Diabetes and me…

Last week I had some good news. I had my annual Type 2 diabetes check and discovered that my blood test showed a significant improvement in my blood sugar control. This annual test is called the HbA1C and it measures your average blood glucose (sugar) levels for the last two to three months. Previously the lowest I have ever been, back in the early days after diagnosis, was 8.1. Two years ago it was 12.2, last year it was 10.8. Last week it was down to 7.2. A great result, although they really want it to be 6.5. I suspect I may actually be there, but my recent bout of bronchitis raised my levels for about six weeks of the three months concerned.

The reason for this vast improvement is about six months of total focus on my diabetes. Following a fairly low-carb way of eating, pricking my poor sore fingers 4-6 times a day to record the effect of every meal, every treat, every bit of exercise to see what effect it has on my blood sugar. Swallowing 11 tablets every day, even experimenting with when I take those tablets. I have thought of little else. And it has paid off.

This is really the first time I have done this since I was first diagnosed in April 2001. At the time I was in a pretty grim place. I was newly separated with a 6 year old daughter. I had huge amounts of debt, I weighed over 23 stone (having lost 2 stone pre-diagnosis) and my work life was so stressful and miserable that I could barely get out of bed in the morning.

The diabetes came as another hammer blow, seeming like a death sentence (which of course it can be). It was discovered by a routine urine test at my annual medical for work. Sugar in my sample. They sent me to the doctors, then there was a blood test. Then the news. The only advice I was given was to go home and empty my cupboards of jam. Not really that helpful.

At that time my diet was dictated by my budget. I ate a lot of beans on toast! Over the next couple of years, I lost another 2 stone. I took a dance class to increase my exercise. But as so often happens I got complacent. My diabetes care from the doctors was non-existent. There was certainly no education. Looking back, I don’t even know if I really understood what diabetes was.

Then in the summer of 2004 my daughter, Zoe, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Boy did I get some education then. This blog is not about Zoe’s diabetes journey though. Suffice it to say that her struggle as a 9 year old and then a teenager, punctuated with hospital visits, whilst improving my understanding of this cruel disease gave me a reason not to focus on my own problem.

I lost another couple of stone before I got married. A loss of 6 stone from my heaviest. Although I still needed to lose more (another 2 stone gone since then!). But to be honest I didn’t test very often. I got myself into a stew before each annual blood test, and occasional dark nights when I allowed fear of the future to creep into my consciousness, but outside of that I pretty much pushed it to the back of my mind. To be honest my life was so busy that I had very little time for self care. It was easier just to not worry about it. Just keep going.

Then, as you know, last year we changed our lives. We moved to Morecambe. The level of health care up here is so much better than it was in Hertfordshire. For the first time I felt as though I had someone in my corner. It was time to start taking better care of myself. I realised that I have quite bad damage to my feet. I already had numbness when I was diagnosed, but I definitely have neuropathy in both feet and need to take great care of them.

In May I set out to get a grip. I set up a little accountability group on Facebook, people that I trusted to support me without judgement. Kick my butt when needed. Encourage me if things got tough. I went back to low-carb eating. Started walking more. Started testing more often. Micro-managing my diabetes. And it paid off. Great results. Pats on the back all round. My feet hurt all the time, in fact a lot worse since I got my sugars down – probably because they are not so numb. But all my other results are pretty good.

But since getting those results I have felt a kind of despair. I am always going to have diabetes. I will always have to think about what I eat and drink. I will always have to take tablets. I will always have to test my bloods. I am angry about that. So of course I am writing it out. Acknowledging that diabetes stinks. And overwhelmingly sad that my lovely daughter has to live with this too.

The constant focus in the news on obesity as a cause of Type 2 diabetes haunts me. It shames me. I go into my diabetes appointments feeling ashamed. Like a small child desperate to please. I am letting my diabetes define me. But it is not who I am.

I have learned a lot over the last six months. I know that if I eat well and walk I keep my sugars down, and an occasional slice of cake, or a couple of slices of my home-made bread will not adversely affect me. I can live my life and hopefully prolong my life by continuing this self-care. Over the last 5 days my sugars have been consistently between 5 and 7. I am proud of that.

