Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gaining and Losing

This is kind of boring. You might want to skip this post unless you like to read about health problems.

I lost ten pounds in two days!

That’s not quite true. It was actually twelve pounds. But at the doctor’s office on Wednesday, I had on shoes when I weighed.

I’ve had some health problems lately —weakness, fatigue, leg cramps (especially at night), poor concentration/confusion, and an earache that won’t go away. During the past couple of weeks, I couldn’t manage even short walks with the dogs. Getting through Kroger’s to shop was a challenge. My legs usually swelled like crazy by late afternoon, and at night painful cramps and muscle contractions woke me up.

Two weeks ago, I arrived at my doctor’s appointment with a list of my symptoms, in case the confusion kicked in while I was there. I’d listed the earache first, so that’s what she dealt with, although she did order some blood work since I’d thought to come in fasting. She gave me a prescription for drops which not only didn’t help, they made my ear itch. (Maybe the itching was supposed to distract me from the pain.)

This past Wednesday, I went back to deal with the next item on the list. The nurse who took my blood pressure had the print-out of my lab results. I asked to see them. Before the doctor came in, I knew what my problem was.

Some background here: I was first diagnosed with diabetes in January 1999 by my gynecologist who noticed certain symptoms and thought I should be tested. My GP at the time had missed it, no doubt because I’d had 22 months of chronic mono, then fibromyagia (a diagnosis of which means “We know something is wrong, but danged if we can figure out what”), and some other problems.

At that time, my A1c test was 8.8. (Normal is under 6; 10 is very high.) My GP sent me to diabetic class where I learned to use a glucometer and was told I could eat 60 grams of carbs per meal and that we’d aim for an A1c of 7. I’d have to exercise, etc.—and if that didn’t work, we could try some drugs. The class was basically a waste of time. I got better info from the Internet.

From Internet research, I learned that low-carbing would reduce both an A1c and a too-fat body. I ordered a book, Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solutions, and cut my carb intake to less than 30 grams of carbs per meal. I stopped eating pasta, potatoes, rice, and white bread. I lived near the Salem Y at the time, so I signed up for arthritis water aerobics (the regular kind was too strenuous). Within six months, I’d lost 40 pounds. Within a year, I’d lost another 15 pounds and had brought my A1c to 5.6—normal.

In August 1999, we’d moved to the farm, so I walked twice a day with my two dogs—my first border collie and a mixed retriever. I briefly tried the Y in Rocky Mount, but the water was too chilly, the smell of chlorine too strong, and the music too loud. I left each session with a headache and the shakes. Walking was better: I wasn’t inhaling chlorine, it was usually quieter, and I didn’t get a headache. Plus, the dogs were good company.

Gradually, though, I slipped off the low-carb wagon. I started adding more carbs, having more desserts, rediscovering the joy of macaroni and cheese. I upped my carbs to 60 grams a meal and started regaining weight.

Because I wasn’t walking much lately, I figured my blood glucose levels might be rising. I’d stopped testing my blood a while back; our insurance no longer covered the strips—which were pricey—and I’d been getting normal readings for a while. I attributed my increasing aches to advancing age. After all, I could look at my hands and see how arthritis had reshaped some of my fingers.

For years, my A1c stayed under 7. Then—a couple of years ago—it hit 7 again, then 7.9. I tried a couple of drugs—a couple of years ago, metformin gave me horrible muscle cramps (I learned later about lactic acidosis affecting some users); glyburide gave me shaky spells and cold sweats; Januvia (which my doctor touted as very safe but it's made by Merck, the company that produced the infamous Vioxx) put me in the hospital with breathing problems in September 2007. (TV ads for Januvia now mention that people with respiratory problems shouldn’t take it.)

Consequently, because of some drug allergies I have and my experiences with diabetes drugs, I’m wary about taking the metformin the doctor insisted on Wednesday that I should take, even though I tried to convince her that metformin did more harm than good the last time.

When I saw my 10.4 A1c Wednesday, I knew why I’d felt so lousy. Consequently, Wednesday night, I started low-carbing again. Actually, I didn't eat anything Wednesday evening. By Thursday night (chicken breast and green bean casserole for both lunch and supper), I felt better (except for the earache). I had strength to open the sliding glass door, which I hadn’t been able to easily do for a while. I could carry a loaded laundry basket the length of the house. I could do more around the house.

By Friday, I’d lost ten pounds—I figured most of it was fluid because my legs aren’t swelling as badly.

Now, I need to lose several points on the A1c scale. I need to lose weight. I’d like to lose the earache, but it’s gotten better since I’ve been laying my head on the heating pad a couple of times a day.

And I probably need to lose that bottle of metformin that’s sitting unopened on the kitchen counter.



Blogger Claudia Condiff said...

Wow! Good job on the weight loss!
I need to walk more too, so if you are up to it when the wether breaks to the 40's again, call me.Two or three times a week would be fine, with or without the dogs.
Keep up the good work, and feel better soon.

10:34 PM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

10 pounds in 2 days is a lot of water. I hope you feel better soon.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Amy Tate said...

Bless your heart! That's so frustrating when you know your body better than the doctors. We live in an age when we have to diagnose ourselves and tell them what we want to do. Gone are the days when you could actually trust them. Your ear ache is weird. That doesn't seem to go along with the other stuff. ARe you sure you don't have an infection somewhere?

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Mad Max said...

Good Lord, girl. You need to take better care of yourself. You have too much talent to lose to ill health. Be well. We'll look for you at Lake Writers this week.

2:08 PM  

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