Monthly Archives: May 2015

I’ve been coming to grips with my diabetes for over ten years now. I enlisted the aid of my doctor and dieticians but ultimately I know the major contributor to how well I cope with diabetes is me! Coping with diabetes has primarily meant changing ingrained poor nutrition habits. I know for a fact I have been guilty of skipping breakfast. But lesson number one as a diabetes is that you must have at least three balanced meals a day. Breakfast is probably the most important one of all. I appreciated the advice of one nurse. She told me to make sure I switch from hot breakfasts to cold breakfast every other day. This in her words sometimes can allow you to ‘trick’ your metabolism into working a little harder for you. It also will stop you from becoming bored with the same old bacon and eggs everyday. I’m finding this is making me look forward to breakfast a little more.

Aside from this, there are some things that I am learning to do for myself. You’ve probably heard these cliches before but in the case of a diabetic they really apply.

Care About Yourself First
Sometimes we as diabetics may have other family members to care for or just other responsibilities to manage. With diabetic education, I’ve learned that all these must take a back seat to your maintaining your diabetes or keeping it under control. So get breakfast ready for the family but make sure you sit down and eat a well balanced breakfast before or with your family. I’m finding I really have to change my mindset. I’m not naturally prone to the me-first way of doing things but when it comes to diabetes, and when you see all of the damage it can do to you, the me-first attitude is a little easier to apply in your life.

Take a Walk
Walking has amazing benefits to the diabetic. Not only do you get the cardiovascular benefits but you also
derive benefits to your mental health as well. My doctor recommends a brisk walk for 15 to 30 minutes a day. She says this also will help keep my blood sugar levels down. I’ve been trying to go for a walk around the neighborhood or in a park to drink up the beautiful scenery in my part of the county. So diabetic, do take a walk!

See your doctor regularly
I mistakenly thought I could manage my diabetes on my own once I knew exactly what I had to do. I couldn’t have been wronger. Usually, doctors schedule quarterly visits as follow-ups to diabetic patients. This is to monitor how well you are managing your diabetes. They will check your feet as well as getting blood samples to test the recession or progression of the diabetes. This is critical. You may be feeling just fine but your diabetes could be out of control. So making my doctor appointments is one way I cope with my diabetes.

Join a support group
I recently joined a support group of diabetics and this has proved awesome also. We’ve shared recipes and other methods of controlling our diabetes. Groups like these are plentiful on the internet. In summary, common and simple control procedures will really help to manage and treat this medical condition. Educate yourself and feel better today and in the future.

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August, 1963

I can remember sitting in church on Sunday with the pastor speaking about the “Water of Life”. All I could think about was my own dry mouth and thirst. A day before I found out I had diabetes I went to Knott’s Berry Farm in California where I was living at the time. I bought three peppermint sticks and ate all three of them. The next day I had a doctor appointment to find out the reason for my thirst and itching. I will always remember when I was first told that I had diabetes. I was 17 years old.

I was admitted to a hospital and stayed for three days. I didn’t mind being in the hospital. I liked being waited on. Then I was sent home with very little training or education on diabetes. When I got home I was very nervous and scared trying to give myself insulin shots. I thought to myself “I am not going to be able to do this”. I went back to the doctor and told him I just couldn’t give myself shots. Now, I really liked this doctor. He was very kind, plus young and good looking! So he said we would just try insulin pills.

That worked for a few years. I was pretty good at being careful about what I ate. Then I started a friendship with twin girls from my church. They were my age and both were diabetics on insulin shots. For some reason they ate everything I was supposed to stay away from. So guess what? I thought if they can eat everything they wanted, so could I. My biggest downfall was eating apple fritters. They were sweet, warm, and greasy and oh so good! Boy did I ever love them! I don’t touch them now.

Then the doctor that I loved so much had to go into the Army and was sent to Vietnam. My next doctor was old and mean. Needless to say, I didn’t like him and stayed away as much as possible. Not a good plan for my health. I just kept on eating, thinking it would be o.k. Finally I had to go in for an appointment, as I was getting very thin. He put me back in the hospital and I was put back on insulin shots. I was very fortunate. There was a nurse instructor from a local college training her students on how to give shots. She taught me at the same time. After that it got easier. A little training helped a lot.

I didn’t stay long with the mean doctor. I’ve learned over the years that it helps a patient a lot to at least “like” their doctor. From then on I always watched my blood sugar and tried to keep it from going too high. I knew that if I didn’t, it would kill me.

As I grew older, it did get harder to control my blood sugar. It seemed the more I tried to keep it in the normal range, the more difficult it became and I often got in trouble. I had many episodes of low, low blood sugar. One night I drank two beers. I’m not sure what I ate or even if I ate, but I took extra insulin. I figured that was the best thing to do. It wasn’t. The next morning I was totally out of it. It was actually like being drugged, or drunk and dazed. I could walk, but my mind was totally off. Luckily I ate something and eventually I was o.k. again.

Another time in the evening after dinner, I had fallen asleep and felt fine. At least I thought I was fine. I found the next day I had vomited in my bedroom on the window. I didn’t remember doing it.

