If someone were to tell me that they cried when they were diagnosed with a health issue, I would probably empathise but recommend they think positive and focus on doing what it takes to get better.
Easier said than done, right?
But then, don’t we all know how much easier it is to preach than practice. Of course I don’t always follow my advice. I was upset to discover I harbored a health condition I wasn’t aware of.
Diabetes, the silent killer, is like that.
But let me start at the beginning. It was a dark and stormy night. Actually, no it wasn’t. That came later…
First, it was a rather bright and sunny day at the end of January 2014. My Mom’s fourth anniversary was coming up on Feb 8 followed by our 17th wedding anniversary on Feb 9. Yes, sad-happy time. I wanted to do something significant that would make my Mom proud and decided to go for a master health check. The last one was a few years ago and hence the bright idea.
I planned everything the night before and after the mandatory 10-hour fasting, set off to the lab early in the morning on Feb 8. I went through the drill of fasting tests, had breakfast and then went back two hours later for the next set.
Feeling rather “mission accomplished”, I sat back for the results assuming they would be great.
So imagine my shock, when, at 3 in the afternoon, my phone beeped to signal a text message with the basic numbers and to say I could view the reports online. My eyes practically popped out of their sockets when I saw the scary high blood sugar and cholesterol levels. At first, I thought they had mixed up my results with someone else’s and that it was a freak reading, but when I saw the detailed report, the related tests seemed to be in sync.
Literally desperate, I tried to be positive but couldn’t cheer up. Obviously, the first step was to go see my doctor with the reports. After all, did I not know that one test result does not a diabetic make?
So I went for another set of tests. This time, the HbA1c test, which shows the average blood sugar levels for the preceding three months. Since my ECG reports didn’t look normal, I was asked to undergo a TMT – A treadmill test. I remember thinking – so that’s why insurance companies insist on an HbA1c test to avoid the applicant tweaking their results by following a rigorous routine for a week before the test!
The next day I did the required tests. The TMT didn’t show cause for emergency worry. But the HbA1c blew me away. 11.5 against the normal range of less than 5.7. Oh yes, I felt miserable.
As I waited at the doctor’s clinic I felt dejected. To think I felt healthy and energetic all these days, eating healthy and getting reasonable exercise – disappointing, to say the least. It isn’t even as though I am overweight.
Life sure knew how to give me a kick in the backside when I least expected it.
It felt like the end of the world.
I met the doctor who pronounced me diabetic after an hour discussing my medical history. Turns out that when someone in the family is diabetic everyone is at risk. And my biological father’s entire family is diabetic. If I sound a little belligerent about that, it is because my father abandoned my almost 18-year old Mom when she was three months pregnant with me and went to the US to pursue his studies, got married again and settled there. Ironic that of all things I should inherit it was health problems from him. It just felt so unfair.
But then life is seldom fair.
The worst part was people being condescending and saying, “Oh. Diabetes is a lifestyle disease”. Sadly, lifestyle is only one of the reasons and this was not so in my case.
I went through the classic stage of denial. I wanted to pretend it was just a temporary thing. My family was most lovingly supportive, telling me it was just a matter of following a routine. But I’m not ashamed to admit I shed a lot of tears before coming to terms with the fact that I was diabetic.
Never one to shirk a challenge, I accepted it and decided I would show my diabetes who’s boss.
One of the things about this condition is – it needs constant care – pampering. There’s never a moment when I can think I can slack off. I compare diabetes to a politician whose mere presence triggers a lot of other complications. As a diabetic, I am now at risk for heart disease, kidney disease, neurological issues, hypertension, skin problems, and vision issues.
I got right down to tackling it. Rather than feel bad, the need of the hour was to take action.
And so I got my diabetes arsenal ready.
First, I got a healthy diet plan in place. This was not easy. After what I was used to, the overnight change was a challenge. But I did.
I already had a little knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, thanks to looking after my father in law, who is diabetic. Even though I usually eat healthy, diabetes does not tolerate deviation.
My initial plan included:
- Diabetes-friendly meal plans. The annoying part was having to eat every 3-4 hours which is something I am still freak out over. It also meant planning my grocery shopping followed by a lot of preparation
- A strict hour of exercise every day. I walked usually, but there were days when I slacked off if I had a work overload. This time, I wouldn’t compromise
- Medication. I begged my doctor to prescribe minimal medication, promising to bring down my cholesterol and blood sugar levels with diet and exercise and to check after three months
- Monitoring glucose levels. My friend suggested I track my sugar levels at least once in ten days so that any diet-tweaking could be done if necessary. Better safe than sorry eh?
I completely went off rice and wheat and lived on sprouts, salads, love and fresh air. I was supremely grateful I didn’t have to give up coffee. To my advantage, I wasn’t fond of sweets, so no cravings there. No small mercy, that!
Celebrating One Year of Living With Type 2 Diabetes
I celebrated one year of being a type 2 diabetic on February 8 this year. I am happy to say my blood sugar levels are stable, my cholesterol levels are normal and my mood is pretty cheerful. Oh, some days are not so great, but nothing to get worked up over.
I’ve always believed in looking for the silver lining in any situation and this time there was no exception. Here’s what I did:
- Last year, when I participated in the April A to Z Challenge with two blogs, I wrote about living with type 2 diabetes on my health blog
- I’ve started another blog called Life hacks for Diabetics where I share tips for living with diabetes. My goal is to help others sharing what I’ve learned. It can be so lonely sometimes to tackle it on our own
- The biggest challenge is snacking, so I am constantly on the lookout for healthy recipes. I have a pretty good collection now
- I am working on a series of books about Diabetes – awareness is key with this condition and I want to do my bit.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is this: my husband and son have now consciously switched to a healthy lifestyle. I am so grateful to them for buddying up with me. Support is so important when dealing with a health issue.
I remember how, after we got the reports a year ago, we sat down for a quick conference to make a plan of action. We made a list of nonnegotiables and a standard shopping list to make sure certain things were always available at home.
Yes, I am grateful for diabetes at the age of 50. This is a time when each one of us should consciously live healthy anyway and for me it was a wake-up call to remind me. I’m lucky to work from home, which means no commuting stress, no getting held up at work and coming home late. So I drive my folks crazy at home, but they assure me they love it.
Today I am fitter, healthier and in control of my health. So maybe my eyesight is getting worse, I have skin issues and some neurological problems – but hey, things could be a lot worse!
I am smiling, living in the moment, looking after myself and my family and showing my diabetes who’s boss.
About Vidya Sury
After a couple of decades in the corporate world in marketing and training, Vidya Sury is living her dream as a Writer | Author | Editor | Blogger. She enjoys writing so much that she juggles five blogs of her own.
On really busy days, Vidya’s free time is restricted to playing with her dust bunnies and showing her diabetes whose boss. She loves coffee, books, cooking, music, photography, travel, people and collecting smiles. She is a social media explorer. She believes there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women. And that people will always rule over technology!