I apologize for taking a detour on a site where I normally talk about writing, self-publishing, computer games and all things stuffed animals, but recently, I’ve been going through a bit of a struggle with my health, and it finally hit me hard enough that I thought I would dedicate a little space and talk about it.
First off, I’ve been a diabetic for a good portion of my life. Most of it is genetic, as my mother’s side of the family had the disease and both my mother and grandfather died from it. I don’t know anything about my father’s side of the line, so I’m going on limited information here. However, I did have the opportunity to see how it affected at least two of my family members, and to put it simply, it wasn’t pretty. It’s a crappy disease, and if you don’t have the ability to afford the best medication, you’re pretty much screwed. Both my mother and grandfather were poverty stricken, and that’s the greatest petri dish available for that disease to take you down.
I’m not in the same financial circumstances, so one would think I’d have access to better medication and treatments, and I have been, but I’m discovering that it’s really not that much of a benefit when it comes down to a really crappy disease. While I’m not stuck with having to inject myself with throwaway needles every day (they have what are called pen needles that use a different needle, but you use the same injector pen until it runs out. These days, not everything has to remain refrigerated, and let’s just say that with needles that are less intrusive these days, it’s a lot better today than it used to be.
However, what they don’t tell you about are some of the things that happen with this disease that’s different with each individual affected. One of my pet peeves about this disease is how many “experts” exist out there who know a fraction of the information about diabetes that I do, but somehow speak as if they’re experts in the field. These are the people who say things like “well, you can control it with diet” or they’ll point at whatever you’re eating and say “You’re a diabetic. Should you be eating that?” Unfortunately, our legal system frowns upon my desire to shove an ice pick down their throat, so let’s just say that being a diabetic means being subject to every whack a doodle wannabe doctor with two years experience of watching House on television as their “residency”. Or worse: “I know a guy that had diabetes, so let me tell you about everything I know about the disease” which usually means falsehoods and stereotypes of medical information.
But to understand the really bizarre nature of this disease, I have to give you a little history about myself, because there’s no better way to explain it than taking it from that perspective. You see, some years ago, I used to control my diabetes through diet and exercise, keeping myself in somewhat decent shape. Then my pancreas decided it didn’t want to secrete as much insulin as it was supposed to do, so I was put on oral medications that helped my pancreas produce more insulin. And then about a year ago, that stopped working, and somehow my kidneys started to shut down. I ended up in the hospital, and fortunately I didn’t end up on dialysis, but was pretty close. However, all I could remember was the nurse who kept making comments about how I was lucky that I didn’t have to go through dialysis, giving off the impression that somehow this was my fault. You know, the claims of you didn’t take care of yourself well enough, you ate badly, and your not checking your blood enough to maintain your sugar levels. Almost every conversation with her was like hearing how I would now have to be doing something different, and it was now on me to make things better. The fact that I was watching what I was eating and running/biking didn’t seem to make a difference. Again, it was all my fault.
After I got out of the hospital, they decided that the old way of maintaining my sugar levels hadn’t been working, so they put me on insulin, something I used to equate to “you’re going to die very soon after that, Duane.” I’d seen it happen with both my grandfather and my mother. Once they got put on insulin, it was only a matter of time before everything fell apart and they died. Everyone kept saying, this is 2012 (at least when they said it), and not the 1970s; medicine has come a long way. People live long, productive lives with diabetes.
Well, one of the problems of taking insulin, at least for me, is that my weight shot up big time. It’s been on an upwards trajectory that I can’t seem to stop. I’m not talking a few pounds here and there. I’m talking a trajectory that has increased my current weight to a level that my body has NEVER reached before, even in a short period after I got out of the Army and let my body go completely to waste (before wising up and getting back into physical shape). The problem is: It’s not stopping.
One of the problems that’s emerged is bloating of my limbs, which makes it so much more difficult for me to walk (and obviously, run). I have trouble putting on my shoes every morning because my feet have gotten so bloated that my shoes rarely fit, and I have to force my feet into my shoes, until my feet settle down and my shoes begin to feel a lot more comfortable for the day.
My usual response to this sort of thing has been exercise, which I attempted to do, but here’s one of those things they don’t tell you about. I just don’t have the energy. I tried going running a few weeks ago, and I didn’t make it steps before my body practically just conked out on me. So, I tried doing walking instead, and let’s just say that I’m running into some complications with that as well. Last week, I decided to walk two miles (basically taking the sidewalk around the complex where I live and down the street before coming to the back exit of where I live). On Monday, it was tough, but at the end of it, I felt pretty good. Exhausted, but good. I gave it a few days and then decided to go for the same walk on Friday. I made it about 1/3 of the way before I hit a wall that I’d never experienced before. I couldn’t walk another step. I realized I wasn’t going to make the trip, so I tried to turn back around and walk home. In only a few steps, I felt like I was drunk on a night full of tequila, except I wasn’t getting the enjoyable feeling you get when you’re drunk on tequila. I just couldn’t walk straight. I’d go a few feet and start to fall down.
I made it back to the housing complex, but still had about half a mile to go to my apartment. I couldn’t move. I fell down on the grass and just laid there. After some time, a nice woman in a truck drove by and asked if I was drunk. I tried to explain what happened, which was probably a lot like some drunk trying to explain the preamble to the Constitution. After awhile, she probably figured I wasn’t some guy she had to fear, as I couldn’t even stand up, so she drove me home. I stumbled up my stairs and then into my apartment, collapsing on my couch, waking up early Saturday morning around 1:30 in the morning.
My solution to this sort of problem exists already in my apartment. I bought a treadmill some months back and have used it a couple of times. If I used it regularly, I wouldn’t even have to leave the house. But it appears I bought the one brand of treadmill designed by Loki because even on the manual mode, I’ll walk for about two minutes or so and then suddenly it will start to speed up. In seconds, it will be at a speed so fast that I can’t even keep up. Again, this is MANUAL mode. Then it might slow down to a point that is like watching a slow motion runner going even slower than physically possible. Again, another one of those frustrating things that could have been such a great solution.
But back to diabetes. The worst problem is that I have two doctors I see who don’t seem to care. Oh, they care, but they care about things that are relevant to other issues. Like, they care about my blood sugars. As long as they’re normal, they seem to think we’re on the right track. Sure, my blood sugars are normal, but I’m not. My blood sugar is great, but my body is falling completely apart. At this rate, I suspect I won’t survive the year. That’s not hyperbole; that’s rationalization. I’ve always been somewhat of a rational kind of guy.
But that’s my tale of diabetes I wanted to share with you. I figure most people have read the first lines of this article and just went onto the next one, and I understand. Unfortunately, I can’t move on; I’m sort of stuck here.