Friday, November 18, 2011

Oh, I’m Also a Diabetic!

(This segment pertains to events that took place in 2007.) 
As you have already discovered, I have had my share of medical challenges since 2000. For someone who was relatively healthy before that time, I have more than made up for it since with not only my cancer diagnosis but being told I have asthma and finally diabetes. I call it the winning trio. Three potentially deadly diseases. How lucky could I be? 
Cancer diagnosis - 2000. Asthma - 2002. And now, in early 2007, I learn I have type 2 diabetes. Not a total surprise considering it runs on both sides of my family. My Mom was an insulin dependent type 2 diabetic. I learned that Gary had been dealing with it for years and Michael was finally diagnosed in 2010. Of my Mom’s two sisters, one also had the disease and of her three brothers, I now that two had it as well. My Dad’s sister was also a diabetic. I have no idea how many of my cousins are affected, but I know it runs high throughout my family tree. 
However, I was still shocked by those words and by the diagnosis. My A1C was 9.2 and I was weighing in at approximately 186 pounds. (A1C is also known as glycosylated hemoglobin and reflects the average blood sugar or glucose levels in the body over a two to three months period of time.)  I immediately began diabetic classes where I learned about things like portion control and how to take my own glucose readings. It was a process I took very seriously. In fact, I believe I was scared to death by the idea that I now had this third major medical problem. Fortunately, I was already working out at the YMCA, so I stepped up my regimen. And, a year later, I was weighing in 50 pounds less. 
I took portion control to heart, literally. I now understood that a lot of the food I was eating (especially at area restaurants) ... the portions were way too large. A single plate had enough food on it for three or more servings. So, I began to take home doggy bags. I began to eat smaller servings. I learned to share meals at restaurants. And, my at- home plate looked much healthier. I cut back on the servings of carbs (the pastas, rice, sweets) and loaded up instead on healthier options and better proteins. That 50 pound weight loss was incredible.  My A1C was now at a non-diabetic level (less than 6) and I was able to now control my diabetes with only exercise and diet. I was taken off the oral medication after only six months since my glucose levels dropped so low. I finally had one health challenge that I could actually take control of on my own without any medication. That was huge in my book. Being able to control my diabetes by exercise and diet alone may not be easy, but I realize that in the long run, it is worth the energy.
Every doctor commended me for my success. My cardiologist was thrilled. My pulmonary doctor was able to remove me off of one of my inhalers since my asthma was coming under better control as a result of the weight loss. My oncologist was happy with the results as well. All aspects of my life improved as the weight loss continued and my blood glucose levels balanced. I was now happy that I had diabetes. It had made such a significant difference in my life. Having to think more consciously about my diet, having to make better choices. Needing to watch my intake of carbs and knowing that if I did exercise, I could not only control my numbers but watch the pounds come off. The combination of exercise and diet did work -- I had proven it. And, I never did do an actual diet.  My biggest change was portion control. I continued to eat my favorite foods, but did so in moderation. I learned to eat smaller portions of food and enjoy each and every bite of my favorites. I learned to eat chocolate in a healthier way. I could still indulge, but I had to do so in a healthy way. I realized that I simply needed the chocolate taste, so one small bite could suffice instead of the entire huge slice of cake or pie. Sharing was a wonderful option for dessert. I also learned that I could still enjoy iced tea, just not sweetened ice tea -- unless I used an artificial sweetener.

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