This blog marks my decision to stop letting my diabetes define me. To stop feeling that my life is limited by this “chronic condition”. To truly rediscover my lust for life. To embrace my 60’s and ignore my limiting beliefs around my physical abilities. To believe in the things that I tell my clients. To stop being angry. To let it go. To relax a little and live my life. With diabetes. Not fighting it.

We are our own harshest judges aren’t we? I love the sentiment of this song. I’m gonna follow my arrow…

 

This is me…

 

The phone rings and a disembodied voice says to me “We need the weather in 5 minutes”

“Sure” I say, “no problem”. I know that I am supposed to be reading the weather on the radio

I hang up and realise that I have no idea where my weather script is! My anxiety kicks in BIG time and my heart rate increases, my breathing becomes laboured, my body temperature soars, I am in full panic mode. My brain is screaming “What am I going to do????” I can hear the clock ticking…and I wake up, in a cold sweat with an overwhelming sense of terror.

That was me at 1am this morning.

But then, as my breathing slowed, and my bedroom materialised around me I had a rather wonderful experience.

You see, I have a secret ambition. It came to me about 2 years ago while I was working with my coach and friend Ian. I want to do a Ted Talk. I want to stand on that red circle and share something profound, something inspirational. Something that might help even one person feel better. There, I said it out loud again.

Well last night in that moment between the panic of my nightmare and the clarity of wakefulness I received the script. Fully formed. I know what it is that I want to say.

Some of it I have said before, it involves me sharing some of the stuff I have left behind so that I can tell people exactly what I see now. I need to revisit some of the pain that I know I do not need anymore. I need to do that because I need to share that I get it. I get how painful it can be. It is necessary to acknowledge the crap so that I can point the way to something so much better, so much bigger. Something innate in all of us. I lay quietly, running through the script in my head. And smiling.

An hour later I find myself outside in my street with two elderly Labradors who decided that 2am is the perfect time for a toilet break. It was cold, the cars in the road were lightly frosted as we walked along, accompanied by both my cats. Standing waiting for the dogs to do what dogs do,  I looked up at the sky. It was so beautiful it took my breath away. So many stars reminding me of the vastness of the universe. Back in bed I lay quietly, blown away by a glimpse of something so mindblowing, so infinite. But also an incredible sense of who I am. Why I am. A sense of wonder about our existence on this tiny rock spinning through the universe.

I know. Maybe you had to be there! But something has definitely shifted in me. Unfortunately, the new me was still awake at 5:20 am, and the alarm went off just over an hour later. Today is proving a bit of a challenge. But that sense of how awesome we are persists.

I believe that every now and then we are given glimpses of something rather wonderful.  Standing on a beach at sunset, or on top of a mountain. Gazing at our new born baby. Poetry, art, drama. If we are lucky we fall in love, share a friendship, experience a passion, realise a dream. Its about being open to all those experiences whilst knowing that we are part of something greater, something very special. It’s a feeling that transcends some of the more unpleasant things that our experience in this world brings us. It exists in that quiet space before sleep or just after waking when we are close to touching our spirit. The quiet roar.

Last Thursday I happened to catch The One Show on BBC1. It was a humdinger. The lovely Ben Fogle talked about standing on top of Everest in a humble and awe-inspiring way. Noel Fitzpatrick, the supervet, talked about animala, their bond with humans and his desire to make this world a better place for them. And then we met this year’s rickshaw challenge team. Six similarly awe-inspiring youngsters who will brave a long and difficult journey in all kinds of weather to help other youngsters. I cried.

My Ted Talk would appear to be about me. And it is, but only because I am an ordinary person going through an extraordinary experience that is inside all of us. The best talks I have watched have not been by experts with letters after their names. They are by real people, ordinary people who have triumphed over adversity, or discovered something inside themselves that they didn’t know was there. By sharing we can inspire, and we can learn. There is so much to learn.

Coming to a You Tube Channel near you soon…

This song is probably overused in this context, but no apologies as it is glorious and so appropriate for that script I am running. And much of what my talk will be about.