It started as a “little scab” on the top of his foot.
Then “it kept getting bigger and bigger,” says Jim Elliott. “I went to the hospital – I thought I was going to get antibiotics. The next thing you know, I woke up three days later in the middle of the night to go to the washroom, and I fell right to the floor. I didn’t know what was going on. I took the blanket off and said, ‘Oh my God, they took my leg.’”
Prior to the amputation, Mr. Elliott was one of the estimated one million Canadians who have diabetes but don’t know it. He learned of his condition a week after the surgery, much too late to make the changes that may have saved his leg.
An active person throughout his life, Mr. Elliott snowboards in winter, golfs in the summer and is involved in harness racing. He was shocked to receive the diagnosis. “No one in my family had diabetes. It was a wakeup call,” he says.
Three years earlier, his family doctor told him that he had “borderline diabetes,” a message that he ignored. “I’d never heard anything like that before. I never listened to my doctor, I never listened to my mother. I was in denial,” he admits today.
In 2011-12, more than 2,000 foot amputations in Canada were caused by the complications of diabetes. It is also the leading cause of vision loss and kidney disease, as well as one of the primary risks for heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and depression. In fact, complications make up 80 per cent of the costs of diabetes. Yet with effective management of the disease, complications can be delayed or even prevented.
But too many Canadians are unaware of their risk of diabetes, and of the related risk of these devastating complications. This year’s Sun Life Canadian Health Index, an annual coast-to-coast survey of over 2,700 working Canadians conducted by Ipsos Reid, found that almost 70 per cent couldn’t even identify all of the health complications that are associated with diabetes.
More than 30 per cent per cent of Canadians now have diabetes or prediabetes, which means that almost everyone knows someone affected by the disease. And according to the Canadian Diabetes Association, one in three Canadians will have diabetes by 2020 if current trends remain unchecked. Yet “what it means to live with diabetes is not well understood,” says Mary De Paoli, executive vice-president of public and corporate affairs, and chief marketing officer at Sun Life Financial.
As understanding your personal risk for type 2 diabetes is critical to reducing your risk of developing the disease, Sun Life has partnered with the Canadian Diabetes Association in the Don’t Be Risky campaign.
“We wanted to break through the inertia that Canadians have when they have to confront a message around prevention or awareness,” says De Paoli. “The message is a simple one: Take a few minutes, complete the CANRISK test and find out your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
“It’s a breakthrough campaign that we hope will inspire Canadians to take just a few minutes to do something for themselves – to be more informed, prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes and live better lives.”
As a group benefits provider, Sun Life has a uniquely informed perspective on the development of diabetes, says Ms. De Paoli. “When we heard the World Health Organization call this the epidemic of the 21st century, we put all of our efforts behind trying to raise awareness and encouraging Canadians to live healthier and smarter.”
To date, Sun Life contributions to diabetes awareness, prevention, care and research exceed $11-million. “That’s been in just a few short years – we’re very committed to this cause,” she stresses.
Today, Mr. Elliott is inspiring others who are struggling with health challenges. After the amputation last December, he entered a rehabilitation program at Providence Healthcare in Toronto. “My main goal was to walk at my nephew’s wedding in August. I pulled up in a wheelchair and, at the door, got up and walked to the altar. He couldn’t believe it.
“Diabetes is not something you can play with – you have to listen to your doctors, and work hard at it. But life goes on. Don’t give up.”
AnxietyAnxiety disorders can be increased in individuals with diabetes compared with the general population and potentially impact blood sugar control.
DepressionDepression is more common in people with diabetes compared with the general population.
Eye Damage (Diabetic Retinopathy)Good eye care is important for people with diabetes to prevent or delay eye damage.
Heart Disease & StrokePeople with diabetes are at very high risk of heart disease and stroke. Ask your doctor about the ABCDEs to reduce your risk.
High Blood PressureWhen blood pressure is high, it puts stress on the body. People with diabetes should have their blood pressure checked every time they visit their health-care team.
Find more information at www.diabetes.ca/
To learn more about the different ways you can donate to the CDA, visit www.diabetes.ca/donate.