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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Miracles and Wonders

What an interesting world we live in. As Paul Simon wrote, these are the days of miracles and wonders.

When I was diagnosed with type 2 back in 2002 I was totally ignorant of diabetes. I lived in a naive world that didn’t talk about such things; I had no idea that my aunt and several other close relatives were diabetic. Mum wasn’t, and Dad died of a war-related heart condition in his fifties. I was a blank slate.

Six years later, I read and write on several diabetes forums. I see many posts from shocked, scared, newly-diagnosed type 2 diabetics who are following terrible dietary advice and wondering why they get worse. I sometimes reflect on how lucky my ignorance was for me.

Of course, better knowledge may have caused me to get fit earlier and maybe stave off that diagnosis, but I doubt it. For example, despite all the information available on smoking I had only given up the noxious weed a year before, after nearly forty years of forty a day. Why would I have lost weight or become fit on the vague possibility of diabetes? I most likely would have changed the same things as the vast majority of the type 2 diabetes population – nothing.

That fortunate ignorance meant that I had no pre-conceptions at all. I knew no more about carbohydrates, protein and fats than any other ordinary guy, I had never heard of Atkins or Ornish, or the low-fat versus low-carb diet wars, and I had no guilt or shame about the condition being my fault. Far too many newly-diagnosed type 2s appear on the forums with that hang-up.

What a great benefit that ignorance was, because I then embarked on a voyage of discovery over the next few years, learning what I needed to fight my personal battle against this condition from every source that I could. I listened to and read doctors, dieticians, books, the web, the net and most important of all, other diabetics. What a wonderful modern miracle the internet is; used with discretion and judgement, it is an empowering tool for all patients of any affliction wanting to understand, to learn, and to find others who can support and empathise with them. We can discuss our problems with family, friends, doctors and nurses - but only another diabetic can really relate to how we feel about this condition.

At the start, no-one had told me that if I went below certain carbohydrate levels my brain would atrophy, nor that even a little more protein would lead to dialysis and that a little more fat would fill my arteries with plaque, nor that I would go insane if I tested too often, nor that artificial sweeteners would kill me, nor that it was dangerous to aim for normal HbA1c’s, nor a whole lot of other rules that so many doctors, dieticians, and diabetes authorities seem to have. By the time I did start to hear these alarms and scares, and I have been told all those and worse over the past six years, I was discovering that they were almost all completely wrong.

Along the way I read Jennifer's advice to the newly diagnosed. It was so simple and yet so effective. As an ex-engineer the concept of test, review, adjust was a basic one to me. Plan and execute an action, test the outcome, review the result and then change the plan next time for a better result. A process of iteration. Always aiming to improve.

That is what caused me to ponder on miracles and wonders. Not the Wonders of the World, although they were fun to visit, but the wonders of modern science and technology. The internet was a modern miracle that helped me immensely; another was the blood glucose meter. It is only a few short decades since the first blood glucose meter was developed for home use. It is only in the past two decades that it became possible to use meters intensively at home in the way so many type 2’s I know have done; using post-prandial testing to develop a better lifestyle complemented by medications when necessary, rather than using medications to combat and overcome an incorrect diet.

We have some miraculous tools available to us as type 2 diabetics in the 21st century if only we utilise them correctly. Take advantage of them.

Cheers, Alan

Everything in Moderation - Except Laughter

PS This was my second dLife column.

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