Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My life with diabetes: a year later

It has been exactly one year since my official diabetes diagnosis. It has been quite a trip. And not the all-expenses-paid, room-with a view, drinks-are-included kind of trip. It has been fraught with highs and lows and learning lots of information I didn't really want to have a need to know.

One year ago I felt horribly sick (and was horribly sick), was having paralyzing anxiety attacks and wasn't sure I would be around today to be blogging at all. I felt that bad.

But here I am.

I am thankful for that EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

My diagnosis has put me in very real touch with my mortality. The statistics are depressing. I am 2 to 4 times more likely to die of heart disease than someone without diabetes. I am 2 to 4 times more likely to have a stroke. 60-70% of people with diabetes have some type of nervous system damage. My risk of dying of kidney disease is tripled, my risk of liver cancer is doubled and my statistical chances of having Alzheimer's, COPD, blindness, digestive problems, dental problems and limb amputation are higher than in my non-diabetic peers. Diabetes will easily shave 5-10 years off of my life - if I am fortunate enough to not develop any of the above problems before then.

Awesome. Not exactly the kind of information that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Most of the time I work really hard to not become one of the above statistics. Most days I do pretty well - I make good choices and keep myself pretty healthy. There is some good news for me 365 days after my diagnosis. Even though I am still far from an ideal weight, I have evicted 50 pounds from my body (although pounds 48, 49 and 50 are kind of like boomerang children - they keep coming back when I send them out into the world). I have gone from having high blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, liver enzymes and blood sugars to being in the normal range for all of them (except my HDL which still runs a little low despite plenty of red wine and fish oil). Based on my current blood work, you would have no clue I have diabetes. I am off of my diabetes medication and still maintain decent blood sugar levels (most days) and I even exercise once in a blue moon. I have met some cool people through various diabetes activities and forums and I feel A LOT better than I did a year ago.

But despite the positives, the reality is that having diabetes really sucks. I realize it could be worse. I could have complications. I could have the added pressure of dealing with a continuous glucose monitor, insulin injections and hypoglycemic episodes. I could have family and friends that aren't supportive of me. I could have bad doctors and/or no access to the information I need to keep myself as healthy as possible. I could have bad lab results despite a real effort to keep my numbers under control.

But it still sucks.

I don't put a single thing in my mouth without thinking about how it will affect my blood sugar (I admit it doesn't always stop me from making bad choices, but I still think about it). I seem to have a very low tolerance for carbohydrates. Without a highly functioning pancreas or the benefit of insulin injections I can't enjoy foods that should be relatively guilt free (think nice juicy apples, fruit salad, low-fat yogurt, carrots, a warm piece of freshly baked whole grain bread) much less Girl Scout cookies, a loaded baked potato, a piece of apple pie or a serving of lasagna with breadsticks without seeing a blood sugar number that is too high. all fairness, I can drink water and eat broccoli - and I actually like broccoli - without guilt or deleterious effects, but really!?!?! Broccoli!?!?!

I have a whole new level of guilt when I can't get my butt up to exercise or I don't feel like tacking that extra few minutes onto my treadmill time. I can work myself into a tizzy if I think about not having the opportunity to see my kids grow up or be around when my husband retires someday (I mean who else will make him long for the working days if I am not around to drive him crazy?). It is difficult to eat out and no fun to fix two meals to accommodate my and my family's dietary needs. It is tiring to explain to others why and what I should be eating and I get cranky when I have to avoid most things on a table full of yummy food when I am a guest at other people's houses.

And it really is hard for me to go it (virtually) alone. Not many of the people in my close circle of family and friends have to deal with diabetes (fortunately) and therefore aren't bogged down in the details. Nor should they be. But as a person who likes to discuss, re-discuss and discuss things again, it is hard to have only a virtual sounding board in the form of online forums.

So where does this leave me a year later?

A year older. A year wiser. A year healthier. And 365 times more thankful for my life than I was a year ago.

But, damn...diabetes still sucks.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why do I waste brain power on these things?

The Duggar family of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting fame will soon be 20 Kids and Counting. This piece of news (which personally affects no one I know yet has taken up considerable Facebook conversation time for a lot of people I do personally know) has made me wonder why in the hell I care and why it make me a little crazy that Michelle Duggar is going to pop out kid number 20?

