This is the line of data from the Health Check I have just walked out of. This number is my glycosylated haemoglobin reading (HbA1c) and, although it might seem insignificant, it represents the goal that every person with diabetes chases their entire life. This will be just one of the dozens of lines of data handed to you at the end of your Health Check, on a piece of paper that you immediately fold and put in your pocket or purse. I used to be just like you, oblivious to the numbers and annoyed at the interruption to my day. But I have spent the last 6 years worrying about these numbers and what they meant for my future, as I headed into my doctor’s office.
It is February 12, 2021, Chinese New Year's Eve, and I have once again left my Health Check relieved at what this data shows: a completely normal blood sugar level, so normal that you would never believe that I have diabetes.
In actual fact, if you only looked at the average reading on this chart below, you would think that I was a teenager and not over half a hundred years old:
This didn’t happen to me by accident, and I am eager to tell everyone who is troubled and frightened by diabetes the secret behind these numbers. It is this secret that has allowed me not only to achieve normal blood sugar but also to avoid the other health problems that go hand in hand with diabetes.
More than 6 years ago, I was also one of that frightened group. At my Health Check in 2014, I was staring at some very different numbers. My glycosylated haemoglobin index was 10.4 and my fasting blood glucose was over 12! My doctor informed me that I was 100% diabetic. His words meant that for the rest of my life, I would be suffering from illness continuously, managing endless injections and medicine regimes.
There was a 40% chance that in the next ten years, I would be blind, need kidney dialysis, experience amputation, or have myocardial infarction and cerebral infarction. There was a 100% chance that my lifespan would be shortened by at least ten years, and that I would leave this world in the ICU without any dignity, but with a body riddled with illness, having spent all my life savings.
However, this tragic destiny never came to pass. Only three months after the diagnosis, fate pulled my life away from the abyss and onto a smooth and much more exciting path. Not only do I have good health but I also own my own business. Even the raging COVID-19 cannot knock me down.
I have experienced a miracle, the miracle of reversing diabetes. The miracle began a few months after this heart-breaking conversation with my doctor, and at every annual Health Check for the last 6 years, the miracle has been re-confirmed. On this night that means so much to Chinese people at home and abroad, I am longing to share the miracle with everyone who needs it
Its principle, its significance, and the incredible story behind it.
Because it is my story, and turning defeat into victory has been the most thought-provoking life experience.
The story really begins at the start of 2012. In that year, life was hard for me. When he made the diagnosis that changed my life, my doctor said that there are various reasons for the occurrence of diabetes, one of which is stress.
For me, the year 2012 is unforgettable. However, that year, the whole earth went crazy, hooked on the Mayan prophecy that humanity would be destroyed on December 21st.
This particular Mayan prophecy wasn’t really news. Hollywood had made the disaster blockbuster ”2012” a few years earlier. People would joke with each other, “Have you gotten your ticket for the Ark?” The rumour was that in the depths of an unknown snowy valley on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the governments of various countries had worked together to build a ship to save mankind. The catch? Tickets came with a $1billion price tag.
But I had never taken this so-called doomsday seriously. As an engineering graduate from Tsinghua University, I would not believe anything that lacked a scientific basis. To be honest, with hindsight, I was only concerned with my own personal gain and success at the time. What with this selfishness, and the stress I was dealing with I had no time or interest to focus on things that didn't directly concern me.
And personally, I was a little shy and awkward, so I rarely took part in these sorts of conversations.
I Graduated from Tsinghua University, a passionate young man who was tired of dealing with complicated relationships. I wanted to find somewhere in the world where I would be judged on my skills. I was in college in the 1980s and the fashion was to study abroad. We saw the materialism of the West and believed that it would be a better place to live. The truth was a little different. We were basing our assumptions on far too little information and almost no experience.
I wasn’t immune to this optimism. I believed that life in the West would be simpler, that people would say what they meant, that at work it was your ability and performance that mattered and that people were kind and gentle with each other. It would be completely different to the society I grew up in.
In my vision, the West was a perfect world. When I was still at University, I’d been the Captain of the debate team. I spent whole competitions criticizing Chinese-owned companies for being overstaffed, wasting time, and taking pride in the brain drain of talents to the West.
So, it was with this blind worship of the West and a small amount of realism that starting a new life would be hard, that I came to Canada as a skilled worker in 1997. What I could not have predicted was that I would be amongst thousands of skilled workers who did not get the life they had hoped for in this new country. The unemployment rate amongst skilled Chinese immigrants was as high as 30%; many families had broken up, and the divorce rate was higher than 60%! Having my beautiful fantasy shattered only added to my stress levels as I tried to navigate a different culture and different societal expectations.
