Diabolical Diabetes Part One
Let’s talk about my fight with diabetes. Here’s how it came about.
The next few pages are excerpted and edited for content from my upcoming book, Abby’s Road; the Long and Winding Road to Adoption, and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped available at i-tunes and next week at Barnes & Noble for your Nook. It will be available for Kindle and as a paperback by August 1st.
Both my grandmothers had diabetes and my mother was probably on the cusp of it in the years before she died. So I was a good candidate.
I was diagnosed with diabetes while my wife and I were trying to have a child through infertility treatments.
We were not having much luck with the intrauterine inseminations and the in-vitro fertilizations, so my wife and I both had our tunnels checked, if you know what I mean. She had fibroids, which out-patient surgery resolved.
I had some blockage in my passageways, too. Not enough to be dangerous, but enough to affect the amount and quality of sperm getting through. Clearing this up would help my sperm count and their motility. The more unweary the soldiers, the better chance the fertilized eggs would develop and grow. Then the IVF would “take”. I didn’t like the idea of surgery, but if Esther could do it, I could too.
Some weeks later I went to a St. Louis hospital for my pre-operation work. I sat in a small room where I was poked and prodded by an otherwise friendly nurse. In the course of the 12-point inspection she said, “Your blood sugar is very high.”
“Oh,” I said.
“We can’t do the operation while your blood sugar is this high.”
“No?” I said. She couldn’t explain to my satisfaction why not (of course to be fair, I was not in a very understanding mood) – an operation is an operation. If I had appendicitis or were in a car crash and needed surgery I doubt the doctor would shout out, “Hold on! This guy’s blood sugar is too high, nothing we can do! Call the widow – er – the wife!”
But Nurse Ratchet was unmovable. So, I have to lower my blood sugar to have the operation to clear out the tunnels to allow more active sperm to end up in the cup to be washed and inseminated into my wife so that we may have a litter of kids. OK, fine. I’ll do it.
Esther’s blood doctor is near Carbondale, a university town in southern Illinois. We made an appointment with him and I was again poked, pricked and prodded.
I had diabetes. All those years of savoring M&Ms had come home to roost.
I don’t do shots; I cannot do shots. I couldn’t give Esther her shots and I certainly wasn’t going to give myself shots.
Fortunately, my new doctor said, my diabetes could be controlled with pills.
Pills? Pills I can do. As long as there are no shots involved, I could take enough pills to choke Elvis.
And I was given enough pills to do just that. Metformin and Glipizide for the blood sugar, but those would raise my cholesterol; so another prescription to lower my cholesterol. Plus an aspirin regimen to thin the blood – blood clots may become an issue. Plus, I still took the vitamins and supplements from the beginning of this quest.
Then came the diet. My beloved M&Ms were out. So were raisins. We cut back on anything with enriched flour (white bread). This I didn’t mind. I like my bread dark. Really dark. So dark it absorbs the light from the refrigerator (and I always keep bread in the refrigerator…). But even then very little bread. I can still eat my fish and chicken slathered in hot sauce – just not as a sandwich. I can accept that.
Most pasta was out – spaghetti, ziti, lo mein, SpaghettiOs.
No. Absolutely not. I may go blind, I may lose all feeling in my feet, the hair may drop off my legs, but I will not abandon that neat round spaghetti you can eat with a spoon. I will not let go of my childhood friend. I ate a can a day as a youngster; well, it seemed like it.
We compromised and allowed SpaghettiOs in moderation – and I would eat the kind with meatballs or franks for the protein. As I understand it, the protein counters the starch. Hey, I may be wrong, I’m a lawyer not a doctor, and my world had turned upside down; cut me some slack…
So O’s once every few weeks as a snack. Weeks later I realized I had not eaten any at all. If they had not mentioned pasta, I probably would not have noticed I hardly ate O’s anymore. I guess it was the principle – wanting to have some kind of control or to be able to rebel at some part of this process.
Peanut butter was okay (in moderation) and nuts were fine, too.
I went to a free dietary class for diabetics at the hospital. Unfortunately I was the only one there. Ick, I was hoping to be a face in the crowd; now I am in for a one-on-one conversation. The fellow who taught the class was very nice and had plenty of visual aids – lots of plastic food. We discussed what was good to eat – “vegetables are free,’ he said.
“Tell that to the security guard at the grocery store,” said I.
“No, that means you can eat as many vegetables as you want…” said he.
“Ah!” said I. “That’s great! I could eat potatoes and corn all day!”
“…except potatoes and corn,” said he.
He meant green vegetables – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celery. Well, all right – I can eat those, too. That’s why God made Velveeta, butter and peanut butter respectively…
I was missing the point of all this.
He brought out a brown rectangular piece of plastic and put it on the table in front of me. “This is one serving of meat. It’s about the size of a deck of cards.”
A serving of meat? That’s a serving of meat? That’s a forkful of meat. I find bigger pieces of meat when I floss.
I also got back on the treadmill. I had been using it off and on for years but I was determined to exhaust and sweat down my blood sugar. I hated it. I much prefer a brisk walk outside, but I would only have a short amount of time to walk in the evenings when I get home before bed. Plus I am not an outdoor guy. There is about a two-week window in the spring and fall when the weather is neither too hot nor too cold to run outside. And it would be embarrassing and humiliating, let’s be honest. I’m not exactly the athletic type. Neighbors would see me out there and laugh. I should know – I laugh at them. Old men would pass me, so would children on tricycles. No, best to keep my dignity by staying inside.
I got up a half-hour earlier in the morning to go to the basement and … um … treaded.
It did the trick – running in place while munching rabbit food, nibbling on the one serving of meat dangling off my fork and taking so many pills Judy Garland would be jealous – and my blood sugar was down from the six hundreds to double digits.
But all things must pass… The Carbondale doctor stopped taking my insurance and I found another in Mount Vernon, where I live, who was a bit … um … lax. He would renew my medication but otherwise wouldn’t care too much. He has that reputation.
Fine by me.
Slowly sweets would creep back into my diet. I was eating a cookie or two just before bed.
After a few years that doctor stopped taking my insurance, too. I had switched jobs and had different insurance – both sucked. Insurance coverage, not the job.
I found yet another new doctor. She is very nice and I enjoy visiting: the place is clean, not crowded and I can get in quickly. But she put the fear of blood sugar back into me. I am turning 50 this year and, she said, if I don’t get my diabetes under control the next ten years will see my kidneys and other organs start to break down. I already admit to having not much feeling in my feet and have lost a lot of hair down there – a result of constricting blood vessels.
More importantly, I now have a daughter I would like to see graduate high school. So I agreed.
The new doctor renewed my medication – gave me instructions on when specifically to take them (my Metformin before I eat, not at bedtime, for example) and recommended I read a book.
A book? Me read a book? Mwah-hah-hah! That’s one of my favorite activities. I can read a book with my eyes closed!
The results were stunning…
To Be Continued
Copyright 2014 Michael Curry