Another bad reaction I had early one morning after I woke up. This time my mind was working o.k., but I couldn’t make my body do what it was supposed to do. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t move my limbs at all. I kept hitting myself with my arms and the back of my heels were rubbed raw from pressing into the mattress. I did remember that I had a little box of raisins laying on the coffee table in the living room. I knew that would help me, but how could I get there when I couldn’t walk? I decided to roll out of bed and I somehow rolled to the coffee table in the living room. The raisins did the trick and in a short time I was back to “normal”. That episode really scared me as I had been really trying hard to control my blood sugars.

About that time I was beginning to hear about insulin pumps and glucose meters. First I got a glucose meter. That definitely helped me. Eventually I saw a doctor about getting an insulin pump. I hit it off with that doctor immediately. That was over 20 years ago and he is still my doctor. At that time the insurance companies would approve a six day hospital stay in order to be trained on a pump. Today, the training is minimal, just a few hours in person and on the phone. I would love to be trained during a hospital stay on a new up-to-date pump while everything is being monitored. Since my memory is not very good, I am very apprehensive about learning to use a new and technically complicated insulin pump.

I have learned over the years that checking my blood regularly is the best way to keep my blood sugar in the normal range. The older I get, the more often I need to check it. I would love to be able to go back to checking it 4 or 5 times a day instead of 9 to 10 times. When I don’t feel good, I check it even more.

To everyone reading this who is trying to cope with diabetes, I can’t stress enough that checking your blood sugar and keeping it in the normal range is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Before I started checking my blood frequently, I did have some bad reactions when my blood sugar dropped low. One Easter Sunday I went out for breakfast after I went to a sunrise service and I must have eaten way too much sugary food. When I checked my blood before lunch it had gone up to over 500. I never had my blood sugar that high before. I remember taking 5 units of insulin and didn’t eat any lunch. Then I did my normal two mile walk, which I do daily. I then took a nap (bad idea). I woke up not know much of anything. My mind was pretty much gone. I recognized where I was (in my house), but I was unable to think of what to do for myself. This went on for a few hours. I still don’t know what happened and what brought me around, but slowly my mind came back and I was able to think. The next time I saw my doctor, I told him what happened and he said that the liver kicks in and produces glucose. I was so happy to learn that. We are so wonderfully made!

Sunday seems to be the day I need to really be careful, because I usually take a nap, and sometimes forget to check my blood before I lay down. I did have another similar episode, but my blood sugar hadn’t dropped as low as the previous episode, or at least that’s what I think. I was going to go out and get something to eat around 4:50 or 5:00 p.m. I couldn’t find my shoes. Now my shoes aren’t usually hard to find because I have at least 12 pairs in my closet. Also, a few are usually out of the closet near my bed. I remember seeing a piece of candy on the nightstand and instinctively I picked it up and ate it. That brought me back to awareness. I recommend if you are diabetic to leave a few pieces of hard candy laying around your house just in case you have a similar episode.

It’s rare now for me to test my blood less than 9 or 10 times a day. I never considered taking insulin a big problem for me. The hardest thing about being a diabetic, Type 1 or Type 2, is eating the right food. Wearing a pump has given me a lot more freedom where my food intake is concerned. I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes over time, but I focus on keeping my blood sugar in the normal range. This is the key to managing your diabetes. In the past I never wanted to tell people that I am a diabetic, because I was sure I could always take care of myself and I didn’t want to depend on others for help. My eyes were opened one day when my phone rang and I was having an insulin reaction. I was struggling to communicate with the caller. She didn’t know it. Later I realized that I should tell people that I know how they can help me when I am having a diabetic problem. Not being able to speak properly is a good indication of low blood sugar. When my brain is not functioning, I need to be told (authoritatively) to eat or drink something, anything that will raise my blood sugar. If you take the time to educate the people around you, they will be more prepared to help you. Quite often they will say they don’t know if my blood is “high” or “low” and therefore don’t know what to do. Almost always, when a diabetic is having trouble speaking, their blood sugar is low.

No day is the same for a diabetic. Blood sugar can drop suddenly and catch me unaware. If your food intake is different and your physical movement is different, then your insulin intake also has to be different. My life is like walking the rails on a railroad track, trying to balance myself with my arms stretched out. You can do this for awhile, but eventually you will slip and fall to one side. Some signs of low blood sugar in a diabetic:

Slurred speech
Can’t answer questions
Can’t speak well
Can’t walk well
Sweating
Confusion

Overall, the best thing a diabetic can do to protect their health is be careful not to overeat and to check your blood regularly. It’s not that hard! You get a little prick and it takes a few minutes. Big deal! I’m alive today because of that. Plus most of the time I feel good! I have a full time job. I’m 65 now. It’s been almost 48 years since I found out I have diabetes. Life is still good!

I was born and raised in rural Minnesota with 5 brothers and sisters. It was a small Dutch community where everybody knew everybody else and all of their business too! It was a happy childhood growing up in the fifties. Life was simpler then and our values were basic. I hope you enjoy my short life story about diabetes. If you have diabetes, I hope you can learn from it too.

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