Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Life with Diabetes

     5 years ago in February (2006), I received the diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes.   Around Christmas time, I knew there was something wrong with me.  I couldn't get enough to drink.  I literally drank constantly-- all day long and most of the night too.  Along with that were the extremely frequent trips to the bathroom -- every half an hour to 45 minutes to be exact -- again all day long and all night long.  I was exhausted, thirsty, and scared.  At the end of January 2006, I made an appointment to have a Hemoglobin A1C test done.  This is a test that measures the average levels of sugar over time.  It is a fasting test, meaning that you cannot eat for 12 hours prior to having your blood drawn.  So I had the test, and when the results came in, I was notified that my A1C was 10.5.  At the time, I was told that normal A1C levels should be 6.5 or below.  I was also told that I would need to make an appointment with my primary care physician in order to get treatment started as soon as possible.  I made my appointment, made a plan for treatment with my doctor, got my supplies and medications, and began.  The doctors did say that I was fortunate enough to get the diagnosis early.

     I can't begin to tell you how overwhelmed and scared  I was at this point.  When i did my first fingerstick and my blood sugar that morning was 400, I was terrified.  I had done research into the disease, and knew that sugar levels this high were dangerous.  I could have collapsed into a diabetic coma or even worse.  It took a few months and several adjustments to treatment and diet to get my sugars to normal levels.  The change in diet was very difficult.  No more coca cola.  I had to switch to diet soda, which i hated for a long time.  Then there was the cutting out of foods that I loved that I could no longer have because of the carbs in them that would raise my sugar (fries, chips, etc).  This adjustment was very difficult to make at first and I must admit that to this day, I still have issues with my diet at times.  I was very strict with my diet the very first year of diagnosis and had very little in the way of carbs.  I ate a lot of salads, vegetables, and lean meats.  I ended up hating it and back slid for a long time.

     Scariest of all was the changes to my vision.  One of the first things my doctor told me was that I would have to see an eye doctor once my sugar levels were consistently lowered.  I was told that this would take a few months before I could see the eye doctor, due to the fact that fluid in my eyes were full of sugar crystals and it would take at least 3 months to get those crystals out through medications.  During that time, my vision was constantly changing.  I went through a period of time when I could not read anything.  This made it hard to grade papers, read a book, write, etc.  I wondered if I was ever going to be able to read again.  Luckily over the 5 years that I have been a diabetic that my eyes are healthy and I am able to read and do things as I used to.  The only changes are now that I must see an eye doctor once a year.  He has stated that my eyes have changed very little over the years and that things look good.

     Diabetes medications have a drastic toll on people when first beginning treatment.  I was no exception.  The medications wreaked havoc on my digestive tract.  I had horrible bouts of diarrhea (sp?) 7 - 8 times a day, especially during the school day.  Thank god, Tina (the teacher in the classroom next door) was understanding and supportive.  When I had to go, I gave her a code and she knew to watch my class until I could return.  There were many times that running to the bathroom (which for faculty was in a different building) meant running downstairs, across the parking lot to the building behind the band building --- many times praying that I could hold it till getting to the bathroom and also praying that no one would be in said bathroom.  To this day, I still have the occasional bout of this, especially if I have been drinking alot of liquids.  The other aspect in regards to medications are the possible dangerous side effects they have.  One medication in particular that i was on until this past March - Avandia is linked to significant cardiatric events (heart attacks) due to extreme fluid retention, etc.

     Fast forward 5 years.  I have changed up things.  I have to say that my family doctor -- Doctor Keefe-- has been very supportive.  He spends a lot of time with me during my appointments and we talk about a lot of things.  One of my biggest battles is weight loss.  I know that I need to lose weight, but its so hard to do.  I seem to be just too busy with teaching, civic organizations, etc., to have the time needed to engage in an effective program.  I'm trying to change that.  I've gotten out of a couple of organizations because I've realized that my health and well being has to come first.  I know there are people out there who don't like that I'm not involved, but I don't care.  Its time to take care of me-- I have to put me first.  I do have to say that i have lost some weight (I am currently around 280-- which is better than the 300 pounds I was a couple of years ago).  I just need to make a dedicated and sincere effort.

     I hope that by telling my personal story with my diabetes diagnosis, that this will help others.  The best advice I can give is if you find yourself with an unquenchable thirst and overly frequent bathroom use, that you get yourself checked for diabetes ASAP.  Diabetes is a chronic illness.  It forces you to make choices you normally don't have to in regards to what and when you eat.  I have had to make major changes to my life, but have learned to live with the changes for the most part.  However, the damage from untreated and uncontrolled diabetes can kill you.  Please don't wait.

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