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I have learned to embrace 2019 despite the health scare and grief.

There were times after March 23 and October 22 I wanted to curse the year.

The year began on a positive note but slowly turned into something else — perhaps a curse which ended in a blessing.

After a very long and self-imposed hiatus from anything remotely resembling a relationship, I thought I had finally met someone, had a good time getting to know her and thought there was a possibility.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, but fortunately, I suppose, the downfall roughly coincided with my hospital stay and my focus became centered on my health — not someone who only had feigning interest in me. I didn’t have time to grieve the loss, I told a family member.

The hospital stay turned into my epiphany — I could wallow in self-pity from my type 2 diabetes diagnosis and keep up the same poor dietary and exercise habits, watch my health continue to crumble and become the person who just gave up.

I’m glad I chose the high road and didn’t take the other path where I would bemoan my fate to anyone who would listen on social media or in face-to-face conversations where there would be half-hearted nods of sympathy.

Nine months and three days a diabetic now, I am happy to report my last insulin shot was on July 5. My A1C following my October checkup was 5.6. When I was admitted to the hospital it was 10. In my upcoming checkup next month there is the possible talk of reducing my Metformin intake. Right now I take two pills a day.

If I had just walked into a doctor’s office one day for a checkup and received the same news I’m not so sure I would have taken it so seriously. I would probably still be planning my trips to the commissioner meetings in Halifax to relieve myself, only to find myself going again when I reached the Historic Courthouse.

A business trip to Raleigh reminds me of how bad it had become, making it there, but having to turn right back around because I couldn’t find a bathroom in time. There were several personal trips where the same thing happened and I excused away the stains on my car seat as the times I spilled coffee.

There were other signs I blatantly ignored — a mysterious pimple and the absence of leg hair. Too much information, I know, but these are some of the brutal ways this disease attacks you and I implore any of you to not wait for a bacterial infection like I did to get yourself checked out.

The best thing to happen to me was that hospital stay because it gave me time to think and find in myself the self-control and discipline I had lost.

It gets easier every day. Bread is out of my diet. Potatoes, rice and pasta are gone. I’ve found ways to improvise on the rare occasion I go out to eat. I politely refuse alcohol and settle on water or, like I did at a recent Christmas party, club soda.

I have learned to embrace the diagnosis and manage this terrible disease. It was tough at first. I wanted to wallow in the mire of self-pity, but I also knew while I was given plenty of sound medical advice, it was up to me to do something about it.

Throughout this ordeal, my friend Kevin Hawkins was battling mantle cell lymphoma and saw it go into remission. Unfortunately, this rare and aggressive form of cancer isn’t kind and it came back with vengeance.

He was there for me through my ordeal and I tried to be there for him as best I could. I’m not a person who functions well in these situations but I try.

Just another reason to curse 2019, some might say, and believe me, I’ve wanted to several times.

On October 22, a day after my birthday, we got the news Kevin would probably not survive his fight. As we were preparing to go see him a final time we got the news he didn’t make it.

The wounds from this loss are still fresh. Picking up the advertising checks from his accounts as my ad salesman remain tough. Going to the bank to deposit them is hard as we used to meet at the bank.

Still, as I talked with friends and family, I take some solace he is no longer in pain. He doesn’t have that horrible disease ravaging his body and I know he will never be far from my mind. In fact, in the slightly more than two months he has been gone from us, mention of something he said or did rolls from our tongues as if he was still here.

So, no, I feel no need to blaspheme this year, but live with the memories of a great friend who made me, and others who knew him, a better person.

I don’t know what 2020 will have in store. I do know, however, it is certain there will be more loss and tears.

I don’t say this to be sadly morbid, I just say it as a given part of life.

What I’ve learned, however, since March of this year is to not live too far in future, take the lessons learned from the past and use them to shape the present.

As 2019 comes to a close, I wish all of you the best. I wish for you to live in the present and not too far back in the past, not too far ahead in the future and embrace the days you are given — Lance Martin