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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

George's Story

Here is another inspirational story from a cyber-friend who posted this on the ADA forum recently. I asked his permission to post it here because I believe our success stories help others, especially newly diagnosed people who fear an unknown future.


My Story: Lucky to Have Diabetes
 
Hi. I am George_M. What follows is my story, and why I feel so lucky to have diabetes.

In August of last year, I was feeling like I had been blessed with a wonderful life. After a disastrous first marriage, I had found the woman of my dreams, and we had enjoyed 23 years of happiness together. My life had its full share of bumps in the road, but those all seemed behind me now. After many years of working 60+ hour weeks, my wife and I were both retired. We had the time and sufficient retirement income to care for our needs and some of our desires. We had a long period of caring for her mother, which was very difficult and emotionally exhausting, but her mother had passed away peacefully at age 95 a few months before. We were able to indulge our joint passion for traveling to interesting places.

I get an annual physical exam. The last two had been OK, nothing much to worry about. Triglycerides and cholesterol were somewhat high, and my doctor advised me to cut fat out of my diet. And, oh, one other little thing. My fasting blood glucose in 2010 was 99. In 2011 it was 101. My doctor said that was getting somewhat high. If it went up more she would diagnose prediabetes. She said I should lose weight.

I was normal weight for my first 50 years, but weight had definitely become a problem for me the last 20 years. I gradually put on 140 pounds over 10 years. I lost that all in one year on Weight Watchers, then gradually put it all back on over the following 10 years. I was constantly very hungry, even an hour or two after eating a very large meal. Now the doctor was telling me to lose weight. Well, OK, I would try.

Then, about two months later, the most miraculous thing happened! I started to lose weight, without any particular effort! I lost about three pounds per month, for 10 months. This is great, I thought, my doctor will be very pleased. I figured my body must have changed as I got older and was naturally shedding weight.

Then I went in for my annual checkup in August 2012. The doctor listened to my heart and lungs, said how pleased she was about the weight loss and sent me to the lab to have blood drawn. A couple of days later, I got an email from the hospital that my lab test results were available. I logged on. Most of the tests were about where they had been the year before. But my fasting blood glucose was 235. The lab put a note in the report that they assumed the test was not fasting. The problem was, I knew it was a fasting test.

What did this mean? I did some research on the internet and found out that I had type 2 diabetes. How could this be? There was no diabetes in prior generations of my family. My brother has type 2 and is on insulin, but he had been exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, and the government says that if someone who was exposed to Agent Orange develops diabetes, the presumption is that it was caused by the Agent Orange. I had not been exposed. How come I had diabetes? And what happened to that prediabetes, where I could know that this was serious and make some changes to keep it at bay?

A couple of days later, I got a phone call from my doctor’s secretary. She said my fasting blood glucose was high, that I should avoid sweets and cut back on starches for the time being and come back in two more weeks to repeat the tests. By this time, my head was spinning. Did this mean I couldn’t travel anymore? Would I need insulin right away? What about amputations? Blindness? Kidney disease? Heart attacks and strokes? My brother has had two strokes due to his diabetes and needs assisted living, and I have to handle all his financial affairs because he is unable to. Would I end up like that shortly? I felt like the bottom had just dropped out of my life and I was falling.

Then I found the forum section of the American Diabetes Association website. There were many people there who were handling their diabetes successfully, and they were going on to live pretty normal lives despite diabetes. Two of them, LizzyLou and Alan_S, had taken the time to set up blogs where they have a huge amount of information about diabetes and how to live with it. I spent several days reading and digesting that information, and also reading threads on different topics on the type 2 forum.

At my follow-up visit, the lab drew more blood. I had changed my diet quite a bit, so my fasting blood glucose came back 156, but my A1C was 10.1. This only told me what I already knew: I had diabetes. My doctor referred me to a nurse practitioner and a nutritionist. She also wanted to prescribe Metformin ER, 500 mg twice a day. I thought I would be able to get my blood glucose down with diet and exercise, so I resisted the Metformin. We compromised on one 500 mg pill per day.

The visit with the nurse practitioner went OK, although I had the impression that I knew more about diabetes than she did. The nutritionist advised a diet with 240 to 300 grams of carbohydrates per day. I told her that I was already eating a diet with about 20 percent of those carbs, and I was doing quite well on it. She warned how bad that diet would be for me, and I went on my way.

When I reduced the carbs in my diet, the huge raging hunger that I had been experiencing for the last 20 years went away. I became mildly hungry sometimes and moderately hungry for an hour or so before meals. This made losing weight much easier. When I was diagnosed, my doctor told me to lose 90 to 100 pounds (in addition to the 30 pounds I had lost without trying before diagnosis). In just over seven months, I have lost 75 more pounds. My triglycerides and cholesterol have come down, despite doing the opposite of what my doctor had told me to do to bring them down—eating a higher-fat, lower-carb diet. I had been exercising almost every day (mostly walking) for the past 10 years, so I just became more consistent doing that. This is what works for me.

