A Watery Tale
Dealing with the double duty of diabetes and dehydration.
By Ilene Raymond Rush
August 2008 — It started with exhaustion. Total fatigue. It didn't matter if I slept three or eight hours a night, or stole a short nap at lunch: I was always tired. Draggy at breakfast and droopy at work.
And then came the aches, deep muscle pains that spread down my legs and up my arms, settled in my hips and neck and made the very idea of going to my twice a week Killer Queen exercise class an impossible dream.
I'd heard about these symptoms before – from people much older than I. But, I reasoned, they didn't massively conquer the Killer Queen's exercise class twice a week or watch their carbs as closely as a hawk. And my sugars – the gauge I follow to anticipate or discover trouble -- appeared normal enough.
Doctors said it probably was "something going around". Blood tests at the lab were inconclusive; I was running a low-grade fever and had a bit of inflammation, but nothing high enough to worry about. Eventually, however, one overwhelming verdict emerged: I was seriously, dangerously dehydrated.
"Wow," whistled my internist, who had been pondering my assorted symptoms with a detective's gaze. "You're mighty dry."
This month's column is brought to you by the letter "D" – for diabetes and dehydration.
A large part of the type 2 diabetes experience for me has meant remembering things that I've never actually forgotten.
For example, I know that I shouldn't eat overeat ice cream, but sometimes it's not until the following morning (after a pint of my favorite fudge brickle has mysteriously vanished) that I "remember" why. I know I need to test my blood glucose regularly, but sometimes I conveniently "forget" to take my meter along with me, not wanting to be reminded of how skipping a meal while I'm busy at work might cause my sugars to fall. I know I need to exercise, but on a day that I forget my water bottle on the way to the gym, I don't always head back home to pick it up. And lately, I've been resisting buying the bottled water from the vending machines, trying to save the planet a bit at a time.
About all these things I know better, but sometimes I don't want to know better. Despite my best efforts to squelch it, inside my head there remains a small, stubborn voice that reassures me that I'm still young enough to take the occasional "break" from my type 2 diabetes. That really, there's nothing that wrong.
After all, the voice argues, you look strong. You're pretty healthy. You will survive (key strings here).
Yes, after all these years of dealing with doctors and blood sugars and carb counting, of highs and lows, I'm still capable of - remember the letter "D" - denial.
Home from the doctor's office, I hit the web for more information on dehydration, and soon realized that while the scientific jury sways back and forth on downing the oft-recommended eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day, the common sense experts who keep reminding us to drink up in hot weather or while exercising aren't kidding around.
Not drinking enough water (and adding on a gin or tonic or two as a summer treat; see above for denial) had seriously deprived my body of one of its most vital elements, and my body – in that interesting manner that most people with type 2 diabetes learn again and again – had kept close track and without any subtlety at all, eventually sent me to the ER for an IV of re-hydration.
The good news is that with lots of rest and lots (and lots and lots) of fluids, I will return to my old well-hydrated self.
But for me, my personal summer dry spell is yet another wake up call on how each of us exist in sturdy, yet fragile machines. And on how the basics of good health care are up to us, until we end up flat on our backs in the ER with an IV stuck in our arms, someplace that no one wants to be.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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