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13 Weeks: I Am a Diabetic

It's hard to face.

by
Charlie Martin

Bio

September 21, 2013 - 5:00 pm
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A good friend of mine had a heart attack the other day. She did everything right — went to the ER right away when she had the first mild angina, she’d been taking care of herself with exercise and controlling her weight. In other words, pretty much the opposite of what my mother did two years ago.

It turned out to be mild, and she was given a stent and is rehabbing now. There were, however, two things that very possibly contributed: her blood sugar was elevated into “pre-diabetic” ranges and had been for years, and her blood lipids, cholesterol and the like, were pretty elevated.

So, now as well as doing the cardiac rehab routine of mild exercise, she’s starting to manage her blood sugar, and she’s on a statin drug for the lipids.

So we were talking about it this morning and she said something that struck a chord.

I bet you will identify with how much I cringe at the word diabetic. It is so associated with not taking care of yourself because of the media.

That really struck me, because I have noticed the same thing: I’ve found it very difficult to come out and say “I am a diabetic.”

Movies and fiction about people who recover from alcoholism pr drugs usually have this dramatic, climactic scene where, after hitting bottom in some dramatic and more or less disgusting way, the main character has the “moment of clarity” and stands up in a meeting and says “I am an alcoholic.” (Two great examples, by the way, are an under-appreciated Michael Keaton film Clean and Sober, and the Matthew Scudder books by Lawrence Block.) It’s an important moment in recovery because it marks the point at which you are — at the risk of sounding like I live in Boulder — taking ownership of the problem. Your wife isn’t driving you to drink, if it’s genetic it’s still your problem, and however you got there, that’s where you are now and you have to deal with it.

It’s also really hard to say because of the social stigma: socially, we see drunks as morally flawed. Same thing with obesity, with depression, and with drug addiction. Theodore Dalrymple has an instructive, if in my opinion mistaken, piece on this in PJM, where he questions whether we’d think of having “Arthritics Anonymous” where someone stands up and says “I am arthritic.”

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Top Rated Comments   
Charlie, I will tell you something I have learned over the last five years. It all came to a head at the MD's office one day. I saw my file and across the front in big red letters NON-COMPLIANT said all that needed to be said.

After that I still needed to go through the process of having a heart attack due to pulmonary edema and ending up with three stents and nine different proscription medications including two kinds of insulin analogs.

I died twice that morning, once on the way to the hospital and once in the ER while they were prepping me for surgery. Death has looked at me before and I had seen the elephant overseas, it did not scare me, but it clarified my mind. A clarity I had not ever had before.

I had spent my whole life striving to gain wealth, and would now spend the rest of my life trying to gain health.

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am a Diabetic, have been for 44 years, you know, type 1 at age 10. Life is tough, I found out at age ten that I should be able to live another 20 years or so, even less if I did not do what I was supposed to do. I started giving myself shots that very day. I have met hundreds of others like me and some of them have learned the hard way. Now that I am older I see ten times more Type 2's, even some children.

I have not always done what was best for me, who does, but I have never forgotten what will happen to you if you do not come to grips with reality. My father was an Adult onset Type 1 and I saw him die of kidney failure and a Stroke at 58, due to his inability to take care of himself properly.

The damage is starting as soon as you start to develop insulin resistance. My 2nd Endo told me that he decide to change from Opthamology to Endocrinology because he was able to Diagnose Diabetes during eye exams. The rise in Cholesterol is primarily a result of the insulin resistance, which is related to the Carb rich diet we love.

I try to live on a diet that consists mainly of Meat, Vegetables and fruits, not juices. But that is not always possible, sometimes you either have to eat some carbs because you want to or you need them to survive.

Everybody is different, something that the Statin manufacturers are not really concerned with at this time. I tried statins at one time and my memory deteriorated and my hands lost flexibility as I started developing Dupuytren's Syndrome. I stopped the Statin and it lessened. I started again and it started again. Lesson learned and I stopped it for good.

