In honor of the upcoming Father’s Day weekend, we recently featured David Schlissel. Today we’d like to introduce you to another D-Dad, Dr. Mitchell Schare, Ph.D, ABPP, who is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Ph.D Programs in Clinical Psychology and Combined Clinical & School Psychology at Hofstra University in New York.
Diabetes has impacted several generations of Mitchell’s family. His father’s mother lived with diabetes; his father lived with type 2 diabetes, and his sister was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in her late 20s. Additionally, Mitchell lives with type 2 diabetes and his daughter was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
In 1988, Mitchell lost his father to kidney failure at the age of 61, but he’ll never forget how handy he was. “One of the things that I loved about my father was that he worked with his hands,” he said. “I became like him in this way. Whenever he did projects around the house, I would be his assistant, and he would teach me how to do all kinds of stuff. These memories of working with my father are with me every day. Every time I do anything around my house, I hear his voice and see his face. It’s wonderful because I know my father’s in me, and he’s not gone.”
Mitchell was surprised by the intensity of his reaction to becoming a father himself. “I remember driving home after my son Ben was born and I had tears in my eyes,” he said. “They were tears of joy and a sensation of instant love. Before my son was born nothing in my life ever felt truly adult to me. But then, I had the opportunity to teach, shape, play with and nurture my children. It’s truly wonderful.”
His father’s relatively young age at the time of his death compelled Mitchell to make his own health a priority. “As I got into my 40s and 50s, I began to really think about my dad, and wondered if I was going to make it past his age.”
That’s when Mitchell initiated what he calls a “healthy rebirth,” where he first started paying attention to his weight. “My weight was causing real problems for me,” he said. “I had problems in my knees; problems getting out of chairs; problems sitting on an airplane. I tried dieting and exercise, but it didn’t work like it did when I was in my 20s. So I had bariatric surgery and following that surgery, I lost about 45 pounds.”
The second part of his “healthy rebirth” came in 2005 when Mitchell was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 48. “As I was losing weight, I became keenly aware of my own body,” he said. “I started noticing extreme urges to urinate and I was drinking a lot. In the back of my mind, I sort of considered that it might be diabetes, but I didn’t want to deal with it. Finally, I went to see my physician. All it took was one test on the glucometer to reveal it all and that changed everything.”
Since then, Mitchell has worked with a Certified Diabetes Educator* and now is more aware of what and how much he eats and adds regular activity through gardening. His weight loss has resumed and he’s lost about 70 pounds total.
In 2012 his daughter Leah was diagnosed with type 1 when she was 19. As a father, this was a very poignant experience for Mitchell. “Emotionally, I was a wreck. I felt like I gave this to my daughter, even though I understood, rationally, that this was a case of genetics that I couldn’t control. But I just kept thinking that this poor young girl is now going to deal with this the rest of her life because of me. I’ve processed a lot of these emotions since then, but I still see that, as her father, I’m a contributor to who she is, both the good and the bad.”
Now Mitchell and his daughter have a unique relationship in terms of their different types of diabetes. “As a parent, I’ll remind her that certain foods are full of sugar, and she’ll just look at me and remind me she knows what she’s doing,” he said. “She’s right because as someone living with type 1 diabetes, she can make different lifestyle choices than I can. It’s sort of funny, since we come at it from different perspectives, but we try to look out for each other.”
With such a strong family history of diabetes and living with diabetes himself, Mitchell has certainly had an interesting journey. If you’d like to read more about Mitchell, you’ll find him in Dr. Beverly Adler’s book, “MY SWEET LIFE: Successful Men with Diabetes.” Our thanks to Mitchell for sharing his story.
Head of Patient Insights, Sanofi US Diabetes
Disclosure: Mitchell Schare received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” is a certification mark owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.