A Year with Diabetes

A friend and I were reflecting on our 2009s and I realized what an amazing year I’ve had. Last year at this time, after only 17 months since my Type 2 diagnosis my blood sugar was no longer being controlled by oral meds. Until about September 2008 the meds had kept my numbers nicely controlled and I cavalierly continued to eat whatever I wanted; no sugar since I discontinued that years ago due to an eating disorder, but, as a vegetarian, lots of carbs. I figured, hey, the meds were working, that’s what counted. Then my numbers started creeping up…and up…and up. As the New Year approached I was seeing numbers frequently in the 200s, into the 300s and as high as 426! My doctor had tried several alternative meds with no luck and I realized I was going to have to go on insulin. What I didn’t get was why! I remembered when I was diagnosed reading that Type 2’s could go for 10-15 years before needing insulin and complications wouldn’t happen until after that. So at age 58 I hadn’t been too concerned.

In February 2009 I started on insulin and things got worse not better. I was having lows in between meals and still high after eating. I started on bolus doses and made one awful error (mostly mine, with a bit of help from my doctor) and had a frightening low that I barely was able to handle myself. I was freaked out, overwhelmed and desperate. I started reading and thinking, wondering if I wasn’t possibly a Type 1. Then I heard about LADA/1.5 and boy did that sound right. A bit more reading and I was absolutely convinced-it all fit. When I got a referral to an endocrinologist in Guatemala City she hadn’t heard of LADA but looked at my list of five factors for why I was Type 1 and checking off each one, confirmed I was a Type 1. She gave me a basal dose and told me 1-3 units before meals. By then I’d done enough reading to e-mail and ask about Insulin:Carb ratios, but she had gone on vacation for three weeks. So I read some more, joined this and another website, learned some more. It was the biggest learning curve I’d experienced in a long time and I felt overwhelmed on a daily basis, thinking I’d never get it right. But, as we say in Guatemala, poco a poco (little by little) it started to come together.

One major change I have made is to my eating. With fifteen years recovery from an eating disorder I didn’t make changes willingly. One thing I learned about my eating disorder is to enjoy food, not obsess about it. Diabetes, unfortunately makes some obsessing about food unavoidable. I’m very grateful for each and every day of that fifteen years’ recovery and my compassion is with people struggling with eating disorders on top of diabetes because it’s a hard combination. I’m also a vegetarian and something of a foodie, and didn’t want to give up either one (though my health comes first). I am happy to have found that I didn’t have to, and I’ve learned some new ways to eat and am enjoying finding recipes I like that are diabetes friendly. I don’t eat low carb, because I couldn’t do that and continue to eat how I like, but I eat moderate carb (around 100 a day).

I’m currently having some unexpected higher numbers and am in the process of splitting my basal dose and increasing it by a unit at a time. But I no longer feel freaked out by having to do this, knowing as a diabetic, a Type 1 and maybe especially a LADA changes to insulin are part and parcel. I think of it all as a challenge and a puzzle. Besides my ED recovery, I’m also grateful that I am mostly retired, because I have the time to do this.

More than anything though, I’m grateful I have supportive friends and family as well as all of you here in my tudiabetes family. I’ve had a challenging year and things have gotten so much better with “a lot of help from my friends” as the song goes. Happy 2010 to all of you and I’d love hearing about your diabetes year, the challenges and the successes.