I was diagnosed in 1984 but my slow onset diabetes likely started in 1983. I knew nothing about slow-onset T1D in adults, later known as LADA (latent auto-immune diabetes in adults). I used the same BG Chemstrips @DrBB used, comparing the color of the reagent pads against the panel on the strip container.
Meters that read the strips and gave digital readout followed a year or two into my life with diabetes. It was a great improvement even though I always suspected that the numbers were not absolutely accurate. I really appreciated when test time dropped from 60 seconds down to 15 seconds.
In the beginning, I remember getting in-range numbers without a lot of effort. I thought, “If this is all it takes to manage diabetes, then it’s not that big a deal!” I knew nothing about LADA and the likely residual native insulin production I was enjoying.
I always tested a lot, starting out with 5-6 checks/day and working my way up slowly to 15-20/day years later.
My insulin regimen started out with one shot of NPH per day and quickly morphed to two per day and the addition of Regular for each meal. Looking back, I can see that I was using the MDI regimen calibrated with carb counting before 1987 when I started on my first pump, a MiniMed 504.
I watched my BGs closely and often over-reacted to high readings with aggressive insulin corrections. My life was one long BG roller-coaster ride with mind-numbing lows. “Pre-bolusing” was not a concept I really understood. I just used the standard 15-30 minutes and of course knew nothing about “waiting for the CGM bend” during the '90’s and '00’s.
I became very good at anticipating and treating lows. These were not garden-variety lows that drifted slowly from the 80’s into the 70’s and '60’s over an hour’s time. These lows were fueled by insulin over-corrections combined with little patience. The lows steeply descended into hypo territory and I caught almost all of them – until I didn’t. All I can say is that I’m lucky to be alive with all the risks I took.
I jumped on the first rapid acting analog insulin, Humalog, when it came out in '96. It helped but I soon realized that it was just a marginal improvement over Regular.
I’ve kept track of my A1c’s over the years. I started out in the low 6% range and spent about 10 years in the 6-7% bracket. Around 2004 I started to gain weight and slowly increased my total daily dose to about twice what I had been taking. My A1c crept up and topped off at 8.5% in late '07.
I look at the period from '07-'12 as my time in the diabetes wilderness. My body had become insulin resistant. My overly aggressive insulin corrections caught up with me. I had gained about 25 pounds and the insulin just didn’t work like it used to. I could have been injecting water for all the effect it had bringing down high BGs.
I had no idea about insulin resistance and thought that I had some, yet to be diagnosed, serious malady. I would not have been surprised to have received a diagnosis of cancer during this period. It was during this time that I went through three endos in five years. I had always thought of endos as the high priests of diabetes. They were the experts and had all the answers. But they were zero help with my slow burning diabetes crisis.
I did start on the a CGM in '09 and that started to help me understand my metabolism. I also started reading at the TuDiabetes website and followed closely the low-carb controversy. Finally in 2012, I decided to give a reduced carb diet a try.
That’s when I got my life back! My blood glucose traces improved dramatically. I couldn’t believe how potent carb limiting was for me. My BG average came down from the 150-160 range to the 120-130 range. More importantly, my BG variability came down, too. It plummeted from the 60 mg/dL standard deviation neighborhood down to less than 30 mg/dL.
I finally started to enjoy a renewed sense of energy. My sense of well-being had eroded so slowly over the years that I didn’t really notice my poorer quality of life. But the restoration of that energy and well-being happened so suddenly that it was dramatic and obvious.
I now enjoy A1c’s in 5.5-5.9% range. I do have the help of an automated insulin dosing system, Loop. I still credit lower carb eating, however, as the biggest reason for my improved health.
Sorry, I didn’t intend to go on for so long but the words just rolled out!