November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and today, November 14, is World Diabetes Day. In the past, I didn't give diabetes much thought. It was a disease that both of my grandfathers had to deal with, and I knew that there was a chance that I might get it at some point in my life, but I didn't think about it beyond that. My Pap became a type 2 diabetic in his 70s, and though he had a sweet tooth, he dealt with it with a lot of grace, never complaining about it. Bebop, my other grandfather, developed type 2 diabetes in his 50s. He did not have a very good diet, and was somewhat overweight. He had contracted polio as a baby, and he lost the use of his right leg at age 1. I remember Bebop needing insulin shots, and he even showed us, his grandkids, how to give him his shots. He had a stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body in his 60s, and, as I've documented here on the blog, he and my grandmother were killed in a car accident in 1987, an accident I almost died in, too.
I knew that I might be susceptible to diabetes since both of grandfathers had it, but it was far from my mind throughout my young adult years. I was as thin as a rail until my mid-20s, and then I started to fill out. I didn't eat very well. I ate out a lot, and aside from a few years before I met my wife, I didn't watch my weight. But I was never overweight. Over the last few years, though, due to stress from work and after several years of depression following my wife's death, I found myself becoming more and more unhealthy. Three years ago, I started having heart issues. Hypertension lead to high blood pressure. I didn't know it was happening, though.
One afternoon, while sitting in a meeting at work, I had a severe, intense headache. It was so bad, I could barely keep my eyes open. It was just killing me. I was convinced it was being caused by allergies, or a sinus infection. I went home and basically collapsed on the couch. My parents had come over to pick up my daughter, since she didn't have school the next day and would be staying with them while I went to work. They were worried about me. I was miserable. They talked me into getting an appointment with my doctor for the next day, and I did. The first thing he did was check my blood pressure, and he told me it was extremely high. After checking me out, he told me to try to see a cardiologist right away. He even gave me a prescription for nitro because he was worried I might be at risk for a heart attack. This news scared me a lot, and I called the cardiologist he recommended. They were literally 10 minutes down the road, and said they could see me immediately. I rushed over and they took me in. The nurse took an EKG, which showed some abnormalities. The doctor came in to see me just as I started getting more and more sick. My headache had gotten worse, too, and I was sweating like crazy. I felt like I was going to collapse. My heart was pounding. The doctor got worried and called in a nurse. He stepped out and it was at that moment that I ran over to a trash can and threw up. I leaned back on the examining table and felt relieved, but I was also close to passing out. I was soaked in sweat, and the nurse said I was as pale as a sheet. They said they wanted me to go over to a nearby hospital for an ultrasound to check for blockages, and they asked if there was a family member they could call. My father wasn't too far away, so they called him for me. He arrived within 15 minutes, and they sent me over to the hospital. Dad was really worried about me. I was feeling a lot better, just a bit lightheaded. The cardiologist had given me a few prescriptions for high blood pressure, but they said they would re-evaluate if the ultrasound showed I had any blockages. I was very happy when they finished and told me everything looked fine.
So I was cleared to head home, and I was able to get a follow-up appointment for the following week. Dad took me back to get my car, and I headed home. I had to make some pretty quick lifestyle changes, and meds helped bring my heart back into the normal range. While I'm still not back to normal, my blood pressure is normal, thanks to the meds.
Over the next few months, though, I started to have additional problems. I was having severe sleep issues, and I couldn't keep my head straight. I was having trouble concentrating on work. I was fatigued all the time. I was confused. I had intense thirst and I didn't know why. And because I was drinking all the time, I had frequent urination, too. I was headed to the restroom three or four times every hour. And I had no idea what was wrong with me. I called my doctor and set up an appointment for a Saturday morning.
That Friday, we celebrated my brother's birthday with our family. His girlfriend made a great meal, with huge steamed shrimp. In addition, we had some delicious birthday cake, and I was given a huge helping. It was a fun time. I headed home that night knowing that I had an appointment for the next morning, and I hoped I would get a good night's sleep. The next morning, I went to the doctor. I shared with him my symptoms, and he said, almost right away, that it sounded like diabetes. He asked for a urine sample (no problem!), and it showed a pretty high glucose level. They took blood and he told me he'd let me know what they find out. The lab that received my blood sample did their test and discovered that I had very high blood-sugar, so high that they called my doctor on Sunday, his day off, to let him know. My doctor was worried, and called me Sunday evening to let me know he needed to see me as soon as possible the next morning, Monday. I went to see him and he showed me the results of the blood work. My blood-sugar number was 750. Normal is anything under 125. He said he had never seen anyone with numbers that high. He checked it again that morning, and it was at a better 320, but still very high. I was really scared, because I really didn't understand it all, but I knew if my doctor was worried, I should be, too. He gave me a bunch of meds, including insulin that I would have to inject each day. It was at that point I realized how serious this was. I was 42 and I was already needing insulin shots, something my grandfather, Bebop, didn't need for 10 years after me.
So here I was, suffering from both high blood pressure and now diabetes. I was in bad shape! I was in the worst shape of my life! I dramatically changed my diet, and after a year on insulin, my doctor took me off of it, and my blood-sugar numbers are right around 100 pretty consistently. This made me happy, since my doctor was happy. I wish I hadn't allowed my body to get this far out of sync. I realized I needed to get myself back to normal, and this was a great start. It has now been another year since then, and I'm still doing well. Diabetes can be a scary thing, but it can actually be controlled, and I hope that I can stay somewhat healthy. I also told my daughter that due to the education that I've received regarding the diabetes, we would try to do everything we could to prevent her from getting it.
So please, readers, be aware of diabetes, be careful, take care of yourself, exercise, and see your doctor if you develop any symptoms. Please remember any family or friends you my have in your life that have type 2 diabetes. In the meantime, I'm going to bed.
Have a great evening, everybody!