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. Okay...in 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.

4 comments:

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

We definitely need another lunch -- all that gabbing and we weren't done!

Yep, diabetes SUCKS ASS. Don't apologize for complaining. Many of your concerns and frustrations are Manoj's. One of his favorite snacks was fruit - in particular, grapes.

That said, I've had a lot of relatives over the years with diabetes who are living/have lived to ripe, old ages. Don't write yourself off just yet.

Yes, the statistics are sobering, but it seems that overall you have tackled this responsibly.

Now, if you can just get through the holidays. Oy vey!

Debi said...

It does suck, Kara. No doubt about it. And I'm only seeing it from the outside--I don't have to live it (at least not yet). Yep, you've got a hell of lot of things to be thankful for...but that doesn't take away the things that suck. And there's no point in pretending it does.

I know I don't know what it's like to live your life--I won't pretend I do. And I know it's not the same as being able to talk to someone who does walk in your shoes, but never forget that I'm always more than happy to listen. Always.

And another thing, my dear, I do hope you're freakin' proud of yourself...you have come so far and worked so hard and made amazing progress!!! I'd be willing to bet most people don't manage what you have in their first year post-diagnosis. Not by a long shot.

One more thing, I love you girl!

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Amanda said...

You've come a long way. You should be proud of the changes you have made in your life.