The Beginning of a Diabetes Life
Trying to find balance and answers after a chaotic diagnosis.
By Kathryn Foss
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!
July 2008 — I didn't speak any Vietnamese, and my doctor's English was tenuous at best, so with both of us speaking bad Norwegian, I managed to pick up that I had diabetes. I hadn't been feeling well and I had some blood work done the previous week. Two days earlier, his assistant had called my mobile phone and said, "Your blood work looks fine - EXCEPT, we think you may have diabetes! Can you come in and see the doctor?"
I was in total shock. How had this happened? I immediately googled ‘type 2 diabetes' and became even more convinced that this was a wrong diagnosis. I didn't fit the stereotype. I was not obese. I was fairly active. I ate a good diet. I was not in one of the ethnic groups that tended towards diabetes. My cholesterol levels were perfect.
I already disliked my doctor, so it was no giant step for me to start believing he was wrong. But two hours after a fasting glucose test at the hospital my blood sugar tested at 240, way above normal and comfortably in the ‘we're going to diagnose you with type 2 diabetes' range.
I was gutted. I couldn't believe it. I was a diabetic. A person with diabetes. Insulin challenged. Whatever you want to call it, I was it.
I went on a self-hatred spiral and was convinced that my fifteen-pound weight gain was the cause of the diabetes. I was angry and confused and called myself things like fat, ugly and lazy, none of which were true. Thankfully (because I get bored easily), after about two weeks of feeling sorry for myself, I cancelled my pity party and got back to living.
Restored to my feisty self, I went back to the aforementioned disliked doctor. He had prescribed a strong drug called Amaryl that was causing my blood sugar to plummet and making it hard for me to work. At the time I was working as a barista at a fast paced coffee shop and I would get so shaky that I would drop glasses and had trouble standing up, much less making coffee. I would have to sit down and drink or eat anything I could get my hands on just to get my blood sugar back up! To top it off, I had also done some research, a la Google, and found several warnings that this particular drug really shouldn't be taken if you are taking beta blockers, which I was. This doctor knew that and prescribed the drug anyway. Armed with my facts, and in my blunt Norwegian, I laid them out.
He exploded. He was the doctor, not me. If I wanted to give him my opinion, I needed to go to medical school for seven years. In regards to my symptoms, he told my husband I was a liar, that my problem was not diabetes, but a cry for attention. I just needed to sit my husband down and say "I need you to listen to me." Oh, and I also needed to invite some girlfriends over and spend more time cooking.
I looked around for the hidden cameras. This was so ridiculous it had to be some sort of a joke. Some awkward silence passed and then I thought, "Um, yeah … I'm going to be needing my medical records."
I promptly found a new doctor who apologized profusely for the other doctor and assured me that I wasn't a liar or an emotional diabetic who needed her husband to listen to her. He told me I could cook more if I wanted to, but that would hardly cure my diabetes. And with that out of the way, we got down to the business of taking care of ME.
A few tests later, we discovered that, basically, I am a genetic diabetic. It's just in my genes. And so, with the mystery of ‘how' solved, my journey began. My new doctor started me off on 1000 mg of Metformin a day and gave me basic guidelines for a good diet to follow. I still felt a little on my own, as all of the diabetes education classes were in Norwegian, and my fledgling Norwegian was nowhere near strong enough to follow along. So, the internet, and the wealth of knowledge it contained, became my best friend.
The last three years have been quite challenging. I wish I could say that I had it all figured out and that I was a superstar diabetic, but the fact remains, that at the end of the day, this disease is HARD. It is constant and it requires patience and consistency. Some days I am the master of it and other days it totally kicks my ass. I have to take it day-by-day and meal-by-meal, but I am a fighter and I am determined to figure this whole diabetes thing out. In the end, one of us is going to win, and if were I a betting girl, I wouldn't bet on the diabetes.
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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