The Road From Acceptance to Joy
A change in lifestyle can be a small price to pay for good health
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
October 2008 — Soon it will be six years since I heard my primary care physician say: "I am sorry, but you have diabetes." Recently, I have been thinking again about that day and how I came to accept the fact that I have diabetes.
My remembrance started with a comment by Kathleen Satterfield, a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, that I read not too long ago. She commented that some Hispanic-American patients "have seen what diabetes can do and they do not want to admit that they have it because that would mean a change in lifestyle."
The first reaction
Type 2 diabetes runs in my dad's side of the family and, prior to my diagnosis, my eating habits were terrible. Still, I wasn't prepared to hear I had the big D. My first reaction was to immediately work on losing weight. I dropped over 40 pounds in two months, which I have managed to keep off. I also signed up to run a half-marathon to help raise funds for diabetes.
My doctor thought I had type 2 diabetes, so I was on oral drugs as part of my treatment while I was training for the race. A few weeks after I crossed the finish line, reality sunk in: my oral meds weren't cutting it. I couldn't keep my blood sugar level below 150, so I was referred to an endocrinologist.
After some blood work, I turned out to have in me the same antibodies that are responsible for the destruction of the cells that produce insulin, resulting in type 1 diabetes. Since that day I became insulin dependent: I had what is now known as LADA.
Dealing with it
Hearing the word "diabetes" when I was first diagnosed was hard. However, I took it upon me to read and learn as much as I could about my body and what I could do to help it. It was humbling to rediscover how perfect the human body is and realizing once more how much we take it for granted when all is working well with it.
The biggest challenge for me came when I had to start taking insulin shots. The concept of injecting something in my body so I could stay alive didn't seem all too appealing to me. Later, when I first saw children taking insulin shots, I realized that I was just being a big crybaby.
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Many people say that depression is a side effect or complication of diabetes. Without discounting the association of the psychological condition with the physical one, I'm not convinced that our high and/or unstable glucose levels are directly responsible for that change in our mental state. My belief is that the unrelenting need for self-care, for following the sort of care schedules that can drive licensed, professional caregivers crazy, is what overwhelms us...