and @kikisbetes.

This project is supported by the Local Reporting Awards, The Chicago Community Trust , Community News Matter initiative.  Get the full scoop on The Reportera Series here.

Image: Nuttapong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

February Proyecto Latina Reading Series

Do you or someone you know have diabetes? This disease is on the rise in the Latina community and we wanted to provide a platform to spotlight this issue. When the arts and diabetes awareness collide you get something fabulous! Join us for a lively presentation and conversation with diabetes activist Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez.  We encourage you to bring any diabetes themed stories, poems, essays and share your story during the open mic or simply come to connect and learn from Christina’s inspiring story of how she combats diabetes.

Proyecto Latino Reading Series – Free

Monday, February 20, 7PM to 9PM

@Cobalt Studio

1950 West 21st Street – Storefront

Chicago, IL 60608

CTA: Damen Pink Line Stop / #50 Damen Bus

Arrive early to sign up for the open mic and remember the Chisme Box is ready to be fed

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez is the editorial director at Extra Bilingual Newspaper and has been living with Type 1 diabetes for the past 20 years of her life. Developing a need to educate her peers and those around her about the long-lasting and lethal effects of unhealthy living especially within the Latino community, Christina started blogging for ChicagoNOW on her blog titled Check Yo’ Self, which delves into the complications, nutritional insight, stresses and successes of living with diabetes. In addition, she is also the Communications and Social Media committee chair for the American Diabetes Association Young Professional’s Board. Christina has been a featured guest on Poco A Poco radio as a diabetes activist, is a monthly guest blogger for Latinos in Social Media’s Salud Saturdays and also talks to high school health classes when asked. To get more of her musings and diabetes insights, follow her on Twitter at @kiki416 and @kikisbetes.

Special thanks to Adriana Baltazar, Creative Director of Cobalt Studio and our venue sponsor:

 

Diabetes primer: How to occupy the body

I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 7 years old and in second grade.  One day,  while my mother checked my blood sugar, I asked, “Am I going to have to do this for the rest of my life?” I don’t remember clearly, but I don’t think she answered me. I looked down at my young fingers–still callous-less, milking a sufficient amount of blood to place on the One Touch monitoring strip–hoping my sugars would come down from being too high.

There are approximately 26 million people who have diabetes in the United States. According to the American Diabetes Association, about five percent (maybe more) of those people have Type 1 diabetes.   I am part of the five percent living with Type 1 diabetes. I am one member of the five. I occupy my body and thoughts and diet because of it. I can say that now. But I couldn’t say that as a child, adolescent and young adult with diabetes, that, at the time was called juvenile diabetes since it was only found to be prevalent in children. No, my control was exactly the opposite of the word and my path was a decent one, but by no means was it good. Let me tell you a bit more about diabetes before we talk about me.

The scientific explanation
Type 1 diabetes an autoimmune disease that disseminates the use of your beta cells which create insulin for the body to properly digest simple sugars called glucose and thus carbohydrates. Because of this, the person with such a disease is responsible for daily doses of insulin injections to make sure that blood glucose levels are maintained and normal, since the result of diabetes, Type 1, Type 2, Gestational, Late Adult Onset and any other types of diabetes, is an abnormally high blood sugar range. A normal blood sugar range is anything from 70-120. The goal of people with diabetes is to keep it below 200.

My simple explanation

Type 1 diabetes:

  • With Type 1 the pancreas, a major gland in the body, no longer produces insulin, a major hormone that is a key player in digesting simple sugars or glucose. Make sense?
  • Type 1 diabetes is considered an autoimmune disease because according to researchers, it is one’s own body that diminishes the beta cells. Why? I’d like to know the same. I don’t know and neither does anyone else, apparently. When I was a kid, they thought that drinking cow’s milk too early in life was the cause of the disease. Now, they think that because of unhealthy mothers during pregnancy, the health risks are somehow passed on to the child, which develops into Type 1.
  • It’s getting more complicated as time goes on because what they thought was juvenile diabetes (Type 1) is now diagnosed in people of all ages.

