Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Changes

This year has been about change. Life is always changing, but this year things have been turned on their head more drastically than any other time except for the other real biggies-getting married and having my children. This year I broke my arm-alerting me to the osteoporosis that I didn't know had started to develop. Several months later, I needed surgery and they discovered I've begun developing type 2 diabetes. That's a total life-changer. While still getting my head around that, we moved in with friends. I'm feeling a need to sort through it all in my head and I do that best by writing about it.

I've been researching the subject and finding that they don't, in fact, really know what to do. The literature seems to assume people won't do the diet, exercise and weight loss that's needed to perhaps avoid needing medication, at least for a long time, and to avoid the nasty complications of the disease. It's a progressive disease and, like every other physical process, your body's ability to produce/use insulin gets worse as you age. it's likely that even if you manage it for a long time without medication, eventually you may need it. But some doctors say they always prescribe medication, just in case you don't do what you're supposed to do. They figure they can always stop the medication.

But it seems to me that sets you up to fail. Plus, using the medication alters your numbers, so you really don't know what they would be if you didn't take the medication. Everyone is a bit different, so you have to tweak their advice based on your own body's reaction to what you eat and how much you exercise. When I was in the hospital, the doctors said I'd just begun to develop it, so they recommended I start with diet and exercise and losing weight.

To that end, I'm monitoring my blood sugars to start to figure out my body's pattern. I'm following the carb counting diet recommended by the dietician. I'm using Weight Watchers to keep track of appropriate portion sizes. And I'm walking the track every morning. I can do a mile. I could walk farther, but my post-surgery abdominal muscles aren't up to it yet. I'm hoping to build back up to walking an hour and aiming for at least 3 miles. None of that is especially difficult. It's doing all that stuff every day, all the time, that can burn you out.  Keeping accurate records is hard for me because it's tedious and time-consuming and I get bored and don't want to do it. But without the records, I'd have no idea what's working and what isn't.

The hardest part is the feeling that I'm pretty much on my own due to our broken health care system. I haven't yet seen a doctor about the diabetes, although I'm in the middle of the diabetes education classes. In order to see a doctor, I had to get the business/insurance stuff dealt with first and that took much longer than it should have. That's finally done and I'm calling this morning to make an appointment.

The blessing is that the woman we moved in with has had type 2 diabetes for years and she's been super helpful as I've started to learn how to live with this disease. She knows so much, but she waits for me to ask her for help because she knows I need to be ready to hear what she's learned. It's not just a physical disease. It affects you mentally and emotionally, too.

I think the hardest thing for me mentally and emotionally is that I knew it was in my family history, so I've always tried to exercise regularly and eat healthy food. I've not been able to sustain weight loss because of the emotional eating, but I can't just give up and quit  because of past failures. I've learned a lot from those failures and hope putting what I've learned to good use will help.

However, in the long run, the weight and the genes won out. I'd like to think I managed to stay healthy until I was almost 60 because of my attention to my health, but who knows? My grandfather's family has a lot of people with diabetes in it, including him. My aunt also had it. She died of kidney failure. She seemed to do less of what she needed to do as time went on, which was probably burnout. That's the lesson I'm taking. I'm not going to pretend it's going to go away or that it's a mistake or that I can ignore it and be OK, somehow. I'd rather be like my grandfather who lived well into his 80s and he was diagnosed much earlier in his life than I have been.