Fortunately, my academic history was impressive enough to get me a space in the MBA program at UBC Business School. Then after graduation, I enjoyed a position with a pharmaceutical company, working on translation for their clinical trials. The company was sold and a few different jobs followed, including Vice President for China Operations at Terra Nostra Resources. Things were ticking away nicely and, although this wasn’t exactly the life I had expected, I thought that as long as I could make a living, I’d see out 2012 in safety. However, just at the beginning of the year, the HR department of my then employer sent me a layoff notice.
There was no reason, and they didn’t even need one. In China, we think foreign labor laws are sound, but not all is as it seems. Chinese labor laws and etiquette mean that when someone is laid off they will be given an official reason; maybe incompetence at work or the company needs to cut costs. I was used to a company giving you a way to save face with your family. But, as long as your employer pays you a little compensation then they can do what they like. In my case, the company didn’t even do that but managed to find a legal way around it.
I didn't receive a cent!
Standing in the HR offices, I mumbled something under my breath.
What did I want to say?
I wanted to say that I was separating from my wife and two children, and I was trying to save my family. If I lost my job now, I would definitely lose them at the same time.
I wanted to say I was 44. Where would I find another job in this rapidly changing marketplace?
I wanted to say that I didn’t have a huge pot of savings, and it would soon run out, so what was I going to do?
It’s interesting how our experiences affect our perspectives. Whenever I look back to that time, I tell myself, ”Don’t think you’re so great, don’t look down on anyone. Anyone can have a dark time.” Whenever I see people begging for money on the street, my heart goes out to them, because that could have been me.
It was February in Vancouver, which was still during the Lunar New Year. It wasn’t cold, about zero degrees Celsius. But when I packed my things and walked out under the gaze of my former colleagues, I couldn't control the trembling feeling, as if I was walking through a blizzard.
This was the beginning of my 2012. The world might not have been destroyed, but it felt as though my life was in ruins.
Because I was separated from my wife and children, no one knew that I was unemployed. I was 44, with gray hair, no source of income, little savings, and a bleak future.
It was not easy to find a job in Canada in 2012. There were too many Chinese here, either rich men who didn’t need to work at all or people who would gladly take any kind of job for low pay. In the face of such huge competition, my University education and MBA gave me no advantage when I applied for unskilled jobs.
I hadn’t expected it to be easy to find a job, but I hadn’t expected it to be so difficult. I encountered disappointment after disappointment for three months. In the beginning, there were at least interviews. Later, there was no hope at all.
There was an engineering research and development company with whom I had applied to work after completing my MBA. I had missed out on the job to a Vancouver native with a well-connected family. At the time it had frustrated me that people say China is full of nepotism. It seemed that it was the same everywhere.
After my job loss in 2012, this company was expanding and the HR department recommended me for an interview. My optimism was dashed, however, when the Head of the Department decided he wasn’t interested in me for the role. In the depths of my gloom, I could see him looming over me, telling me that I was destined to be unemployed forever.
I had a prestigious degree and had worked in the largest automobile company in China, but I just couldn't find a job that suited my professional background here in Canada. Many skilled immigrants have had similar experiences. This is the reason why many of my fellow immigrants are unemployed, cleaning dishes, and separated from their families due to the stress.
For example, Jiang Guobing was born in Mawan Town, Tianmen City, only 100 km from my own hometown. He was a fellow Tsinghua graduate who went on to earn a PhD in nuclear physics from Purdue University. and a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Toronto. He had been the youngest associate professor at Tsinghua, but he hadn’t been able to find a professional job once he moved to Canada. His family refused to return to China, and so he struggled to make a meagre income as a painter. The feelings of depression at his situation led him to leave his two young children and sick wife, and jump off a viaduct to his death in 2006.
That year, he was 44 years old. In my “doomsday year” of 2012 I was also 44 years old. Also at the age of 44, Mr Ren Zhengfei was fired by his then employer due to a work error. Forced to find a new source of income, he founded his own business - and turned it into the tech giant Huawei. It seemed as if 44 was life’s big hurdle, and everyone must decide whether or not they can make it over.
