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.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Diabetes Day

Warning: Blatant heath info. 

Yesterday—November 14—was World Diabetes Day, which pretty much passed unnoticed in my region. Folks around here didn't sport blue ribbons (blue is the diabetic color), nobody held a race or even a walk, there wasn't even a benefit concert.

My glucometer reading an hour after lunch today.
Yeah, it's too high. I ate too many carbs.

 For me, every day is Diabetes Day and has been since I was officially diagnosed in January 1999. That was when my gynecologist told me I was diabetic; my family practitioner had told me a few years earlier that my extreme fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, and aches and pains meant I had fibromyalgia.  After all, I didn't have the symptoms that most folks think signal diabetes: I didn't lose weight (I gained!), I didn't make frequent trips to the bathroom (I was a teacher; I'd trained myself to hold it.), I wasn't especially thirsty (Again, as a teacher in the age before bottled water, I couldn't drink water whenever I wanted.)—so I couldn't have been diabetic.

Finally, my family practitioner gave me a finger-stick blood test (92—not diabetic!) but also had me take the A1C test that showed, yeah, I was diabetic. Really diabetic. I searched the Internet for diabetic info. I realized that other symptoms I had were also diabetic symptoms: the dirty skin syndrome on my neck and other areas, skin tags, decreased vision (I needed progressively stronger lenses every year), frequent infections (I attributed all those strep infections to being around students with strep throat, plus there was the 22-month bout of chronic Epstein-Barre), numbness and tingling of hands and feet (diabetic neuropathy), itchiness, and slow healing cuts (even minor scratches). My Internet search led to discovering Dr. Bernstein's Diabetic Solutions. Using practices in the book, I took my blood sugar back into the normal range and lost weight. Through the years, I started eating like regular people again (although not as much carby stuff as the food pyramid recommends). And my diabetes became much worse and I gained weight again.

This year, I have made a bigger effort to get control. I've cut the carbs way back. Giving up wheat has helped tremendously, although sometimes I backslide.

What's it like to have diabetes?

I can tell when my blood sugar is rising too fast or too much (or when it's  over 140)—my ears ring. Not jingly-jangly, but the insect-sound of a hayfield in summer. It's not unpleasant, but I have trouble deciphering sounds if I'm not looking at whoever's talking. If there's another sound in the background—music or general background noise, I really have trouble understanding whoever is talking to me. I try not to use the phone during these episodes because I can misinterpret info. Sometimes I'll tell the caller to speak louder and slower. When my blood sugar is high, I'm sluggish, klutzy, and brain-foggy. One doctor described it to me as "walking through thick syrup." That description nails it. Besides the hearing problem, high blood sugar makes it harder for me to concentrate and harder for me to make my hands to do what I want them to do (like handwriting or opening a jar); I really want to sleep. Plus, I'll hurt.

If my blood sugar rises too high too fast, it'll crash in about two hours. I'll get jittery, feel faint, and sometimes break out in a cold sweat. I'll also become very irritable. The ear-ringing will stop, but other noises will bother me—especially certain frequencies. I'll be easily distracted.

After a higher-than-usual-carb day or a day in which I ate something containing wheat, I pay the price. I'm tired, my muscles and joints ache, and I usually have difficulty walking. My hands tingle and sometimes won't work the way I want them to. If I'm going to be at an event where I'll be tempted to eat too many carbs, I try to not schedule other activities for two days afterwards so I can bounce back. I won't drive long distances or at night. I won't do things that require intense concentration or fine motor skills.

I've tried many diabetic meds that didn't work. For the past year year, I've been on prandin, which I take 15 to 30 minutes before a meal. As long as I keep my carb count to under 20 grams per meal and avoid wheat, potatoes, rice, soy, processed foods with their plethora of additives, artificial sweeteners (which act just like sugar as far as my blood sugar is concerned), I generally do OK. I eat full-fat rather than low-fat, because fat acts an an appetite suppressant and helps brain activity. I eat protein as well as fat with every meal. Fat and protein don't spike my blood sugar the way carbs will.

I try to avoid temptation, which means I sometimes turn down invitations to places where I suspect I won't be able to stay wheatless and low-carb. I appreciate buffets instead of pre-selected menus because I can almost always find what I need to eat from buffet choices. I appreciate groups that save the carb-laden treats to be served at the end of a meeting, so I can leave instead of watching other folks scarf up what I really  really want  but know I shouldn't eat. I appreciate get-togethers where there are other choices besides carbs—cheese cubes, raw vegetables, etc.

I don't appreciate having no choices. I dropped out of AAUW a few years ago because the luncheon meetings had such delicious carb-laden food (no choice—everyone ate the same entreee) and desserts to die for (literally!) I still go to Pen Women luncheons because I can brown-bag it or order for myself. I sometimes avoid other occasions if I know there'll be carby treats (and no other choices) and if I don't have someone to drive me home afterwards. I don't buy Girl Scout cookies or doughnuts or popcorn that groups are selling as fund-raisers. I don't go to pancake breakfasts or spaghetti suppers no matter what good cause they're supporting.

I have become my own cause.

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