Greetings, Bumbling Band!
As those of you who frequent the comments section know, I “guest post” on an annoyingly regular basis here, but MizFit still graciously asked if I’d be willing to write a real “guest post” regarding my type 2 diabetes experience.
This lead me to ponder the big question:
what, if anything, would I have *heard* earlier in my life that would have helped me make changes for a healthier life, and possibly have delayed my diagnosis?
No, the answer wasn’t “42.” Somehow, I don’t even think that “future me” popping in and chirping, “Hey there, darlin’ girl! Let’s go for a jog!” would have done it. (My response would have been, of course, “Who are you, and what have you done with the real future me?”)
Because with the whole diabetes awareness month “know your symptoms” hoopla, I’m a leeeetle bit skeptical about people wanting to excavate-head-from-sand-regarding their risk for type 2 diabetes. (Maybe that was just me, though.)
Unlike type 1—in which knowing that your pancreas has stopped functioning is something you’d want to know about STAT—type 2 is not only shrouded with myths, but also stigmatized by society in general.
I’ve seen it on some of the message boards even, people with other forms of diabetes vehemently clarifying their type of diabetes, or exclaiming how surprised they were, because they had always been slender. (With the not-so-subtle subtext of, “How dare you classify me with the fat people?!?” Diabetes—even type 2—does not discriminate.)
For the longest time, I.Did.Not.Want.To.Know.
Oh, I knew it was going to be “someday.” Having had gestational diabetes twice, I had a taste of the d-life and thought type 2 diabetes would mean blood glucose monitoring (and needles), self-administered insulin shots (more needles), and no more chocolate EVER again (fate worse than needles). (Did I mention that I am creeped out by needles?) Then a pharmacy screening, when I decided at age 40 that I should probably start to take better care of myself in general, turned “someday” into “now.” (It also revealed that my cholesterol levels were abysmal and that I had borderline osteoporosis. Now that’s what I call a mid-life crisis!)
First, the bad news: type 2 diabetes does involve many sharp, pointy objects. (Note to self: find or make a “Runs with lancets” t-shirt…) I was right about the blood glucose monitoring part, anyway.
It was a little painful until I read Alan’s (of “Type 2 Diabetes – A Personal Journey”) excellent article on the subject of painless testing. I might still need to deal with the self-administered injections some day and the rollercoaster of insulin treatment. However, needle technology improved quite a lot just between my two pregnancies in 2001 and 2004: the needles were thinner, plus the second time around there I was prescribed an injection device that involved needles but not all the prep work, and more importantly hid the visual of needle-going-into-skin. (Hopefully, others who have to perform injections will chime in about more recent technology.) So I think I’ll be able to handle that, too, if the time comes.
But then, there were the unexpected gifts: Facing up to my diagnosis was the catalyst for quite a lot of good changes in my life.
Before, I felt so tired of being tired all the time; an aged-before-my-time feeling. Little did I know that these symptoms of high blood glucose—feeling tired, feeling hungry, feeling numb—were conspiring against any faint urge I had to do something about my health and fitness. (Jenny Ruhl’s excellent article “You Did NOT Eat Your Way to Diabetes” was not only a real eye-opener, but also a shame-slayer for me.) Diagnosis got me the medical help I needed to break the cycle; I was lucky, because so many people do not have access to proper diabetes care, or if even when they do have access, they don’t receive competent care.
Change was painful: I mourned that I was no longer “normal.” I felt overwhelmed with the onslaught of changes being asked of me: exercise this way, eat this, don’t eat too much of that, eat this much at these times, exercise that way, add these pills, adjust this part of your meal plan, now add this type of exercise…I thought I was going to scream if I had to make any more changes.
In a way, though, diagnosis gave me “permission” to take better care of myself physically. It was now medically necessary to make time to exercise and eat more healthfully, not just a good idea. I also immersed myself in the whole health and fitness online community, which helped me to not feel so alone and not like just another stereotypical type 2 diabetes patient.
I set a goal to actually run a 5K in the fall of 2008 and accomplished it; what a rush that was! I’m not really sure how I found the time: I’m wife and a mom of two who works full-time outside the home. But it’s amazing what you’ll do with a big enough stick waving around behind you.
My family is incredibly supportive of me, too; my husband cooks healthy meals and helps ensure that I have time to exercise and to participate in the athletic events that are my “reward” for training. My kids, too, provide inspiration for being present and functional for as long as possible. Fortunately, when I started, it was summertime and we didn’t have the school morning routine.
By the time school started that year, it was habit (and now I feel cheated if I don’t get my exercise time).
Along the way I found that the “banquet” of fitness was rich with new and tasty experiences: Yoga! BodyPump! Spinning! Swimming! Biking! Running! Triathlon? Who me?—Heck, yeah! Oh, the possibilities…I felt like I’d been (to paraphrase Auntie Mame), one of those poor suckers who’d been starving to death.
Recreating a new identity as “athletic” and “one of those crunchy-granola health nuts (who still budgets in a little dark chocolate now and then)” sure took the sting out of medical labels such as “morbidly obese” and “typical type 2 diabetic.” Gradually, my new identity with its proper food, exercise, and metformin helped me reduce those old labels to “overweight” and “5% club” (a1c in the “normal” range).
I don’t know what the future will bring with me and this disease, but my priority right now is best quality of life for as long as possible. Maybe, just maybe, putting some of the good stuff I’ve learned into play much earlier could have made “someday” a little later. I think the answer to my question would be this: Were it possible, I would bottle up a draught of “How I Feel Now.” I would find my self of 13 years ago, slip it into my hand, and whisper, “Just taste it.”
For more info and suggested resources, click on over to Opposite Life.