Editor’s Note: Diabetes has been described as an epidemic among Latinos and is expected to affect half of the U.S. population by 2020. Type 2 Diabetes affects 1 in 10 Latinos, and Mexican-Americans are the most affected by this disease, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Latinas are 17 times more likely to die of diabetes than non-Hispanic white women. This is one in an occasional series examining this epidemic, a true-life experience of Viviana Rodriguez, a 40-year-old, Mexican-American mom of three, living with the disease.
I started my new job about four weeks ago and there are so many reasons why this job is right for me. As a diabetic this job gives me the ability to work in a less stressful environment and that in turns helps me manage my blood glucose levels more effectively. I also have time to breath. I leave work around 5 pm daily, and that means I can start taking walks around the neighborhood. About the only downside to this job thus far has been the customary 90-day wait for health insurance, but that’s another story.
My new job requires that I wear business attire Mondays through Thursdays. And with every good business wear, comes a pair of matching tacones, (high heel shoes). I have to admit that I love shoes. I love to buy shoes of all colors and shapes and sizes, and quite honestly in the business world, it’s almost a must at least 90% of the time. Without them it’s hard to get your foot in the door, let alone get any respect as a professional woman in the work place. At least that has been my experience.
One Monday in March, I get to the office at 8 am and by 8:15 am Mrs. Marbach, our GED teacher says, “You always have the prettiest shoes.” “Hot dog!” I think to myself, people notice my shoes. This is a great confidence booster for me. I hold my head high, shoulders back, and I suck in my stomach as I strut around the office in my eggshell BCBG high heel shoes. All day long, one right after another, I get compliments. I get a call to my office from a good friend and say, “I got the nicest compliment today.” He responds, “Someone complimented your shoes.” “Yes! How did you know that?” I ask. “Viviana, everyone knows you like shoes, you’re such a woman.”
NEW JOB, NEW SHOES, NEW WORRIES
I am a woman who loves things that women love, but I’m also a diabetic woman who could lose a toe, a foot or maybe even a leg; and so sometime soon I may not be able to wear the shoes I love so much. I sit in awe as all of these dire possibilities run through my head, but I quickly shake it off. “Back to work,” I think to myself. I say goodbye and go on about my day until it comes to a close about 5:15 pm.
When I get home I take off my shoes and place them on the shoe rack with care. I rub my feet and check to make sure I had not broken any skin. (Such is the life of a diabetic woman. I do my own pedicures so that I don’t have to worry about a nail salon employee accidentally snipping my skin or scrubbing too hard.) All is fine, until the top of my right foot starts to itch. I wanted to scratch the top of my foot—with sand paper. “Don’t scratch Viviana, don’t scratch,” I keep telling myself. I notice that the top of my feet are both turning red. I don’t have neuropathy (poor blood circulation to the feet developed by diabetics) on my feet; at least the doctor I was seeing never mentioned it. I think to myself, “Maybe it’s the beginning stages of neuropathy or just maybe it’s normal.” Either way I decide a hot shower will help me soak my feet and make it stop. When I step into the steamy shower I feel a little relief on my feet, but it doesn’t eliminate all of the itchiness. It’s not until I take the turquoise-blue, bubble-filled fluffy loofah to my feet that I realize just how good it feels. I feel an immense sense of relief as the loofah sweeps over my feet; I justify this, telling myself, “It’s soap. I’m just cleaning the area.” I continue to “wash” my feet, when in fact I know I’m scratching, and when I get out of the shower, there it is: A red blister on the top of my right foot. I washed it raw. I look down at my foot. “Now what?” I’m scared.
The worrisome thoughts return. Aye Dios Mio, (Oh My God) am I going to lose my foot? All because I chose to wear pretty shoes? I feel panic and nervousness, as I inspect the hot pink blister on top of my foot. Right away I use the towel to pat dry it, and I quickly apply gobs of Neosporin. I place a BAND-AID® over the blister and say a little prayer. Geez, now what? I can’t keep it covered all of the time because then it will never scab, but I’ve got to keep that medication on there. What am I going to do? And how am I going to keep wearing business shoes to work without irritating this blister some more.
For about 2 weeks, I continue to nurse my foot with Neosporin and bandage. Finally, in early April—27 days later—I get a scab on the top of my right foot. It looks ugly. It looks like a round disc with a little beady red eye at the center that looks up at me all the time now, but you know what? I still have a foot, and in my world, that is a win! So will I wear my shoes again? Of course, but this time I have the scar to remind me to take precautionary actions. It’s just part of being a woman living with diabetes.