Los Angeles Times

How a Latina With Diabetes Is Changing Her Family’s Story

Lupe Barraza was always the friend you wished you had, and the mother and daughter who would do anything for her family. So it was something of a shock when she began pulling away from those close to her and her healthy lifestyle.

- Jayme Sandberg, Know Diabetes by Heart

After having four kids, Barraza’s 18-year marriage to her high school sweetheart dissolved. She lost herself in the divorce and found solace in a childhood friend. They married and had two more children. The new relationsh­ip, however, became unstable at best and dangerous at worst.

Her new husband was both verbally and physically abusive from the beginning. He struggled with substance abuse and had trouble holding down a job. Always trying to keep the peace, Barraza stopped running, neglected her diet, gained almost 80 pounds, and developed type 2 diabetes. When she ate healthy foods, he mocked her and tried to make her feel guilty.

Barraza asked her husband to leave on more than one occasion, but he refused. One weekend, he physically attacked her in front of their two small children so badly that she went to the hospital and he went to jail. It was about that time when her hands and feet began tingling, often painfully enough to wake her up in the middle of the night — a result of nerve damage from high blood sugar. It hurt so bad she couldn’t squeeze her hands.

The wake-up call

Life took another dark turn when her mother had a stroke and her father had a heart attack a few months later. Doctors attributed both medical events to their type 2 diabetes. In fact, several of her father’s 13 siblings had battled diabetes and suffered amputation­s, strokes, heart disease, or chronic kidney disease as a result.

As a child, Barraza thought that’s how it went for her family: When you grow up, you develop type 2 diabetes, have life-altering complicati­ons, and then pass away from them.

As an adult living with diabetes herself, she knew by managing her condition she could prevent these devastatin­g complicati­ons and change her family’s story.

As a mom with young kids still at home watching her, depending on her, she knew she had to change her family’s story.

Ultimately, Barraza fıled for divorce. On her own with her children for the fırst time and determined to get healthy, Barraza worked with a doctor who got to know her and helped her formulate a plan that appealed to her likes, her cultural values, and her goalorient­ed personalit­y.

Putting herself fırst

Barraza didn’t just lose some weight — she lost 60 pounds and cut her A1C in half, all during a global pandemic.

“Getting healthy isn’t always as simple as eating better or exercising more,” Barraza said. “Oftentimes, we have to take a step back and ask ourselves what’s keeping us sick.”

As a national ambassador for the American Heart Associatio­n’s and American Diabetes Associatio­n’s Know Diabetes by Heart initiative, she is a role model and champion for others — particular­ly Latinas like herself — sharing her message that they, too, can put themselves fırst, and their families and communitie­s will be better for it, not worse.

“When I choose to take care of me, everything else falls into place,” she said.

When I choose to take care of me, everything else falls into place.

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