The first step to wealth is health

December 21, 2009 § 14 Comments

“The first step to wealth is health.”

That rhymes, I told my doctor as he was chiding me for letting a period of extreme stress get in the way of effectively managing my diabetes. He hadn’t considered that, he said, noting he is not a poet. It would to me as a writer.

“There will always be jobs,” the doctor continued. “But if you don’t take care of yourself, that won’t matter.”

For someone who several others readily call a mentor, the motivator had allowed himself to be distracted from Looking out for Number One. He who has pushed others to be positive has lost his own focus.

No excuses. I know better. If I am to remain competitive in the battle against the D word, then I have to do better. Every day. It has already taken its toll in varying ways.

I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 10 years ago this fall. At first, my doctor felt I could address it with proper exercise and diet. After five years that didn’t work, primarily because I didn’t do the work, and I was prescribed two medications for that as well as pills for cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Diabetes can best be described as juggling four balls – there are four main contributing factors – heredity, stress, diet, and exercise. The first, I can do nothing about. My dad was “borderline” diabetic. When I told the diabetes nurse this, she laughed. “That is like being borderline pregnant. Either you are or you aren’t.”

Then there is stress. Mostly, I am able to use this in a positive sense, feeding my natural drive and energy but lately I have found myself distracted by it, letting things over which I have little or no control bother me.

Speaking of feeding … although I don’t eat horribly, my diet management is not great, mostly in terms of portions and timing. Before I learned I am diabetic, I didn’t eat breakfast so that was an improvement.

The exercise has improved lately, walking the dog almost every day for at least a half hour, often more.

The bottom line is, diabetes is a silent disease. It is not necessarily going to give you a daily reminder like a lump or chronic pain do. But holding it at bay does take daily attention.

So, while I am great at fostering motivation in others, I must accept the responsibility for managing my own stress, diet and exercise. It is MY blood that needs to be monitored and MY doctor appointments that must be kept.

Others can provide encouragement, but it is me who must take charge of my own health.

And, ironically, the best prescription to stress has been at the forefront all these years.

On the side of my mother-in-law’s fridge (for the record, the least reason for me to have stress and, no, my wife is not standing over me as I write) she has posted the Serenity Prayer … God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

My mother-in-law learned in her late 70s that she, too, has diabetes, and has done a much better job of monitoring the disease.


Perhaps, even though I know I have the disease and know the consequences, I’ve been just too busy worrying about other things.

The doctor was right.

The first step to wealth is health.

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§ 14 Responses to The first step to wealth is health

  • Wendy Peters says:

    David, your post is well timed to my life, as per usual. The last week or so I’ve been feeling sluggish. I don’t have my usual bounce, my usual energy. This morning I woke up feeling like I was coming down with a cold. It was that achy in my bones feeling, and I felt like dead weight. The times I get sick are the times I’m not taking care of myself. They are the times I’ve been working myself to the bone, not exercising regularly, not eating right… I’ve become good at mitigating stress… but often times it gets mitigated with a couple of chocolate bars.. maybe some cake… or perhaps a cookie or two (or four or five to be be honest). Vegetables don’t usually make the cut.

    I don’t have diabetes. In fact I haven’t got any disease to the best of my knowledge. And yet, my life can get out of hand when I’m not taking care of myself. The consequences are more immediately serious for you, and the reminders a lot more like a brick to the head than a gentle poke to keep on the right path… but it’s a reminder to the rest of us of how important it is to keep the focus on ourselves, and just how holistic that focus needs to be in order to keep our lives balanced, and keep us moving forward.

  • djgirl says:

    David, a thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I do not have Diabetes but the David in my life (aka Hubby #1) does and has for about 15 years. I attended Diabetes School with him and have been with him through the ups (no insulin needed for the first 8 years) to the downs (he is now on two types of insulin).

    I can worry about him, cajole him when he is not being vigilant about testing but as you well know I cannot do “it” for him. He has ultimate control (in concert with his great doctors) for his body and this disease.

    I remember him telling his GP when he was diagnosed with Diabetes that “this was not going to change his life or slow him down”. False bravado.

    It has and does change how a diabetic lives. It must or else the diabetic “does not live to the full of their life”.

  • Cecilia Lu says:

    Thanks for sharing continue to share your story with us, David. I agree with all that you have said except for this one sentence: “For someone who several others readily call a mentor, the motivator had allowed himself to be distracted from Looking out for Number One.”

    I believe that in order for the mentor/mentee relationship to be truly useful, it must be a two-way stream of sharing and knowledge. It would be entirely exhausting if the sole purpose of the mentor’s reason of being was to give advice for others to take. Your mentor shouldn’t be the first person you go to with all of your problems. Instead, he or she should be much further down the line after you and your peers have tried to work out solutions on your own. Mentors should be respected and appreciated for what they bring to the table– but never expected to be perfect and unfailing.

  • Jackie Ostashek says:

    Dave, a very poignant and thoughtful piece. We are so often told to make sure we take time out for ourselves, that we will be of no use to anyone else if we don’t take care of ourselves first. How often we forget it and suddenly those we vowed to care for are suddenly having to take care of us. Your diabetes is your built in “checks and balances” – use it wisely!

  • David:

    Very nice piece, best wishes for your recovery. Two things that come to mind when people tell me about diabetes are raw honey and its many benefits ( among many Web sites) and the work of a friend of mine, David Moskowitz of GenoMed ( Hope this helps. Happy holidays!

