The last time I wrote about diabetes on this blog was in November of 2013 on World Diabetes Day. That’s because I now have a medical blog and a local blog where I’ll talk more about it than here. I even wrote a post on shopping for deals on diabetic medications on my finance blog.
Although I have a few months to go before I hit the anniversary, when I hit it it’ll be 20 years since I was first diagnosed. Since this is still my most popular blog, I thought it would be the right place to write this particular article about what’s going on these days because I’m a much different person now physically than I was the first time I wrote about diabetes back in 2007. Since diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in the world, I wanted to share my own journey in all these years.
Let’s start with the one that’s at the top of my list; loss of focus. In the years before I started this blog, focus was never a problem with me. I could sit at my computer and write, research, and do a host of things upwards of 18 hours a day sometimes. I created all sorts of projects for myself, outside of my consulting, to where I was so productive I had 2 newsletters, created a few products on leadership and was still able to write a blog post here almost daily and 3 times a week on my business blog.
Over the last few years, I find that my mind wanders and that it’s hard to stay on point for longer than an hour or so. I thought it was totally related to my sleep issues, which can have a relationship with diabetes if you don’t get enough, but recently I read that not only can diabetes affect focus over the long term but there could be a relationship with Alzheimer’s.
That second part is scary but the first part explains why I’ve started having some problems there. It’s not that I’m losing my memory, or can’t write or consult, it’s just that I’m more easily distracted than in the past. Otherwise, I find that I have the same memory issues as other people my age so I take solace that focus is the only issue I have to deal with.
Just to throw this in there, I’ve also found that if I take the time to write down tasks or log something in Evernote that I actually get things completed. It’s just that more often than not I think of something but don’t have my planner with me and… well, that’s that. Good thing I have the timer on my smartphone to keep me in check with meds and other things I’m supposed to do.
A few weeks ago I went to see my podiatrist, who I hadn’t visited in a couple of years. He was running some tests and said “Your neuropathy has gotten slightly worse.” MY NEUROPATHY? He’d never told me I had neuropathy previously, but as my wife said, I probably should have known I had it. A few years ago my feet started feeling numb every once in a while, which is what encouraged me to go see him in the first place.
Neuropathy is a bad mama-jama in that it not only can it numb one’s extremities (feet, hands, fingers, etc) but some people have awful pain from me. I hadn’t realized what kind of pain until the last 6 months or so, and I’m still one of the lucky ones. Here and there I’ll have a quick stabbing pain in my feet that makes me cringe. I’ve now learned that I can help alleviate that pain by taking either acetaminophen or ibuprofen on a more regular basis to keep ahead of it, and that’s become a part of my medication regimen at least twice a day with my other medications.
As for the numbness… that’s kind of a different animal. I wrote a massage therapist friend of mine who’d helped me out when feet were having a different kind of pain when I was trying to increase the number of steps I was taking daily and asked her if massage could help neuropathy. She sent me an article titled Massage and Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy and we set up an appointment for me to see one of the therapists who works with her in this area.
As she was doing the massage I can tell you that all I felt was comfort but almost no change to my feet. It wasn’t until I was standing in the office getting ready to pay my bill that I felt things change. It started with a tingling, which was kind of cool, and within the next 5 minutes the numbness had left both feet; wow! It only lasted a day because… well, I do walk a lot, but she said if it worked that she would give me some tips so I could do it for myself or have my wife do it for me. This means I’ll be making another appointment within the next 2 weeks because, as most of you know, massage isn’t a one-off thing that lasts forever.
Before I talk about the final thing, let me say that it’s possible that I could have prevented both of these things from happening if I’d had better control of my glucose levels early on. I was trying to do it on intuition alone and thinking that medication would take care of everything. Early on it worked, but when it stopped working and things started getting dangerous. When was that? Well, here’s a video talking about it from 2014:
If you watched the video, you heard me talking about Fitbit and Myfitnesspal. With Fitbit tracking my steps, I’m now averaging around 14K steps a day (close to 7 miles) and I’m keeping my calories under 2,300 a day (which it recommends) and my glucose (others call it blood sugar, but I hate that term!) is averaging 126 a day, but only because in the last 30 days I’ve had 4 days when it was way over 120… usually one day a week.
Those two things, along with my setting alarms on my smartphone to remind me to take my medications, have helped me level things out in my body. Proof of that is the affect it had on my eyes. Two years ago my ophthalmologist said I had aneurysms in my eyes and the only way to get rid of them was to get control of my glucose levels. When I saw him last September he said they were all gone; whew!
Now it’s time for the final thing (in case you thought what I said above was it); medication. Over the years I’ve gone through a lot of medication. For the last 6 years I’ve been on pretty much the same two things.
The first is Metformin 1000mg (the highest dose), which I take twice a day. The second is insulin twice a day, which should no longer be used by doctors as a scare tactic to try to get us to keep our glucose levels under control.
I haven’t ever to increase Metformin, but I did have to increase the amount of insulin I took for a short period of time until I increased my daily steps. Then the amount was reduced, and I’m staying at that level right now, although at my last visit the nurse practitioner said if my control stayed where it is that they might want to reduce it a bit more; wow!
I tell you this part because, over time, if things get worse you might have to increase your medications or change them to something stronger. With some control and dedication, you can protect your body to a big degree.
With that said, there are other things one can do to help even further, some I’ve done and some I won’t (or can’t) do. Exercise is a big deal; walking has become my life! Eating better is another, and I’ve done that but not the way some nutritionists say I should be doing it.
I still have dessert every day, but I’ve reduced how much of it I consume. I’ve reduced my sugar intake but I’m not giving up aspartame (Equal) as my sweetener of choice. I need to lose more weight, which I’m struggling with even as I’ve lost 3 belt sizes (my waist has reduced but my stomach… ugh! lol). I lost the most weight when I was eating “properly” (salmon, green vegetables) but I developed an increase in potassium, which is dangerous, and the only way you can bring it down (which took a long time) is to stop eating things with potassium in it… which meant all green vegetables (and potatoes and salmon and shrimp…)!
I have to say it’s been a strange journey that I wish I’d never embarked upon, even though I knew it was coming since it runs in the family on my dad’s side. During all these years, I’ve heard of lots of people who’ve died from it because they didn’t take care of themselves or pay attention to any of the signs that they were experiencing. I’ve never had to go into the hospital, and the biggest issues I’ve had have been lows, which are scarier because the effects are more immediate.
This is why I’ve written this particular post on this particular blog. It’s reach is the biggest and, well, I care about others and hope that this posts can help some folk who might either not know they’re diabetic or have found out and are scared of what “could” happen and how to avoid problems. Who knows; it might even help your blogging! 😉