Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Elephant in the Room

I'm in the beginning stages of the hardest battle I have ever had to face. Late January I went in for a routine blood test and found out I had full-blown diabetes at levels described by my then-PCP as "toxic" and I "must go on meds immediately." By the way, this was a very hard call for her to make. Boo hoo for her.

Two and a half months later, I'm still not able to accept this label. I'm typing this and posting about it because each day it gnaws at me. Because each week I repeat myself and tell someone new about the diagnosis and how much emotional pain I am going through. However, I'm hiding it and only the most avid PillsPress readers will find it. If you do, please type a few words of encouragement.

If this is not the first time you are hearing about my diagnosis, it is because I felt I could trust you enough not to judge me or because I felt you needed to know because we were meeting for a meal. Most have not disappointed me. Some of you have. That gnaws away further at my damaged emotional state.

You see according to the ADA website, diabetes is preventable. It also does not have a cure. They recommend checking your risk factors to make sure you don't get this dreaded disease. Gee thanks. I had two risk factors out of 10: age and family history. That's it. Neither of which I could change.

I'm not your face of the typical diabetic. I cringe when I read posts on friend's FB pages or off-hand comments about them eating so much junk they are "diabetes just waiting to happen." Gee, is that what you think of me? I run, I eat lots of wholesome grains (or rather ate lots of wholesome grains), my weight is good (or was until I started losing so much), everything the ADA says to prevent diabetes I was doing naturally (drink black tea, stay away from alcohol, eat lots of veggies, etc.). 

So how did my A1C suddenly become an 8.0 when the year before my non-fasting BS was 108?

The first nutritionist said my trying to go vegetarian probably put me over the edge. My sister said her diagnosis came 6 months after she quit smoking. Sounds like the advice is to live life to the fullest until your doctor tells you otherwise.

I've significantly cut grains and sugars from my diet. This is really hard for this omnivore like me to do. I've added fish, eggs, and much more cheese, and I'm working on adding fats back into the diet in non-sugary ways since I keep losing weight. The early advice given was "don't lose weight." Quite a challenge when you eliminate grains and sugars. What is left? Cucumbers and celery -- which are all water. 

* The diagnosis came days before Fat Tuesday -- could not face pancake dinners
* Someone sent me an edible arrangement of fruit dipped in chocolate -- the week after the diagnosis. I gave it away with tears in my eyes.
* Having salad as everyone around me eats pizza or pasta.
* Narrowing down menu selections to one or two options because the rest are just filled with carbs.
* The escalating grocery bill (meat and veggies are much more expensive than pasta and spaghetti sauce).
* Eating 5-6 meals a day (eating every 2-4 hours to keep levels stable), and planning for those meals.
* Every time I eat I am pairing a carb with a protein -- while still trying to not have many grains. I'm sorely lacking in variety. I'd love to just grab a banana and go, but the banana has too many carbs and no protein, so a banana (perhaps the greatest on the go food) is now a sit down meal when paired with PB, and stick to only half of that banana, thank you very much.
* Feeling worthless because I allowed myself to get a preventable disease without even trying.
* Hearing about friends/relatives/selves who just lost 100 pounds and got off of all of their meds. I'd weigh less than Ashley if I "only" lost 100 pounds. I'm trying to stay off of meds.
* Being at a social event and only seeing carbs -- maybe all of the drinks are soda and alcohol, or the food is all carbs because that is what Americans eat.
* Being at a meeting where someone brings the most delectable brownie ever from the new bakery and being the only one not eating it because of this diagnosis, and because I don't know how to pair a protein with it at that moment. Do I spoil the mood of the unsuspecting person by telling her WHY I am not eating her treat that everyone else is drooling over or do I run out of the room screaming because every pore in my body wants that treat, but I know the pancreas pores would scream if I had it? So I sit there quietly pretending to be some saint and probably hurting the woman's feelings anyway. 
*Turning down an invitation to a dessert party because I know I can't handle being in the room while everyone else is devouring the treats.

I thought the hard part would be giving up ice cream. The weight watchers slogan "nothing tastes as good as feeling thin" keeps coming to mind. I like that I've lost a few of those pounds that had been clinging to my calves (and preventing me from zipping up boots) and to my extra chin. 

Another positive, my run times were getting faster and stronger. I feel more motivated to run because it kicks out my feelings of worthlessness.

I still look longingly at pastries, and menu options I can't choose. I look at carb counts on labels and wonder if it is worth it. I eat with friends on similar "diets," who use seeing me as an excuse for a "cheat day." No "cheat days" in my life right now.

The sister who is diabetic firmly believes we have MODY version. This is strictly related to genetics (which would eliminate the guilt factor), but cannot go away with diet. The pancreas will not heal itself. Hers responds very well to the Paleo Diet. Mine seems to, but I can't quite give up a 1/2 cup or rice at dinner or my square of chocolate. She told me which meds work for her and which ones don't. I suspect Doctor #1 would have put me on one that would not work for me and then I'd feel even worse than I do right now.

So, what does my future hold? I'm trying to be strict for this four month period (my doctor gave me an extra month on the three month test to get my diet in order). I take the A1C and a flurry of other tests (such as a scary one to see if I am really Type 1 instead of Type 2), check protein (am I over doing it with the meats?), cholesterol (am I over doing it with the eggs?), and get a better sense of what my future holds. 

I test myself every morning. It has been in the normal to pre-diabetic range EVERY DAY for six weeks now. That has to help the A1C, right? The problem is I stress so much over taking that test and seeing the numbers it hurts. Not the pain of the prick, but the anxiety over the numbers. The anxiety over how did I end up with a disease that is preventable and has no cure? It is a giant loop that keeps running in my head and preventing me from enjoying life.

I'm also searching for a nutritionist/dietician that will understand me. I have a couple of good recommendations, but have not been able to connect with them.

This is long, but important. I can email the link to people as they need to know. Maybe someday I'll have the courage to tell everyone and not be ashamed or feel guilty.



  1. I mean this from the bottom of my heart, it is a disease, and while the "experts" say it is preventable... Family history has a HUGE PART of that, and I am telling you as someone that loves you very much that you should forgive yourself and your pancreas for listening to those damn genetics so much. You are going to do this. You are going to be OK,and on days when you aren't, those of us that are listening will be here to be OK for you until you are ready to stand up and keep fighting.

    1. Thanks, Holly. I have good mental days and bad ones.