Type 2 diabetes

  • With Type 2 the pancreas either does not produce enough insulin or the body does not, for some reason, properly use the insulin that is being produced.
  • Type 2 diabetes is said to be hereditary, carried in the body, developing because, quite frankly, of having an unlucky gene pool or due to unhealthy lifestyles. Type 2 has also evolved over time. Years ago, it was said that only people over the age of 40 who were typically overweight and had unhealthy lifestyles were developing this “disorder,” as I personally like to call it. Now, skinny people and children are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. In addition to that, because of the unlucky gene pool, some of the healthiest people can develop pre-diabetes, meaning there are tendencies to have abnormally high blood sugar levels.
  • Oh and by the way, Type 2 is preventable and has a high chance of being put into remission.

As you can see, diabetes is an epidemic that is spreading throughout the world. Approximately 366 million people in the world have diabetes. It doesn’t seem like a lot when you think about it, but according to the ADA, one person is being diagnosed with diabetes every 17 seconds. The ADA also has shown that diabetes complications have killed more people than AIDS and breast cancer combined.

Once diagnosed, I was admitted to the hospital for four days and placed on insulin therapy. Doctors taught me how to give myself insulin and control my glucose levels. Growing up with diabetes meant that my family and I went to support groups and I was introduced to my first endocrinologist, or doctor of the glands and hormones, after I was diagnosed, around 1992. He yelled at me for not controlling my blood sugar. I don’t remember the details, but all I know is that I had no answers for him. My blood sugars were high and I had to stick to a beyond strict diet. This was the beginning of my frustrations with the disease.

In high school, my endocrinologist was happy I was “stable,” but the fact that I survived college– even though, I can’t really tell you how because there was the drinking and the terrible eating habits–I was in no way the educated diabetic I am today. It wasn’t until I fell ill due to my gall bladder and met a doctor who turned my beliefs and ideas upside down and to the left.

Getting ready to go jogging!

Dr. Grazia Aleppo loves diabetes, and little did I know that she was also the best endocrinologist in the Midwest region. People outside of Chicago know about her and say things like, “You were her patient? Tell me about her. I hear she’s amazing.” Boy, she was amazing. She explained things to me, told me that it was my job to do as she said and her job to figure out my problems. Dr. Aleppo taught me the value of nutrition, counting carbohydrates and above all, understanding what role diabetes played in my life and in my body. I owe my transformation and my desire to talk about the issues of diabetes within the Latino community to her–and she’s Italian.

I invite you to stay tuned for my series on Proyecto Latina,  where I will continue to share what living with diabetes has taught me. I’m going to tell you about issues within the Latina community. I’m going to tell you how it was for my mother to raise me and my sister to live with me. I’m going to tell you about the problems that statistics have shown within Latinas and how it ties heart disease with Type 2 diabetes and somewhere in between I’m going to tell you about the issues I see with the names each Type has and how it affects those of us of the five percent. And after all of that, I hope you come to understand why you should Occupy Your Body and make a difference while you still can.

Christina Elizabeth Rodriguez is the editorial director at Extra Bilingual Newspaper and has been living with Type 1 diabetes for the past 20 years of her life. Developing a need to educate her peers and those around her about the long-lasting and lethal effects of unhealthy living especially within the Latino community, Christina started blogging for ChicagoNOW on her blog titled Check Yo’ Self,  which delves into the complications, nutritional insight, stresses and successes of living with diabetes. In addition, she is also the Communications and Social Media committee chair for the American Diabetes Association Young Professional’s Board. Christina has been a featured guest on Poco A Poco radio as a diabetes activist, is a monthly guest blogger for Latinos in Social Media’s Salud Saturdays and also talks to high school health classes when asked. To get more of her musings and diabetes insights, follow her on Twitter at @kiki416 and @kikisbetes.

This project is supported by the Local Reporting Awards, The Chicago Community Trust , Community News Matter initiative.  Get the full scoop on The Reportera Series here.