I wish the best of luck to everyone with DM, whether you are Type 1 or 2.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
When will people, especially in the MSM, stand up and say "My name is Stupid and I'm a mindless Obama sheeple" ?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (66)
All Comments   (66)
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Hi Charlie. Congratulations on your admission/confession. My father has had diabetes for 30 years, and because he has lived very low carb he is actually very healthy for 65yo. Sugar consumption is a risk factor for MI, as is a diet of veg oil (omega 6s).
Please do research statins. They will weaken all the muscles in the body. This also affects the heart.
Remember cholesterol is necessary for the body to heal (that's why sick people have elevated cholesterol). The mainstream blaming cholesterol for MI is like blaming firefighters for fires.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Charlie, What a response you've gotten. Everyone has an opinion, but they're just reiterating, the latest consensus of medical opinion of one kind or another. It faddish. Today it's this diet, then that diet, then this pill, etc. A billion dollar industry that has a hard time proving they actually helped anybody. The truth is far more complex. The reasons for someone's diabetes, or obesity, etc. is often more complex than we know. For instance the body has many redundant feedback systems to perform the same vital functions should a primary mechanism fail. No one should throw stones at someone's health issues. No one chooses to be fat. No one chooses to be diabetic. There is no breakdown of will power or discipline that causes these diseases. Yes, we know how to control some symptoms once they appear but don't be fooled into thinking one lifestyle, one type of diet, or habit or drug regimen fits everybody. Real diagnosticians, the good ones, know this and act accordingly.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
yeah, and the supply of good diagnosticians is really limited, and docs tend to stick with the medicine they learned in medical school -- my friend with the MI is being told to eat lots of grain and not many eggs.

I agree with you completely, I think both T2DM and obesity are complicated regulatory dysfunctions, and probably actually represent a syndrome of several underlying pathologies; the stuff on gut flora is interesting too.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm Type I. Have been for 30 years. My body just up and decided one day "Hey - I think I'll attack my pancreas!" Boom. I was a healthy kid, lots of playing outside and eating (mostly) what was on my plate. The docs never could figure it out. (Now I have three auto-immune diseases... so maybe I just hate myself on a cellular level??)

But what deeply frustrates me - when someone finds out I'm a diabetic - they say "But you're so thin! You look so healthy!" And yes, folks have asked me if I've lost a lot of weight. (Because *obviously* how can I have diabetes if I'm not a fat slob who doesn't take care of myself!) So I do get frustrated when my little Type I self is lumped into the Type 2 "lifestyles". There were no choices I could have made differently to change my current health situation. None. It's a terrible disease no matter how you get it. But for me it's so much harder because of that social stigma you mention. ::sigh::
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
A lot of people don't realize that weight *loss* is a symptom of Type One.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, skinnies cannot produce insulin so that the cross cellular transmission of glucose can nourish the brain and muscles. They have a really hard time regulating their metabolism even with a pump.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
type 2 diabetes?

stop eating the crap you are eating

and it can go away

keep the calories low, and minimal carbs

type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle choice
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Almost correct. But still wrong. A carb is not a carb. Just as all Roosters are chickens but not all chickens are roosters.

The endocrine system is less well understood than the human brain and because it is a control system for all of the subsystems of the human body it cannot be boiled down to, " Stop eating Crap". Especially after you have succeeded in your efforts to monkey wrench the system out of whack to the point that your pancreas shuts down from beta cell fatigue and your liver believes that 300mg/dcltr is what your blood glucose is supposed to be so that even if you starve yourself it will happily make more glucose on a five hour cycle until you trip a fuse and off you go.

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
You know, it always amazes me. I have been writing this column for nearly a year. I've gone through scientific studies, I've talked about the fairly extreme diet changes I've made, in these very comments I've explained why type 2 diabetes clearly has a physiological component, and inevitably some clown comes along and says "oh just stop eating all the junk."

I don't know what they're teaching kinds in school these days, but it's clearly not reading comprehension.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are assuming that everyone posting on this thread has read everything else you've written. I assure you that's not the case.



51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
You're right! Type 2 definitely has a physiological component: carbs and insulin. Fortunately, the vast majority of us don't develop diabetes from eating carbs and riding the blood sugar/insulin response roller coaster. But those that do are in deep poo poo. You should realize that yes, indeed, a very simple "life style" change *may* get you out of that steaming pile. Stop eating carbs. All of them, not just the "junk". (I think there's an applicable Buddhist term)

Will it work for everyone with pre type 2 diabetic symptoms or the full blown disease? I don't know. But it won't hurt to severely reduce or eliminate carbs for a month or two to find out. No, you won't die; carbs are not a nutritional requirement for good health. Just the opposite.

