Living with Type 2: Neuropathy Has Caught Up With Me

Patrick Totty

The great Negro Leagues baseball pitcher Satchel Paige once issued seven rules to live by. The seventh, perhaps the most famous, was “Don’t look back—something might be gaining on you.”


People with type 2 diabetes don’t need to follow Paige’s advice. We’ve known for a long time that neuropathy is one of the possible diabetes complications we may be facing. But unfortunately, for most of my type 2 friends and myself, neuropathy seems to be increasing, especially in our feet.


An old friend, Bill, and I keep track of each other’s diabetic woes. He’s reached the point where he walks with an extremely splayed gait. His feet spread far apart because he could not trust his balance. He is considering starting to use a cane because of that loss of feeling in his feet.


Sometimes I worry I am not that far behind. In a way, it’s a godsend that diabetes takes so long to reveal its ugly side. At least we’re forewarned about the likely “progress” of the disease. But, of course, knowing what will arrive at some point doesn’t make us happy despite the forewarning.


But there are always things we can do. Unfortunately, neuropathy is a painful condition, no matter how prepared for it we think we are. It can be addressed, though, effectively in many cases. Here’s what I’ve been doing to help me with it:

  1. I continue to talk to my friend Bill, a Vietnam vet who has access to Veterans Administration medical treatments. He gives me insights into the drugs and therapies his VA doctors recommend to treat neuropathy.
  2. I read up on the latest developments in neuropathy treatments simply by inputting those two words, “neuropathy treatments,” in my browser.
  3. I walk briskly for at least 20 minutes daily. That walk increases blood flow to my feet and makes my feet feel better and less numb. In any case, the walk is tonic to both my body and spirit. 
  4. I work in the yard slowly, methodically, and deliberately, using the time to enjoy the progress I’m making and thinking about things calmly rather than antsy.
  5. Whenever I encounter someone with type 2 diabetes, I’ll ask about their experiences and approaches to neuropathy. I never know if I might learn something that can be helpful to my approach to diabetes self-management.

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