By: Andrew Hickman
I have been reading a lot about diabetes on the Internet ever since I was diagnosed less than a year ago, and I wanted to share my experiences.
I’m a 36-year-old male in relatively good shape. Prior to the diagnosis I was not obese, but I was about 20 pounds overweight. I loved my chocolate milk and breakfast bar in the morning, my coke with my burger at lunch, and fast food or packaged food for dinner, not to mention the bags of chips. (I loved snacking!) I went for walks occasionally, and my work demanded a lot of physical activity, but I did nothing on a regular basis.
The days and weeks leading up to my type 1 diagnosis were filled with sleepless nights and hourly visits to the bathroom. I was a truck driver for a few years, and I drive a lot for my work now, so I count on being able to drive for at least five hours before needing a bathroom break. To need to pee every hour on the hour was unreal for me, in fact, at one gas station I was doubled over in pain because I had tried to “hold it” for too long. I knew nothing about diabetes, so I put it down to starting the flu or something.
After two to three weeks of this, I was feeling completely drained and very ill. I was supposed to go out on the road for work the day I was diagnosed, but when I woke up that morning I couldn’t see. I had actually lost my sight! I could only focus about one foot in front of me. Great for reading a speedometer, not so great for navigating through traffic!
I eventually made it in to work. The normal ten-minute drive took me 45 minutes. I knew I shouldn’t have been driving, but I honestly I thought I was just getting sick and that I was really tired. I was convinced that those were the reasons I couldn’t see.
Once at work, I was greeted by my colleague with whom I was traveling that particular trip. I didn’t recognize him until I was literally close enough to kiss him! Yeah, it made him feel real uncomfortable, but I had to make sure it was him. As I had been working with diesel fuel on my last trip, my colleague and I discussed the possibility that I had got diesel in my eyes and that I should go to the doctor to check it out. That sounded plausible to me, so I allowed my colleague to take me to the medical center. (I’m not one for doctors.) After an examination, the doctor there sent me to an eye specialist. The eye specialist asked the right questions (“Was I peeing a lot?” “Was I always thirsty?”) and she explained to me that I could have diabetes.
I was shocked. What the heck was this diabetes thing? I knew it was a disease, but that’s about it. Could it really be? The doctor checked took my blood sugar level and it read 38.7. It should have read 4! He explained to me that I had diabetes and that I needed to see an expert to get treated. They sent me off to the hospital to get an injection of insulin. I was seen by a diabetes specialist not too long after that. He put me on glyburide and metformin.
I thought, OK, that’s that. Now can I get back to my life?
In short, the answer was “No.”
My diet had to change completely, and I had to start exercising on a regular basis. I remember my first trip to the grocery store. I was there for an hour and I walked away with two items. Everything had sugar in it, even the bread! I had no idea what I could eat.
I was completely flustered. How could I have diabetes? There is absolutely no history of it in my family. I thought at the time that it must have caused by eating processed foods combined with stress at work and home. That was the only explanation that made sense to me.
I continued taking the pills for a couple of months, but I ended up crashing a lot so I was taken off them and put on another one. I changed my diet and my lifestyle. I thought that I was doing pretty well, and then I started losing weight at an alarming rate.
Before diagnosis I weighed 205 pounds, and now I was 130 pounds. When I approached my diabetes doctor, he told me that it was “all in my head” and that I was depressed and needed to get mental help. I think he judged me to be a very emotional person. It’s true, I was freaking out inside! It turned out that what I needed was insulin injections. My family doctor got me into a diabetes clinic and it was there that I learned how to inject myself and how to cope with everything related to diabetes.
The nurses there were incredible. I only wish I had received their help in the very beginning. My drastic weight loss was due to uncontrolled sugar levels. My body had used up all my fat cells and it was slowly eating away at my muscle mass. I had been working out a lot to try and bring my sugar level in check, but it wouldn’t come down. Apparently I was doing more harm than good.
I now weigh 150 pounds and holding. I am on four injections a day (Levemir at night and Novorapid at each meal). I exercise on a daily basis and eat the right things. There are still days when I am high and I still crash occasionally, but on the whole I’m doing okay.
I always dream of a cure, but then I realize that maintaining people with diabetes is a five billion dollar a year industry. If a cure were ever found, all that profit would be lost. I can’t help but feel like I’m being preyed upon by greedy pharmaceutical companies eager to profit from other people’s afflictions.