My first month with type II diabetes

I felt the urge to understand how I got here in order to figure out how to move forward.

The first thing my doctor asked me was, “Do you want a few months to see if you can handle this with diet and exercise?” She knows me well. I was shocked. She waited for me to say something, but I couldn’t get an answer.

My doctor continued, “Your fasting blood sugar is 153 and your A1C is 7.1”. She stopped. “You know what that means.”

Indeed. I knew exactly what it meant. This meant I had type 2 diabetes.

I am familiar with these lab numbers and what they mean. As a retired certified professional midwife, I have counseled many pregnant women with gestational diabetes. I know about blood glucose meters, blood sugar levels, diet diaries, and all the lifestyle changes that diagnosis would bring.

It means big changes. It means looking at myself and accepting the truth in an uncomfortable and crucial way. It means dealing with the fact that I have a chronic illness.

I hung up the phone. It took me 3 days to tell my partner about it.

My favorite way to deal with stressful situations is research. As soon as I picked up the phone with my doctor, I retired to my office, where I was able to dive deep into type 2 diabetes.

I stopped by my pharmacy to buy a glucometer, lancets and test strips. Bleeding my finger several times a day to test my blood sugar made me feel like it was very real, very fast.

I felt the urge to understand how I got here in order to figure out how to move forward.

Like many others, I had gained weight during the pandemic. For months, I didn’t do much except walk from the bed to the kitchen to the computer. I even stopped walking the dog and instead started driving to the dog park, where I was able to relish socially distant conversations with other humans.

Over time, I started to eat more pasta, more bread. Comfort food was something to shed some light during a dark time. After dinner, I did not shy away from the delicacies of chocolate, basking myself on little puffs of endorphins. Like millions around the world, I have faced. I cocooned. Then I stayed like that for 15 months.

With a family history of diabetes and heart disease, maybe I should have known. But I really didn’t think diabetes would sneak in the door. Just 5 years ago I was running 5 km races. Just a few weeks ago, my partner and I noticed our good health.

When it comes to being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during the pandemic, it seems I’m not alone.

Researchers continue to compile and track, but at this time the Numbers suggest that pediatric diabetes cases have doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not yet known if there is a corresponding increase in adults, but it is widely recognized that many people like me delayed meeting with our caregivers during the pandemic.

Because I postponed a 2-year checkup, I don’t know how long I’ve been living with the disease.

My age plays there too. At 57, I am in the ideal age group to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. While I understand that my body and mind will change as I get older, I still accept this sudden lurch in life. living with chronic disease. It is an illness that I will manage until I die. This idea gives food for thought.

My weight is playing a role in that. It turns out that weight is often a more important predictor than genetics in determining who will be diagnosed with diabetes. I am about 60 pounds overweight and this may have made me more susceptible to type 2 diabetes.

The excess fat in the body also affects the production of insulin and the way it is used. The good news is if I can lose 10 percent of my body weight, maybe I can reverse this train.

What no one is talking about is the emotional labor related to diabetes.

I still haven’t told my sons about my diagnosis, because telling them makes it real. I know my news will worry them. I will also tell them that it may put them at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.

I will feel their eyes on me, willing to push their fingertips several times a day, ready to be deeply devoted to the management that it requires.

There is also a part of me that feels angry. Why is this happening to me?

I am ashamed. Or is it the guilt? Many people with type 2 diabetes feel ashamed and guilty about their health. Every day I push back the idea that this is a personal failure.

I know that although the causes are not fully understood, often a combination of genetic possibilities and environmental factors lead to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Diet, exercise and stress are some of them, but luck too.

I will no longer waste bandwidth feeling embarrassed. I’m not going to dig deeper into our family history, trying to attribute my fate to genetics. I will try to focus on what I can control.

It’s only been a few weeks yet and I’m already making some changes.

In the kitchen, I found the food scale and took out the measuring cups. Just having it on the counter was an effective reminder to work on portion sizes.

I stocked the fridge with the usually recommended items: greens, lean meats, low glycemic fruit, and some diet sodas in case I had a terrible craving for something sweet.

I created a new playlist for the many hours of walking ahead and had a chat with the dog, who is very pleased with this particular improvement in his lifestyle.

I also allow myself to be a little excited. I remember how it feels to be in better shape, how it feels to move a few miles with the dog every morning.

I monitor my blood sugar numbers, just trying to find patterns and identify foods that trigger me. I will miss the ciabatta bread, but I remember how much I love sweet potatoes.

Small steps. I know I’m going to have days when I don’t walk a mile, and I’m definitely going to have a slice of pie while on vacation. I know this can’t be an all or nothing situation.

I give myself permission to make imperfect changes because even imperfect changes are steps in the right direction.

What I’m wondering now is healing from the diagnosis. It’s work. the burden of being diabetic in a world that does not always understand what it is is not trivial. The emotional weight is the work.

I know there are big changes to come. I am building a new relationship with my body, with food and with my doctor. I wouldn’t say I’m happy, but I’m grateful. I have a good chance of getting this disease under control before it damages my nerves, eyes or kidneys.

I agreed to have to learn a new dance.


Jana Studelska is a writer and editor based in Minnesota. She is a retired certified professional midwife who continues to teach pediatrics and writing. When she is not disconnected from her cabin, she lives in Saint-Paul with a good man and two animals.


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