I haven’t written about my journey with Diabetes for a while and I thought I’d share some updates because my Diabetes has changed. I am now an insulin-dependent Diabetic but that is ok. Well, it is now but it wasn’t when I made the transition.
The reason why I want to share this post is because I really struggled to find other people’s stories about their experiences with Diabetes which I could relate to. Perhaps my experiences will be helpful to someone else who is going through something similar.
It is scary when your body changes and your Diabetes progresses/deteriorates. It is especially so when you can’t peg it to a particular cause. It helps to know that other people have been through (and are going through) what you are dealing with.
So, as you may know, I was diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic a few years ago. It was a shock, initially, but I realised that it was actually a blessing. Before I was diagnosed I was way overweight and not doing much about it.
Two of the ways I started to take control of my condition were to eat healthier and to exercise more often. I shed about 20kgs of fat in my first year or so and I’ve managed to stabilise at a much healthier weight.
My levels were pretty stable until about December 2015 when something went wrong and my Diabetes deteriorated/progressed (I’m never really sure whether to describe it as a deterioration or a progression – Diabetes is a progressive condition, it will become more advanced over time).
When it all changed
We’re (me and my doctor) aren’t sure what caused the change but my blood glucose levels started to rise dramatically in mid to late December. The main factor that comes to mind is that I was pretty sick. I developed a chest infection that was about a day away from pneumonia (before I saw my doctor and started medication). Getting sick always pushes up my blood glucose levels so I initially ignored the spike when I saw it in my routine self-tests.
That was my first mistake.
Tip: Do your tests regularly, even if you know something is distorting the results.
When my high levels persisted and I still felt sick, I started testing less frequently. I just attributed the high levels to my illness.
This is called “compounding” my first mistake.
Tip: Keep testing regularly so you have consistent data for later.
Then, after I recovered and my high levels persisted, I decided that my tester must be faulty and procrastinated dealing with it for a couple weeks. In the meantime, my levels continued climbing while I focused more on improving my diet.
This was my second mistake.
Tip: Focusing on your diet is great but don’t procrastinate seeking help if you notice a problem. Go talk to your doctor, even if you feel like your habits created the problem.
Although the shock forced me back into a more disciplined diet, it took me far too long to go to my doctor and confess my neglect and seek help. To my credit, I even took a notepad and made notes, determined to fix My Problem and Return to Controlled Diabetes.
My doctor referred me to a specialist (again) and told me to go have blood tests done and my feet examined. Why my feet? Well, one of the warning signs of poor control is peripheral neuropathy – loss of sensation in your extremities, like your toes. That leads to toes and other parts of your body being deprived of blood and falling off. It isn’t the fun part of Diabetes (there aren’t many).
My HbA1c blood test series confirmed my fears. My blood glucose levels had risen dramatically. My spot blood glucose test put me at 258mg/dl – the upper end of the normal range is 140mg/dl. My HbA1c put me at 8.4%. My levels should be under 6.0% or so. The HbA1c is one of the key metrics for Diabetes control which I clearly lacked.
My doctor decided it was time to change my medication. I was previously on a dose of Metformin, twice a day. It was a slightly increased dose but otherwise roughly the same medication I had been on since I was first diagnosed. The change was to switch me over to a pill called Januet which combines 50mg of insulin with the Metformin, twice a day.
When my doctor mentioned adding insulin it scared me. I don’t like needles at all and the prospect of injecting myself wasn’t a happy one. Fortunately, there was a pill option for me!
For some reason my condition progressed/deteriorated to the point where I now needed insulin to control my Diabetes. Initially the Januet was a sort of test run. The idea was to monitor my levels and see if they came back down to a normal range on the new medication. If they did, the new medication would become part of my new treatment regime.
Taking steps to regain control
That was a reality check for me and it reminded me of the importance of doing my self-tests regularly, even if I don’t like what I see. The point is to be aware of the problems because that awareness is your first step towards addressing them.
Managing Diabetes isn’t just about the medication although that can be critical. I noticed that my blood glucose levels rose on the days when I ran out of my Januet and returned to just Metformin. I am insulin-dependent and that means that, given my current lifestyle, I need the insulin to stabilise my blood glucose levels. Period.
Something else that makes a noticeable difference is exercise. My mother visited us in April and we did a lot of walking during one of the weeks she was here. On an average weekday I walk around 5 to 6 kilometres. When we were on holiday with her and touring locally, we walked 8 to 11 kilometres. I noticed that all that walking helped bring my levels down, usually to below 120.
Another big realisation was how much of an impact stress can have on my blood glucose levels. It can cause a huge bump in my levels.
Where I am now and where I am heading
Diabetes isn’t a disease although living with it can be challenging. It is easy to pick up bad habits and eat the food you know you shouldn’t. I also noticed that my body has less of a tolerance for carbohydrates and eating more than a little pasta and bread can really push my levels up. We have switched to wholewheat breads and pastas but even those seem to be problematic so I tend to avoid them.
My morning routine has changed a little since I wrote about it just over two months ago. I now start work at 7am instead of 6:30am and that means that I miss the bus I used to take to the train station. The positive side of that is that I have to walk to the station. That, of course, means more exercise every week day.
Unfortunately I spend most of my working day sitting and that isn’t good for me (or anyone). I put my back out in the holidays and sitting every day probably delayed my recovery by about a week too. I try make a point of getting up and going for a walk out the office for a bit every day. I don’t always do remember to do that, though.
Get out of the office more often
I do make a point of leaving the office for lunch, though. I understand why many companies offer their employees food. They want to keep employees close to their workstations so they can eat and get back to work. I don’t think that is particularly healthy and, if anything, I need to leave the office for lunch just to give my mind a break and get some outside air. It helps a lot with work stress too.
This morning I tested myself: 121. I’ve managed to stabilise my levels in the last two months or so and just need to remain vigilant and disciplined to maintain that. I plan on living a long time and I am constantly reminded of the importance of taking better care of myself as I grow older.
It’s a work-in-progress
I am due to do another set of blood tests in the next week or so, along with my long overdue feet examination. Being Diabetic is very much a work-in-progress but, on balance, it has been a positive thing for me and my family. I am in better condition than I was in the years before my diagnosis and that is just going to be increasingly important in the years and decades to come.
As I wrote in the beginning of this post, I wanted to share my experiences in case there are other Diabetics who are going through something similar. There is a lot of information about Diabetes on the Web but I haven’t seen many stories from Diabetics who face challenges I can relate to. Perhaps my experiences will help someone who is going through something similar and isn’t too sure what to make of it all. It can be scary when your body changes like this.
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