I have a terrible memory for birthdays and anniversaries. I usually have to use memory aids such as calendars and computers to remind me of them. But there is one I never forget. Today is the last Saturday in April. That is a day I need no reminders for.
On the last Saturday in April 2002, exactly nine years ago as I write this, I was having a lazy weekend morning in bed and the bedside phone rang.
A couple of months before that I had been tentatively diagnosed with CLL from a routine blood test showing a high white count. That led to lots of confirming blood tests and a bone marrow aspiration. Apparently they can be painless, but no-one seems to have told the haematologist that performed mine. He remained my haematologist until a couple of years later when he wanted to do another one to “check on progress”. That guy was never going to laboriously drill holes in in my “strong” bones ever again; I found another haematologist that was happy to state that I did not need one. Time has proved him right.
I spent that two months searching for something I could do about my CLL and finding I could do nothing at all but “Watch and Wait”. Wonderful. I was well into the depths of diagnosis depression.
So, when the phone rang my mood was hardly bright and cheerful. It was about to get worse.
Caller: "Hi Alan, this is Dr ............ 's reception here. The Doctor wants me to make an appointment for you for Tuesday."
Me: "That's fine. I presume it's to discuss the latest test results for the leukaemia?"
Caller: "No, it's about your diabetes."
Me: "......stunned silence......."
Caller: "Hullo - are you there?"
Me: "About what?"
Caller: "Your diabetes."
Me: “I don't have diabetes, are you sure you have the right person?”
Eventually she convinced me that she did.
I have learned to like and respect my doctor. He is the best doctor I have ever encountered. If not for his knowledge and expertise my CLL and diabetes might not have been diagnosed for another five or more years. Less competent doctors had missed some very obvious signs, such as fasting blood glucose levels of 7.9 mmol/L (140 mg/dL) for at least five years before that. He certainly gained my attention; if he had not made it clear that if I did not gain control of the diabetes I may not live long enough to worry about the cancer, I might not have maintained the discipline to achieve control. But at that time we did not really know each other and I was also unaware of the stress on that very overworked small village practice.
So I hope he won't mind me mentioning this. When I received that call he had left for the day. I'm pretty resourceful when I'm scared. I'm sure he didn't appreciate the call at his home a few hours later after I tracked down his number, but I'm also sure that phone advice by the receptionist of diagnosis of a major chronic condition has not happened often since.
Waiting for that Tuesday appointment was one of the worst weekends of my life. In hindsight, my ignorance of anything to do with type 2 diabetes and everything associated with it such as complications, diet, exercise and the myriad other things we need to know to take control of this condition was abysmal. Much of my fear and worry over that terrible weekend was caused by that ignorance.
I have made up for that ignorance since; see my story here: Turning Points
If a diabetes diagnosis seems an odd thing to celebrate, look at it from my different perspective. It has been a bit of a bumpy ride at times, but I reckon the simple fact of being here, moderately fit and well for a 64 year old, to write this nine years later without any diabetes complications at all is well worth celebrating.
I think I'll open one of the better bottles of Shiraz from the "cellar" in my back bedroom cupboard tonight.
Everything in Moderation - Except Laughter.