My name is Charlene Lavergne. I have been living with type 1.5 or type 2 diabetes. Nobody knows what I am because of various.... I have no thyroid, so I have some other issues. I go with type 2 diabetes because it's easier for everybody all around. It's not easier for me, but it's easier for them, especially the medical profession. They really don't know what to do with me. It's been over 43 years. I'm 63 years old this year, and I've been like this since I was 18.
I want to make a little aside. When I was diagnosed, it was in Toronto, but I was born and raised in northern Ontario. When I was down here, their attitude was that I wasn't any type because there wasn't anything like that in my day. You were just insulin resistant. Actually, one doctor gave me Valium and told me I was just having spells and should just calm down, so I was pretty stoned for a long time. Frankly, I don't remember too much about those first diabetic years. Then they made me lose 70 pounds. I wasn't all that big in those days anyway, so it was pretty bad. I lived on soup. It was a really bad time.
They had no types, no typing, no technology, nothing. We peed on a stick. We've come a long way from peeing on the stick. Today they measure blood glucose levels, and there are new insulins and delivery systems. I'm absolutely in love with the delivery system. It's wonderful, but I can't afford what Stacey has. I'm sorry about the walk in, but I have neuropathy so bad that I don't feel my feet, my thighs, my throat or my facial muscles, so I have great difficulty. I'm on disability and every day's a gift for me.
My biggest problem is that I can't afford anything. I live on $1,500 a month. My insulins are $1,000. My rent is $1,000. If you can afford your medication, it's great, but if you can't.... I just beg. I go from clinic to doctor, and I get compassionate care, but I never know when it's going to run out, and I never know when I'm going to get my next batch, so it's really a struggle. I don't know if you realize this, but while drug plans will pay for insulin, nobody pays for lancets and nobody pays for needles. I don't know if they expect us to smoke this stuff. How are you going to get your insulin into your body if nobody will pay for your needles?
Our friends decided that we were going to go down to the meth clinic and see if we could get some needles for me. It's really a struggle every day. For a long time I went without and I nearly died. That's just the way it is. That's what happens with the neuropathy. You have uncontrolled blood sugars. I have heart problems, and there's the weight. Every doctor only sees the weight, but they don't realize that I'm not diabetic because I'm fat. I'm fat because I'm diabetic, and I can't get....
I've had 12 surgeries and two cancers. Five of those surgeries were because I wouldn't heal. I had a surgeon tell me that he didn't believe in type 2 diabetes or whatever my diabetes was, and he wouldn't order insulin. It took me a year and a half to heal. He wouldn't give me insulin. He just didn't believe in it. There are a lot of doctors who don't believe in my type of diabetes. They have no trouble with Stacey. They have trouble with me. I'm the issue. “You're too fat. You don't exercise enough. You've never done the right thing, so it's your fault.” I'm telling you honestly, they always blame that. That's their excuse for not treating me. In April, I was refused surgery because I was too fat, and they just didn't even want to talk about diabetes. A lot of surgeons say, “I don't care about your diabetes. It's not my problem, not my issue.” It's a constant struggle for me.
There are four areas that most diabetics like me...and there are a lot of us.
Do you realize that it takes a year to get into the diabetic clinic in Oshawa? I have to go to Whitby, which is 40 minutes away. If you don't have a car, it's a two and a half-hour bus ride and then probably a half mile walk to the little hospital there. I get to see my diabetic endocrinologist every four to six months. If you are sick and you miss that appointment, it's another year. My GP has a three-month waiting period to get a doctor's appointment. I saw her in July. I won't see her until December. I manage my own health care. I read as much as I can. Believe it or not, I'm extremely educated. I have a university degree and a college degree. It's in linguistics, but.... What was I thinking? I don't know.
There are a lot of people who don't have the abilities that I have. They don't have the Internet to be able to go and do these things. There are a lot of diabetics who I talk with. I mean, we wait three hours in that diabetic clinic to see our endocrinologist for eight minutes. I've timed her. She gives us eight minutes. She doesn't check our feet. She barely checks our blood pressure, and she doesn't even look up.
It's really difficult. We need a strategy. I need a plan. I want to live. I have four granddaughters. They're absolutely beautiful, and I want to see them get married. Now, mind you, they're eight, seven, seven and five, but I want to see them grow up. I want to give back, and I'm here because I want to give back.
However, I want you to understand this: They pay for nothing. Nobody pays for anything. Everything I have I've actually begged for. If there's any way that you can find it in your hearts to just.... I mean, I've lived here all my life. I was born and raised here. I had one doctor tell me that it is because I am Métis that I am diabetic. I agree, but what am I going to do about it? He just said, “Well, you know, it's your problem.” In our family, we don't talk about this. We don't talk about being native or Métis or anything. We were always afraid of getting removed from our families. I'm from up north, from Sturgeon Falls. We don't even go to the A&P.
I have to tell you that it's been very difficult. I'm not the the only one. I'm sure there are other stories like this, but every day is a struggle. If you can find it in your heart to even find a way to do the strategies to get a plan.... We need boots on the ground. I can't wait any longer; I just can't.
Thank you for listening. I appreciate it.