My Godmother calls me Sugar. On December 5, I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes.
And for the past month, I’ve been learning some hard lessons. I’m unsure of how long I was actively Diabetic until then– but it’s probably been at least a year or two. The symptoms are so mild they wouldn’t alert you unless you know to look specifically. I never feared this happening to me– despite that my Dad has it and so did all of his four brothers. Sure, I’d gained some weight– but it was nothing extreme. It was gradual and I’m 39– it’s normal.
Because I have a transplanted liver, I need routine lab tests every three months to check on their basic functions and my levels for the anti-rejection meds I need to survive. It was by chance on this unrelated test that my liver team called me and told me to head directly to the ER– my sugar was 655!! Terrified, I quickly packed a bag and obeyed. Luckily a couple hours later it was down to 349 and then 240. Thankfully I didn’t need to be admitted or put on insulin. I was NOT Type I, the more severe form. The ER doctor put me on a high dose of Metformin and set me up with a new Primary Care Physician (PCP) who would help manage my Diabetes– the appointment was in 4.5 days. I was discharged. It was very odd because he was really punitive with me when he explained my situation and threatened to put me on insulin “If you don’t behave!” No one talked to me about what to eat or avoid. No one even gave me a script for a test kit and strips or showed me how to assemble and work them. Not even a paper handout.
The next morning I woke up with a weird pain in my abdomen and a tingling sensation in my fingers– which can be a sign of a Diabetic crisis. I went straight back to the ER. I was fine, my sugar was down to 136 already! This time I did get the needed prescriptions and a few pages of handouts and a doctor took time to answer my questions and reassure me a bit.
I realized that truly, I was on my own. It felt so unfair and overwhelming– but I took it in stride. I didn’t even cry! I just accepted this as my new reality and vowed to galvanize myself toward being as faithful and strict as I could. I had already given up alcohol six years ago– I knew how to be disciplined and unwavering. I also read that Type II is reversible and that was my goal. Now, I accept that may not be possible– this may be permanent. But oddly, there a lot of positives about it! I had been feeling like absolute trash for months– subsisting on fast food, pop, grilled cheeses and pb &j, and mostly dairy. Not balanced. Eating as much as I wanted, sometimes even past feeling full. There was no structure to my eating, no limits to what I allowed myself to consume every day. I simply indulged.
Probably the smartest pro-active thing I did to take control was join a Diabetes II support group on social media. I post mostly every day and I’ve been able to ask questions and get answers from peers who are in my exact same health situation. We also post our FBS levels with no judgement and talk about food products and meals that spike our sugars and how to eat healthier and smarter.
Now, good ol’ FEAR motivates me. I know how serious (and expensive!) Type I becomes. I have no intention of ever letting my Diabetes get to a level where I rely on insulin or have problems with my eyesight, feet, or circulation. I’ve been losing weight steadily and THAT is motivating!! Prior, there were so many choices I had no idea how to choose responsibly. Now I’ve seen a certified Dietitian and she talked to me about counting carbs, of course. But I told her that’s not for me and I want to continue on what I’m doing and she was supportive. She said my weight loss and FBS levels are on track and that I’m already doing everything right. That was a terrific validation. I had to wait nearly a month to see her, so I had to get it figured out on my own and I met that challenge.
Today, I feel so much better! I prepare the majority of my own meals and even cook for others a bit now. My recipes are simple but they are working. I stick to water, unsweetened ice tea or smoothies. A tiny bit of milk sometimes. It’s almost a relief just knowing there are certain foods and drinks I must avoid for my health. I’m on a healthy eating streak and have not once slipped and had any pop or fast food since December 4th. I’m not going to jeopardize that progress!! I’ve read everything I could find, including books from the library educating me about my illness and Diabetes cookbooks. I even bought one for myself for Christmas, “The Diabetes Cookbook,” published by the American Diabetes Association.
I’ve set up my testing supplies right next to my medications, on top of my microwave. My lancets (needles) come in a bright, multi-colored variety pack of 100. A rainbow! Looking at it makes me happy. I got smart for once with design and put them in a miniature Mason jar I’d gotten on Thanksgiving from a take-home dessert in a jar. It looks cheerful and pretty and you’d never guess what it is! Behind that is another, slightly bigger, glass jar– which holds my testing strips, test machine and the lancet holder.
I get out of bed faster now because I need to test my Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS) and am excited to do it! My numbers are always good– on the low end and technically not even in the Diabetic range consistently. Knowing I have that validation of my commitment and the progress I’ve made with eating healthy for the first time in my life makes me eager to get up and go get it done! Then I write that number in my food journal and eat breakfast, every day. My Dad has also told me repeatedly how proud he is of how well I’m managing and keeping my FBS low and consistent.
There is so much to learn! That’s why I’m sharing my story. Maybe I can help someone be less scared, or more pro-active– to prevent themselves from moving beyond Pre-Diabetes into an official diagnosis. There are a lot of feelings to manage surrounding this as well, and I want an outlet.
I take a positive attitude about it as well and when I tell people, I just say that I’ve started eating healthier. I don’t necessarily mention the diagnosis at all– because I don’t want their sympathy. I’m genuinely happy for all the changes I’ve made and I’m committed. I truly DO feel better. I’m “outing” myself about it now only because I feel in control and comfortable. Incredible how much only one month can have transformed my life! Every day I’m learning lessons not just about nutrition, but myself.