Deanna Ratt knew that Type 2 diabetes ran in her family, but the Winnipeg resident breathed a sigh of relief when her gestational diabetes cleared up shortly after she delivered her son, Zach, 22 years ago — although the temporary condition put her at greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
Fast forward to 2009 when Deanna was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. By this time, both her brother, David Schick, and her husband, Albert, a First Nations Canadian, had also developed the disease. While she believes she took her diagnosis seriously, her blood sugar levels still “got away from me,” she says, adding, “I was probably not as diligent as I could have been.” Her continued high blood sugar levels have resulted in blurry vision (one of the symptoms of diabetic eye disease), and feet that tingle, ache, and burn from diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage). Although her husband has not developed any diabetes related complications, her brother has lost a leg because of the disease, as well as the vision in one of his eyes. “I feel like I’m more fortunate than most,” she says.
Deanna, now 49, is committed to raising awareness about diabetes, especially among her three sons and her First Nations community (Indigenous Canadians are at high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes). She attends diabetes meetings and workshops, and helps plan diabetes awareness events for Diabetes Canada.
“Advocacy is what keeps my spirit healthy,” she says. Deanna began a recent talk with the words, “I stand before you today with a heavy heart — a burden so intense that I have come to the conclusion that I must be vulnerable, I must be open, I must share. I do this to compel you to do your part to support, to walk with, to encourage, and to help those with diabetes.”