It isn't the fact the the Duggars are "whoring" (not my word here. I borrowed) out their kids to make some money on TV. I actually don't have an issue with that. I mean, the kids may be slightly embarrassed by some of their childhood antics as they grow older and you could blame that on the parents, I suppose. But seriously, how many parents don't threaten to show their kid's future spouses embarrassing photos of their childhood? Do these kids have to put up with people in their homes and perform for the cameras and wake up early to shoot "reality"? Yeah, but I don't call that abuse. Inconvenient, maybe, but not abusive in my book. In fact, I am pretty sure the paycheck has provided some nice things for that family and I know there are parents who do far worse things to make a buck to raise their families.

It isn't the fact that they use a whole lot of stuff. I mean, they are Americans, after all, and all of us Americans use far more than our share of the world's natural resources. Think mud hut in Africa if you aren't following me on this one. Just the fact that we use any kind of motorized transportation or electricity of any kind pretty much throws us into the "more than our fair share" category.

It isn't the fact that the older kids have lots of responsibility for the younger ones. Which, let's face it, they do. One mom and dad cannot possibly be there to wipe every tear and doctor every scrape and brush every tooth when there are that many kids in the house. But that is OK with me, too. They all seem to treat each other pretty well. Maybe it isn't "fair"that the older kids are essentially "mom", but we all screw our kids up in one way or another. I figure they can spend their adult lives doing whatever they want. And if the worst thing that happens to them is that they have to care for their younger siblings, they are doing pretty well, really. If you don't believe me, let me tell you a story about a kid who has a hard time opening her eyes all the way due to undeveloped muscles in her eyelids from being kept in the corner of a dark trailer for the first year of life.

I actually do understand all of the above arguments and don't disagree with those who stand on them. But none of those reasons speak to me. But I think I know the one that does.

Michelle is not a young woman. Difficulties associated with pregnancy and childbirth do not decrease as one gets older. The last Duggar pregnancy was fraught with complications and resulted in the birth of a micro-preemie. Mom and baby both survived and are doing well, but it was touch-and-go for quite a while. Does this mean she doesn't have a right to have more kids? No. I had a preemie and a complicated pregnancy and chose to have another child . AFTER consulting with multiple health professionals. Do I know that Michelle hasn't gotten the go ahead from her doctor and been told there is a 0% chance that she will have another complicated pregnancy? No, I don't know that for sure. But I do know that I wouldn't bet the farm on the odds of that happening.

Now to the real issue for me...Michelle and her husband have both said publicly that they will have as many kids "as God sees fit" and that if she keeps getting pregnant, it is God's will.

Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Back up the hockey-team-converted-to-Duggar-family-transport-vehicle bus. If God lets you get pregnant again it is his will to risk your own life and the life of a child and possibly leave your other 19 children motherless? Isn't that kind of like the people who choose not to treat their children for cancer because if it is God's will for them to live, they will live without medical intervention? I may have missed the boat, but it seems to me there was something in that there Bible about free will and choosing to go down one path or the other. Last time I checked, the ability or desire to do something didn't necessarily make it a slam dunk in the what-would-Jesus-do "right" game.

So is it God's will for the Duggars to have 20 kids? Maybe. I missed the memo directly from God on that subject evidently. But the memo I did see (in the form of the most printed book of all time) is that as humans we are given free will and are indeed fallible. We don't always choose the right path, even when we think we are doing God's will. We are sinful. We are broken. We are selfish.

I can't help but wonder if maybe Michelle and Jim Bob aren't just a little swayed by what THEY desire rather than determining what it is that GOD desires. Do I have any clue (much less hard evidence) what it is that God desires for the Duggars as far as their family size goes? Ummmmm, no. But I am pretty sure no one else does either. Maybe they are just a little bit selfish - kind of like the rest of us mere mortals. And doesn't that leave open the possibility that they are making ill-informed decisions and then justifying them in a way that is hard to argue with (i.e. God's will) since no one knows that for sure?

Of course I don't know any of this for sure. But, as always, I have an opinion. That I am definitely not afraid to share. After all, if I can share it, it must be God's will that I blog about it all I want to, right? Argue with that one, people.