“You have Type 2 diabetes.”
Those words hit me like the ton of proverbial bricks. I felt like throwing in the towel completely and running to the local donut shop to soothe my bad emotions. After all, what difference did it make anymore?
I felt like I had been fighting off Type 2 diabetes for years – at least a decade. In 2007, weighing nearly 430 pounds, my blood sugar (glucose) level registered above normal for the first time. I was 31 years old. I had known diabetics. I had dispensed needles and test strips to diabetics hundreds of times during my years working as a pharmacy technician. I didn’t want anything to do with insulin, needles, test strips, glucose monitors, or even medications to control my blood sugar.
So, in 2007, I did something about it. I changed my lifestyle, and within six months, my sugar returned to the normal range. It eventually fell to the low end of the normal range during the five or so years I successfully kept off excess weight, exercised regularly, and only ate sugary sweets a few times a year for special occasions. I put Type 2 diabetes in the back of my mind, expecting it would stay there forever.
Fast forward to 2017, and I started experiencing odd symptoms. I felt like I peed more than anyone else I knew. I was thirsty a lot. I felt tired and exhausted, especially after I ate. I knew something was wrong, and I had a prime suspect in mind. I went to the doctor, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. After all, my weight had ballooned back up to 350 pounds, my blood pressure was high, I was eating sweets nearly every day (sometimes binging on entire boxes of donuts or packages of cookies), but I somehow believed that my moments of eating correctly would magically cancel out those moments I did not. I also had stopped exercising. I would get winded just walking a block or two with my wife.
The first blood test came back and my A1C (a three-month average of blood glucose) measured 7.6. Opinions vary as to what a healthy A1C should be, but my physician’s opinion was that it should be under 7, and ideally under 6. He prescribed metformin (Glucophage), the most commonly used medication to combat Type 2 diabetes. I relented, but a sense of defeat overwhelmed me as I told myself how awful, dumb, and stupid I was for letting myself get to this point…again, especially after all those years of keeping Type 2 diabetes at bay.
But I had been here before. I knew what I had to do to get that number down, and I told him and convinced myself that I’d get it down during the next three months, with the help of metformin, and then I’d be able to go off the stuff and return to my diet-controlled, pre-diabetic status.
Three months later, I eagerly anticipated my results, and was disappointed to find out I had only dropped to a 7.5. Still too high, and not enough of a change to warrant anything to get excited about. Of course, an honest conversation with myself brought to bear the denial I found myself in at this juncture in life because I had barely altered my eating habits, and I wasn’t exercising regularly. I had expected the metformin to work its magic this time around, but my bad habits were too much for the medication to have any impact.
“Doc, do I actually have diabetes,” I said, cautiously hoping that two sets of not-off-the-charts numbers meant I was still classified as pre-diabetic.
“You have Type 2 diabetes,” he said, and then launched into a description of what that meant for my future life, while I internally cried and berated myself.
After he finished, I promised the doctor I could do better. Three months passed, and I was nervous. I had not avoided one single sweet food that came my way during the holidays. (Thanksgiving and Christmas both took place during this three-month stretch.) I had not increased my exercise, except in the last couple weeks after telling myself I had to do better in 2019. I held out hope that maybe those two weeks would be enough, but the results came back, and my A1C had jumped to 8.0. I hung my head in shame.
Have you ever been here? Have you ever lost hope, wanted to give up, and just tell yourself, “what’s the point?” I’ve been here many times, and I’ve lost hope many times. But it’s because of those times of losing hope and then finding it again that I’ve become convinced there is ALWAYS hope for the heavy. We are not hopeless. We are not defeated. We can live a life of joy, health, and happiness just like everyone else. It might take some extra effort, for a variety of reasons, but we are NOT hopeless.
Fast forward again to last week’s doctor’s visit. This time, I had looked up my results in advance and was anxious to see how the doctor would respond. He came into the exam room with a big grin on his face. “I am so excited,” the doctor said. “You’re A1C has dropped to 6.4! Congratulations, you should be very proud. I see very few patients who can do what you did.”
I beamed and thanked him for his words of encouragement. I had been successful. I had found hope, latched on to it, and decided being healthy does bring great happiness and restore lost hope.
There’s more to this story, and of course, I’m just getting started again. I have a long road ahead of me that will require ongoing diligence to keep my Type 2 diabetes in check. In fact, I still need to get that number back down to under 6. But, I’m hopeful.
One of the best ways to maintain hope is to reach out to others and build a community of support around you. Guess what? That’s what I’m doing! I’m here, and others are here – we are all in this same boat together – the boat of finding hope for the heavy.
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