Life with Type 2: Napoleon Conquers My Heel

After the initial shock when we are first told we have type 2 diabetes, most of us set out determined to manage our disease in an exemplary way. I know that for me, at the back of my mind was the thought that I would be the great exception: I would hurl back my diabetes just like the Russians hurled Napoleon’s troops back at the gates of Moscow two centuries ago.

Of course that was nonsense. Napoleon, in the form of my type 2, long ago made himself at home in my own private Moscow. As a mayor, he can be a moody creep, swinging from interfering with my life by administering shocking spikes to my blood sugar to benignly leaving me alone for weeks at a time.
One thing he left alone for years was my feet. I had been told many times as part of the standard warnings about diabetes that neuropathy was in my future, and that its first target would be my feet. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case for a long time. I figured that as long as I did a lot of walking and tightly controlled my blood sugar, I could stave off any ill effects on my feet indefinitely.

But not lately. Over the past year, a combination of numbness and pain has settled in my feet. Especially distressing is the permanent soreness that seems to have colonized my right heel. It’s as though the muscle there has been deeply bruised. The fact that I have no choice but to walk on it means that it never really has chance to heal. It forces me to clomp around very gingerly when I rise in the morning until everything gets warmed up. Then it becomes a minor background irritant. But when I’m at rest, not distracted by other things, it can throb like the pedal version of a migraine.

This is a big bite of reality sandwich. In the journey that we all make with type 2, most of my lingering hopes that I could bypass the disease’s classic symptoms are just about gone. I forgot that neuropathy is a creeping condition, helped along by years of higher-than-normal blood sugar. Even with exquisite control, we type 2s still run blood sugar levels higher than normal, and that wears away at our nerves over time. So it was never realistic to think that neuropathy wouldn’t drop by my house one day for a prolonged visit.

Still, there are parts of my body that type 2 has not managed to pry its way into. My eyes are still in good condition, with no hint of macular degeneration. If the choice is between limping around or not being able to see, it’s pretty easy to guess which option I’ll take. My cholesterol levels are good, and all the standard tests reveal nothing else to fret about besides diabetes itself.

There are still little things I can do to not let neuropathy overtake me in terms or morale or mobility. Although I’m years past being a runner, I remember that the natural running gait for humans is on our toes. Although my hobbling around is nowhere near to running, I often walk on the toes of my right foot until the heel gets its blood supply and stops complaining. It’s an ad hoc tactic, but it works.

I joke with my wife that most of the TV shows we like seem to carry an awful lot of ads aimed at older people with every sort of condition of aging. Among them are ones for medicines that treat the symptoms of neuropathy. I’ve never really paid attention to them-until now. I’m not quite ready to take that step, but it could be next.

And that’s what much of life with type 2 is about: what’s next.

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