My Battle with Diabetes
Hi. I’m Michael. I’m a diabetic.
I say those words every day.to myself, to my face in the mirror. It is the single most important thing I do to combat this disastrous disease. I accept it so I can fight it.
I have Type 2 diabetes. My body doesn’t make enough insulin, and thus my high glucose levels are wreaking havoc with my body. And I am not alone. There are about 29 million people in the US with Type 2 diabetes. Another 84 million have blood sugar that is high but not high enough to be diabetes yet. And about eight million people who have it don't even know it. Might you be one?
For people with Type 2 diabetes, there are many things to mitigate its effects. They are all things I do each day. Now, I’m not perfect, and I go through times like many diabetics do where these simple steps seem like walking in quicksand. But if I stay focused, I can overcome those difficult days and sinking resolve.
If you are diabetic, the first step is the easiest, yet it’s the one where many diabetics I know get a failing grade. You need an endocrinologist, NOW! Endocrinologists are doctors who deal with all the biochemical processes that make your body work. In other words, they are the perfect doctors to treat diabetes. If you had heart disease, you’d go to a cardiologist. If you had cancer, you’d go to an oncologist. Well, if you have diabetes, go to an endocrinologist.
And since diabetes also affects your blood vessels, add an ophthalmologist, a podiatrist, and the aforementioned cardiologist to your list. Let them keep track of your illness, educate you, and provide you with tools to fight it. And don’t wait until the pandemic ends. I’ve had phone appointments, Zoom appointments, and in-person appointments where the doctors looked like astronauts in full flight gear. So be vigilant, and hire others to help you be vigilant.
Your endocrinologist will likely give you medicine to help control your diabetes. Treat your meds like a lifeline. I do. Don’t fool around. Taking your meds can keep you from losing a foot, having a stroke, or even dying. With diabetes, you can’t afford to be a “bad” patient.
Now to the hard part. Stop eating cake! That seems pretty obvious, but I actually have friends who do a lot to combat their diabetes, but can’t stop eating cake. A good-sized piece of Duncan Hines chocolate cake with three creamy layers of chocolate icing (darn, now I can’t think of anything else) will pretty much sabotage your day. Start reading food labels for carb counts; stop eating things that taste sweet (they are sure to have carbs). Start eating a low-carb breakfast; stop eating three huge carb fests three times a day.
You can still eat the dreaded carbs, just not so many of them. I eat five times a day (three meals, two snacks). I eat less fat and sugar; more salads. A friend of mine had an A1C (average blood sugar measurement) of 8.0 before she became friendly with salads. In three green-filled months, she brought her number all the way down to 6.0. An A1C of 7.0 is considered good. A 6.0 is hitting it out of the park.
You’ve heard all your life that not exercising can kill you. Stop laughing, because NOT exercising CAN kill you, especially if you’re a diabetic. Formerly reluctant, I now walk about three miles every day. I do it with a friend; he serves as my inspiration and my conscience. He lays a good amount of guilt on me when I miss a day. Yes, I hate him, but I also love him for saving my feet, my eyesight, my life each time he forces me into my walking shoes. So do some kind of exercise every day, even if you’d rather watch TV or graze on a bag of chocolate chips.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you. Sticking needles into my fingertips two or three times a day is at best uncomfortable. But glucose meter testing is a great way to manage diabetes. It helps me understand the relationship between what and when I eat and my blood sugar levels. It also gives me goals and provides some validation for my hard work or prodding if I need to work harder.
This is a lot to remember. But if you only remember one thing, let it be to look at yourself in the mirror each morning and accept that you’re a diabetic. Accepting it is half the battle.
Hi. I’m Michael. I’m a diabetic. And I am winning the battle.
Michael Gilles is a playwright, actor, and director from Milton, and a regular contributor to Letters from CAMP Rehoboth.