BTW, if a majority of people got type 2 diabetes you can bet the farm that the causal relationship between consuming carbs and diabetes would have been established long ago.

As always: IMHO.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have been diabetic since the mid 1980's. Because it is a scourge in our family, the type 1's are numerous, I am type 2, I spent a few years saying I had a blood sugar problem. Finally an ophthalmologist said to me, "Ruth, you need to admit you are diabetic." So I did. At that time I was on oral meds, now I am on insulin but it is still hard to face. It is hard to know that a century ago you would have died of this disease, it is hard to know that you have to take 4 shots per day. They type 1's in my family have pumps, that is sometimes better, sometimes not. But they are alive and so am I. My younger brother who has been diabetic since he was 21 is now 73. We have a lot of miracles in our family.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Charlie, I will tell you something I have learned over the last five years. It all came to a head at the MD's office one day. I saw my file and across the front in big red letters NON-COMPLIANT said all that needed to be said.

After that I still needed to go through the process of having a heart attack due to pulmonary edema and ending up with three stents and nine different proscription medications including two kinds of insulin analogs.

I died twice that morning, once on the way to the hospital and once in the ER while they were prepping me for surgery. Death has looked at me before and I had seen the elephant overseas, it did not scare me, but it clarified my mind. A clarity I had not ever had before.

I had spent my whole life striving to gain wealth, and would now spend the rest of my life trying to gain health.

51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Charlie, you're already onto the cure: low/no carbs. For Type 2, that is.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
In 2005 I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. I was quite shocked, of course because I had heard horror stories, mostly regarding Type 1 Diabetes, and how one could/would become blind and/or possibly lose limbs.

But I don't relate at all to what you are saying here about being afraid to admit you are diabetic. Perhaps that has something to do with your family and how you grew up. But I have never felt any particular shame attached to diabetes, and have never felt the need to hide the fact.

Everyone I know is aware that I was a diabetic, and no one has ever tried to make me feel bad about it.

And note that I said "was." Whenever I talked to doctors, they all assured me that I was forever condemned to be diabetic, as there was no cure for it. All I could hope to do was to take care of myself and reduce the possible side effects.

This last year, however, I was diagnosed with advanced, Stage 4 Esophagus Cancer. Long story short.... I was supposed to die, but was blessed with miracle after miracle, and after going through only half of the chemo therapy treatment, I am now cancer free.

But in the process, I lost a ton of excess weight and am back down to my ideal weight (170 LBs). And I am no longer diabetic. I stopped all medication (Glyburide, Metformin) over a year ago, and my glucose readings are still good.

Hopefully no one who has diabetes needs to go through what I went through this past year... but I would seriously recommend that any diabetic work very hard to get your weight down. I have family members and friends who are diabetic, but are also seriously overweight, and rely completely on meds.

I can't promise anyone will be cured like I have been, but if you have diabetes, please take your weight, eating habits and exercise plans very seriously. You may be surprised at the results.

For more info on my miracle of Cancer survival, see my blog at stephendavid.tumblr.com and search for "cancer."
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Since every one else is giving free advice ...

I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes about three years ago. At the time, my blood glucose was around 250 on a good day, and my A1C was 13.6%. In other words, I was peeing lemonade and bleeding nail polish.

I was also significantly overweight and not exercising much.

I'm now 167 lbs at 6'0" and I get 45 minutes vigorous walking per day. (Take Sundays off.) The best diet plan I ever came across was the one that goes "Lose weight now by whatever means necessary or you will go blind, lose digits, blow out your kidneys, and die a horrible death." Motivation is everything.

The lifestyle, plus watching the kinds of carbs I eat and taking a moderate dose of Metformin, have my A1C back down to 5.5%. It's a reprieve, not a cure, but I'll take it.

The funny thing is the reaction I get when I tell people I'm diabetic. Most assume Type I until I tell them otherwise. Then there is often a moment of awkwardness. When I tell them (if I feel the need) that I was rather heavier when diagnosed, it's like I've restored balance to the Force.

There really is a lot of moral judgment there.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I recall (a few years ago) seeing a very petite Asian lady -- she looked normal, appeared healthy. And then I found out she had both cancer and diabetes. (This greatly perplexed the medical establishment, since often the treatment medications are antagonistic.) (often our stereotypical expectations are challenged by real-world instances which do not fit "the norm".)
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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