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Diabetic warns kids: Cut back on sweets or possibly lose your toes, life
Miles Kelley, right, with his father Jack Kelley. Miles has lost the toes on his right foot due to diabetes. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin
Miles Kelley looked down at his toes or more precisely where his toes used to be on his right foot.

“I would like to talk to students in schools and ask them would they like to be able to run and play or end up like this,” he said, pointing to a blue foot cast. “I’d tell them to do as I say and not as I did. I wish I had listened to my mother and I’d warn them to give up the soda pop, candy, and cookies unless they want to end up like me.”

Kelley, 59, is diabetic. It is a condition that cost him his toes and then threatened his leg until he finally heeded stern warnings from physicians that he had a “death sentence” if he continued to ignore his diet and weight.

“I decided I wanted to live for another 25 to 30 years,” Kelley said.

Diabetes has also impacted his vision. It has also made it difficult for him to get around as he now has to rely in arranging rides with relatives and friends or using a power scooter where feasible.

And he wants to spend as much of that time as possible to warn young people about the perils of ignoring research that shows that a diet heavy in sugar and starches can trigger the onset of diabetes in many people.

“I used to drink a six pack of soda pop a day,” Miles said adding that his love for cakes, pies, candy and other sweets didn’t help either.

His mother -  the late Trena Kelley who was Manteca’s first elected mayor and was an untiring advocate for youth and seniors known for spearheading the drive to get one of the nation’s first laws in place that banned cigarette vending machines that youth could access - warned him repeatedly about his diet.

“She told me I drank too much, I ate sweets too much, and I drank soda pop too much,” said Kelley of his mother who also had diabetes. “I wish I had listened to her.”

His father Jack, 87, has a milder form of diabetes.

“It sneaks up on you unlike cancer,” Kelley said of diabetes that kills 71,000 Americans a year and afflicts more than 23.6 million.

But his son notes that unlike cancer many forms of diabetes are preventable.

The best weapons are education and following basic advice that includes diet, weight control, and exercise.

Kelley is determined to walk again but the odds are against him finding gainful employment.

That is a tough for Kelley to swallow.

Over the years he worked in variety of jobs including a summer teen job as part of the Spreckels Sugar “ranch crew”, as a substitute teacher, railroad brakemen, melon warehouse crewman, truck driver, the financial industry and other occupations.

Though he wished he changed his habits when he was a teen, Kelley said he didn’t heed warnings seriously enough 10 years ago when he was given an emergency injection of insulin when he was taken to a hospital. After that had he immediately started changing his lifestyle he could have possibly prevented the loss of his toes. Instead he continued to indulge in practices such as eating sweets that was the equivalent of playing Russian Roulette with his health.

Kelley was active in the community through the Sunrise Kiwanis for nearly 25 years including a stint as chairman of the Pumpkin Fair the year that they hired Charlie Daniels as the main attraction.

The 1971 Manteca High graduate volunteers his time when he can at the Manteca Senior Center. He is an advocate of improving the Manteca Transit system and restoring taxi cab vouchers for hours when bus service isn’t available as the City Council has promised.

Miles said he would now like to do whatever he can to get young people to realize the dangers they face from making unhealthy choices. And he’s willing to use himself as an example.

“I will go to any classroom that I’m invited and tell the kids the truth,” Miles said.