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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 

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