Although I did not follow in Jiang Guobing’s footsteps, I didn’t fare much better. My wife finally filed for a divorce, using a thin piece of paper to end our shaky union. My two children also followed her and left me. Everything goes wrong for poor couples. I didn't have anything to offer to keep her in our marriage.
I used to make regular calls to my family in China. But during this time, hearing the phone ring was torture to me. I would will it to ring with news of an interview, but worry that, instead, I would hear my mother’s voice.
I didn’t know how to tell my mother what had happened, and I was afraid that she would guess as soon as she heard me speak. Mothers are almost magically attuned to the moods of their children. They can tell if you are joyful, angry, sorrowful or happy from thousands of miles away.
I couldn’t bring myself to ask anyone for help. I’d never been the sort of person to admit difficulty and ask for support. This was my plight alone.
I spent my time chasing down fewer and fewer job opportunities and attending fewer and fewer interviews. My sense of despair was rising, and I was worried about how isolated I was becoming. Alone in the room I rented, sometimes I would catch myself repeating nonsense out loud. I needed to get out, or I would go crazy, so I forced myself to walk ten minutes away to a church at Westminster Highway, Richmond, the only place I thought I might find solace.
Every Sunday, I would go to church and sit in a chair in the back row for hours, waiting for the time to pass, forgetting the worries in my heart amid the preaching of the pastor and the singing of the church choir, and snatching a moment of peace and tranquillity.
At night I found comfort in the same way. I would keep an audiotape of the Bible playing all night to make it through to morning. Otherwise, all I could think about was how much of a relief it would be to end my own life.
Everyone wanted an ark in 2012, and my ark was the Bible.
No matter how I saved, my savings were quickly spent. As well as my living expenses, I still had to pay to support my two children and my ex-wife, even though I was already in debt.
I borrowed all the money I could borrow from all the banks that would let me. My wallet was full of names: Montreal, Scotiabank, Imperial Business Canada, Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto Dominion Bank, Capital One, MBNA. The list was endless.
When life is going well, we will happily talk about our own skills and talents, but when we are scrambling around it is harder to see our worth. When I washed my face in the morning and looked at the tremulous man in the mirror, timid and tired, it suddenly occurred to me that if I were the boss, I wouldn't want him to work for me.
By chance, I discovered there was a job search company in Canada that specialized in helping job seekers find suitable roles. The fees were high and there was no guarantee of success. In fact, I couldn’t really afford to give it a try. According to their assessment, my service fee would be six thousand US dollars, which was almost my living expenses for half a year.
After tossing and turning for a few days, I convinced myself to call them. In hindsight, there really was only one reason for my decision: this was my last-ditch attempt at pulling myself out of this pit of despair.
Although the job search company helped me and recommended a few positions, none of them resulted in a job. With one company I went through several rounds of interviews, and it seemed that I was about to succeed. In the end, they decided that, at 44 years old, it would be too difficult for me to start a new trade. I represented too big a risk for them.
But how did they know? Would a Tsinghua University graduate at the top of his class have problems learning something new? Could they not see that I had already proven I could switch industries in my career?
But no one could answer my questions. The tall white man in the job search company shrugged and spread his hands at me, giving me a strange look, as if he couldn’t understand why fate had abandoned me.
I also thought that God had given up on me, but sometimes it is in the unlikeliest of places that we find inspiration. Among the companies I applied for, one provided various translation services for Chinese immigrants to Canada. Not only did they not hire me, but they also made fun of me. Apart from feeling humiliated, an idea suddenly came to me. Why did I have to rely on someone else for employment? Why couldn’t I give myself a job?
I had strong language skills. I had been top in my class in English at University, studied for an MBA in Canada where the course was taught entirely in English, learned German as a second foreign language, and used my translation skills in my work with a biopharmaceutical company.
Why couldn't I give myself a chance? Even if there was no hope of making a lot of money, surely it would be better than my current hopeless existence?
Of course, while deciding to start your own business sounds very impressive, it has a low rate of success. For every 100 new companies, only 5 survive the first year; and only 1 make it through three years. I wasn’t even starting from zero but below that, because I was still loaded under debt that was bigger than many years of savings. However, I couldn’t see another way out. This was my only choice.
That was how I found myself in the summer of 2012, surrounded by fantasists discussing Doomsday, with my very own translation company, with just one employee - me.
2012 was not the end of the world, but it was my rock bottom. And, as we know, when you hit rock bottom, the only way is up. What I didn’t expect was that while things in my career were taking flight again, stress was quietly planting the roots of diabetes. There would soon be more challenges to come.