Today, November 14th, 2008, is World Diabetes Day, something I initially mentioned when talking about National Diabetes Month. Each year, millions of adults and children learn that they’re diabetic; some don’t learn it until they’ve done serious damage to themselves. Being aware of changes in your body that you can’t explain and not being afraid to find out what might be going on could help you avert major problems later in life. I am a diabetic, and I’ve been diagnosed for 11 years. I’d like to tell you my story.
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Eleven years ago, I was having the best and the worst year of my life. I got married in May of 1997, my first and only marriage, and I’ve had nothing but a great time ever since. In 1997, I took the very first vacation of my life, which was the week after I got married; man, that was a long time before taking a vacation, but my dad never took a vacation until he was in his 50’s; guess I’m a slacker.
Eleven years ago I also had breast surgery to remove a lump that was causing me pain. It wasn’t cancerous, and I have no idea where it came from, and I’d never even thought about the possibility of it being cancerous, but it was my first surgery ever. And I got it approved and paid for by the insurance company; talk about how knowledge will help you achieve things that others might not know about.
Eleven years ago, a few days after my 38th birthday, I was driving back to work from lunch in another town about 10 minutes from the hospital I was working in at the time. I had a co-worker with me, and we were going through a construction zone. In a couple of minutes, I was pulled over by a police car. The officer came to the car and said I was speeding through a work zone. I said that I knew what the speed limit was and wasn’t speeding, but he said the speed limit was reduced in that area. I said I never saw a sign, and my co-worker said there was a sign that I must have missed. I took the ticket and continued driving back to work, but I did notice that I could barely read any of the signs.
That wasn’t the first day, however. I’d noticed it most of the time for a few weeks while driving home from work. I lived over an hour away from where I worked, and it wasn’t a major highway that I drove on, so there weren’t a bunch of signs, and rarely much traffic. Yet, I noticed that I was having vision problems. I’d mentioned it to my wife, and said that it was only when driving home in the evenings; I never had the problem in the morning. So, on the day I drove home after getting the ticket and mentioning it to her again, she said we should head over to the ophthalmologist to have him take a look.
Talk about serendipity. I had gone to the same place, Sterling Optical, for about 18 or 19 years, and I’d had this same guy looking at my eyes for at least 13 of those years. My prescription hadn’t changed in at least 10 years, and I’d just had an eye exam a month before I got married. So, it was easy for me to walk in and have him take a quick look. He didn’t like what he saw, and said my vision had changed drastically from the last time I was there, and his conclusion immediately was that I might be diabetic.
The breath caught in my throat at his words. Not that I was overly surprised, because it ran in my family, but because out of all my relatives who’d gotten it, I possibly was now the youngest to get it. I figured I had at least six or seven more years before I had to think about it; now it didn’t look that way.
He recommended that I see my primary care physician, which was slightly problematic. I had never selected one because I hadn’t been to the doctors in many years. The last time I’d seen a doctor was 11 years earlier (that #11 pops up all over the place lol); typical American male in that regard, even though I’d had some issues that I probably should have seen a doctor for.
I was raised in a different time; you only went to doctors when your mother took you, when you broke something, or when you were on death’s bed; that was the rule at the time. My wife wanted me to go to a doctor, but I took a detour step first. Since I worked in a hospital and the emergency room was right behind my office, I went in there the next morning and talked with the physician assistant about it. He took a quick glucose test, saw that my number was just under 300, and told me I had to see a doctor; if it had been 50 points higher he’d have had to admit me.
That was that. I called this one doctor with whom I had a cordial relationship with, he took me in, diagnosed me, and started me on the first round of what would become regular check ups and visits with someone about diabetes, including education. Though I’m not the best patient in the world, I do know how to take care of myself and how I’m supposed to eat, and I follow it more often than I don’t follow it, which is a good thing.
Within a week my glucose came down, which was a good thing otherwise I couldn’t have had my surgery, and over the course of the last eleven years I’ve been pretty good for the most part. If they hadn’t changed the high limit from what it was when I was diagnosed I’d be considered as almost perfect for nine of of the eleven years.
As time has progressed, I have had to go on medication, and presently take two different pills a day and two shots of insulin, which I started a year ago on November 2nd. I’m not considered dependent, as it turns out there are different variations of insulin, but it’s helped me boost what the pills can’t do on their own. If I can drop some weight, I could probably get off insulin; but, as some of you know, that’s not quite as easy as I wish it was.
The main point of this story is that everyone needs to pay attention to symptoms that may not necessarily be what you might think are diabetic symptoms. My mother noticed my dad’s diabetes because he started losing a lot of weight, which he himself didn’t notice. I’ve met people who noticed it because they were having numbness in their limbs, and many people notice something wrong when they’re going to the bathroom all the time, or constantly thirsty. Here’s a link to many of the symptoms of diabetes, things you should be looking at if you notice any of them occurring with you or your friends and family members. Caught early, at least you have some kind of fighting chance.
There, my contribution to World Diabetes Day. If you get a chance, check out this interesting post on the day, with videos no less.