  • renovatorswife says:

    Thank you for sharing David. At this time of year, as we are prone to pause and reflect, I hope you are able to put the serenity prayer into action – it’s a great one.

    I know this contribution will help others.

  • Jack Seeney says:

    Thank you for drawing attention to the fact that ‘control’ is the key item in maintaining a healthy lifestyle when you have diabetes. I have been a type 1 diabetic for 52 years and had to make adjustments to what I eat/do not eat and how much exercise I get. By maintaining control, I have been successful in living a fairly normal life. We recently have undertaken doing Marathons, raising money with Team Diabetes and have completed the Rome (2005), Hawaii (2006) Marathons and most recently the Conquer the Canyon (2009). By going public with the fact that I am diabetic, we now find our friends are serving sugar-free dishes when we visit and we also believe that it has had a significant influence on our 3 daughters in making healthy food choices and getting exercise. Our girls participated in the 2006 Hawaii Marathon for example.
    Best of luck to you for maintaining your ‘control’ and for emphasizing the importance that this has for everyone.
    Jack Seeney ON

  • padldousti says:

    Assuming, there is a wealthy person in absent of health. S/he would spend big portion of her/his wealth to become a healthy person. Thus, health would come first.

    Peyman ADL DOUSTI

  • Tonya says:


    It would appear (at least to me) that this post is actually telling MY story! I found out, in February of this year, that I had Type II Diabetes, as well as high cholesterol and high blood pressure – what a day THAT was!

    You’re so right – we must take control of our own health – if we want it to improve. After the initial shock, and denial, I took it upon myself to change my future, by modifying my present – eating habits, exercise, ACTIVEY and PURPOSELY losing weight.

    I have not remained on the “straight and narrow” at all times, but I have been able to change my future – and that of my son – by changing my habits. I hope that, [very] soon, I’ll be able to STOP taking some of these meds that I currently use.

    2010 will be GREAT!

  • Hi: Really inspired reading your post. I have had Type 2 since 2001 and managed for about 6 years to keep it controlled with diet and exercise. Now I’m on Metformin and medication for blood pressure and cholesterol (although both are within normal range). I sit at my computer all day working on my website (NonProfit National Resource Directory), so I definitely don’t get enough exercise and that’s my biggest challenge.

    I’ve thought about getting a dog just because it would force me to walk him/her several times each day. We’ll see…………..

    Since it’s still daylight (cold, but sunny here in western Mass), I think I will go out for a walk.

    It’s good to know that others are living with diabetes and finding ways to keep it in check.

    All the best,


  • David: I too, am a type 2 diabetic. Although, I never make New Year resolutions, I would like to make a life-giving declaration… and that is, to get back to exercising daily and eating healthier (especially more vegetables). Other than that I will pray and ask God to protect me from all the terrible long-term effects of having diabetes. Thanks for sharing! Have a blessed & healthy 2010!

  • A major concern of mine recently has been the increase in diabetes among children. Apparently this is linked to obesity which is directly linked to diet and a recent studiy estmates that 1 in 3 Americans born in 200 will develop diabetes. Given recent evidence that we can in fact “turn off” bad genes and prevent disease. In other words, bad health is not always inevitable. We also know that we can promote good health with diet and exercise and that the diet and exercise also mitigate the stress that is a major factor disease management. What troubles me is when people throw up their hands and believe that they have no control. Sometimes I think people don’t take control of their health outcomes because they silently hope things will take care of themselves. Perhaps they fear that if they do try to take control they might fail and then that illusion will disappear. What I have seen over the years is that hope is a good part of healing and this conversation clearly keeps hope in the equation.

  • Janie says:

    Congratulations David!

    I applaud your honesty in admitting that you haven’t always taken the best approach to managing your diabetes and you don’t blame anyone else. I work in diabetes education and so many people are either in denial (“it’s not that serious” or “so what if I didn’t check my blood for a week or so, it’s not going to change anything”)or try to blame just about anything or anyone they can for their lack of trying to manage their diabetes.

    Your physician is so right when he says without your health the rest doesn’t matter. Many newly diagnosed people think they can ignore the advice to follow a meal plan, get 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week and to manage their stress, because they don’t feel pain, there isn’t a tumour or a rash or anything to “scare” them. Then they develop numbness in their feet or have heart attack and realize if they had only paid closer attention earlier in life they could avoid so many of the complications that really impact their life.

    It isn’t always easy, and sometimes it ain’t fun, but choosing healthy foods more often than not, and making exercise a part of your daily routine will help tremendously. A close friend of mine, who lost her daughter to the complications of Type 1 diabetes, yet still volunteers to educate others about the disease, tells people with diabetes that they are the role models of how we all should live. She is so right.

    So yes David, put the 10 in 2010!

    PS to Marcia, a dog would certainly increase your exercise levels. If the rest of your lifestyle is conducive to pet ownership, a dog is a great motivator. My tag line on my work e-mails is “Walk your dog everyday – even if you don’t have one.” It really is as much a mental exercise as a physical one.

  • Clint Cora says:

    Absolutely agree. Success in life means more than just career, business or money. If you don’t have your physical AND mental health, you won’t last to enjoy the other successes you have in life. That’s why I emphasize in my talks that being a ‘Life Champion’ is being successful in all areas of life.

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