I wrote my relatives to tell them that I had diabetes and that there was a strong genetic link. My only other sibling, my sister, wrote back that she had prediabetes, that she was taking Metformin and that her latest A1C had gone up to 6.5. All of us either had diabetes or prediabetes.

I did want an endocrinologist who specialized in diabetes to treat me. There were a few little things in my past that might have been warning flags, had I only known. I didn’t like the feeling that I should have known more and done things differently, and I didn’t want to be having those same feelings in 10 years about what I was doing today. I did some investigating, picked a great endocrinologist and made the next available appointment for about six months after diagnosis. When I answered her questions about what I was doing, her eyebrows went up. “Where did you learn all that?” she asked. I told her about the Association’s website. She said “That’s amazing. Normally, I have to tell my patients to do all these things you are already doing. I have to argue with some of them. You are already doing those things.”

I spent a month or so just reading on the Association’s website. I felt it was time to try to repay the enormous debt that I owe to the many people there who have helped and befriended me—by trying to help others who are not as far along the path as I was. I have been doing that for about six months now, mostly trying to offer encouragement and telling others what has worked for me.

I am 69 years old, and many of my friends are about my same age. We are all starting to develop medical issues. I have friends with Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, crippling arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other serious conditions. I got a disease that made it both necessary and much easier to lose weight, exercise and lower my cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides. My disease has not imposed any serious limitations on my life activities yet, and I hope to have many more years before it does. Unlike many other diseases, what I do can have a big impact on how my diabetes goes, so I get to be largely in control.

And that is why I feel lucky to have diabetes.



Thanks George.

Cheers, Alan, T2, Australia.
Everything in Moderation - Except Laughter 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Type 2 Diabetes and the Shame Game

Some time ago I repeated on this blog three guest posts originally published on dLife:
I re-posted them here to ensure that they did not disappear if the dLife editors chose not to archive them. Since then I have written a couple of guest posts for DiabetesMine and CarbSmart. For similar reasons I will post them here occasionally to ensure they do not disappear. 

This was published on DiabetesMine in 2011. It is a topic which rears its ugly head a little too often. 


Ignorance may not be bliss after all, and there are occasions where it can be downright dangerous to a type 2 diabetic. But there are some times in life when it can be useful. For me, one of those occasions was April 2002 when my doctor advised me of my diagnosis with type 2 diabetes. 

At that time I was blissfully ignorant of diabetes in all its forms. So I never suffered diagnosis guilt. Sure, I was overweight, but in my country at that time we weren’t bombarded with commercials earnestly and incorrectly telling us “for our own good” that diabetes is caused by obesity. Just as importantly, the lack of that media barrage meant none of my relatives or friends or any of the type 1s I met at my local support group sneered at me for causing my own condition. I never wasted any time or effort on guilt or recriminations.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had a major advantage over my American friends, whom I met later on diabetes forums. Far too often over the past eight years I have encountered misery and depression as a consequence of the “blame game” in newly diagnosed type 2s; conditions which often interfered severely with their diabetes management. I reckon that is a direct result of media campaigns, often well-intentioned, which make it abundantly clear that new type 2 diabetics are just as guilty of a self-inflicted wound as the soldier who shoots himself in the foot to avoid a battle. And just as shameful, placing an enormous load on the nation’s healthcare system.

It is also becoming a divisive wedge between type 1 and type 2 diabetics on forums and in the media. We should be working with a common purpose where our needs intersect — not fighting each other. We are increasingly seeing complaints from type 1s who should know better but who get upset at being “lumped together in the public mind” with those fat, old, lazy slobs like me: the type 2s.

From my reading, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the genetic tendency to diabetes is related to the genetic tendency to obesity, and which comes first is becoming a chicken-and-egg argument. There is a correlation between obesity and diabetes, correct. But correlation is not causation. And that is irrelevant here anyway. What really matters is that all those idiotic commercials promoting weight loss to prevent diabetes are a counter-productive waste of money; they do not lead to weight loss, they only reinforce the blame game. Worse, they often lead the viewer to sites promoting “low fats and lots of whole grains” diets. It’s hard to imagine a more rapid path to the unwanted goal. They’re essentially recommending a high-carb diet for people with diabetes or a strong tendency towards developing it.

To the type 2s reading this: drop the guilt. Whatever the reason for your condition, there isn’t a darn thing you can do to change the past. What matters is what you will do today to improve your future.

To the type 1s reading this: stop the blame game. Join with the type 2s in your community; in unity you can strive for better research and support for all types. Division in the tough world of medical research funding is never fruitful.

And to the people who put those stupid ads on our television screens: you should be ashamed of yourselves. Spend that money investigating the true causes and better treatments for the two separate afflictions of obesity and diabetes in the Western world. You could start by looking at the drastic changes in carb:fat:protein ratios in our menus since WWII. But that’s a subject for another day.