Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 305--Hope and Promises

I have had type 2 diabetes for most of my life.  I was diagnosed in 1992, and I know I had insulin resistance from my early teens.  There are certain signs you can look for that indicate insulin resistance, and in hindsight, I can easily identify them.  One of the biggest signs is discolored skin around the neck, armpits, and groin areas.  I remember scrubbing my neck as hard as I could to rid myself of that ring, only to have my skin dry red and the discoloration still there.  I even tried bleaching my skin...with Clorox.  I didn't know what that ring was or why I had it but I wanted it gone.  None of my friends had it, and some of the kids at school had noticed and made fun of me for it.  It would be years before I would wear my hair up without wearing a turtleneck or collared shirt of some kind.

Being overweight, I'm hardly a candidate for Best Diabetic of the Year award.  I eat what I want, exercise if I feel like it, lose my meters and ignore them if I don't feel like testing.  Yep.  I'm THAT diabetic.  As I've walked the last twenty years with this disease, I've learned that I'm not alone.  There are plenty of diabetics out there who are just as "bad" or even "worse" when it comes to caring for their diabetes.  I'm fortunate--my doctors stumbled upon a good mix of medication that helped to lower my blood sugar, and while it's still a bit higher than it needs to be, it's not nearly as bad as it once was.

A few months ago I ended up in the emergency room after a vicious round with the stomach flu.  The doctor was afraid I had appendicitis.  The ER doctor did not find any evidence of appendicitis but threw a new diagnosis in the mix.  He was certain I had gastroparesis, a condition where the stomach does not digest the food quickly enough and the food literally rots in the stomach.  I had my doubts about that diagnosis because vomiting wasn't my only symptom, if you know what I mean.  But he brought up the need for me to do what I'd been putting off for years--finding an endocrinologist.

The first appointment I had I cancelled.  I didn't feel good.  In all fairness, I really didn't feel good, but I was afraid.  Endocrinologists are scary folks.  I sometimes think that when people specialize in some form of medicine they kind of think they're a demi-god.  The last endocrinologist I had seen had grabbed my shoulder, punched me in a tender point and asked if it hurt.  Yes, dear, and I hope it's okay when my foot flew out and kicked your scrotum.

So today I had an appointment.  I couldn't bow out of it no matter what I wanted to do.  I have this strategy to get through scary or painful things.  I tell myself it will be over in x number of hours, and I can do anything for x number of hours.  Really, there are a lot of things I don't like that I can manage for a few hours.  Right?  So I got myself ready and my mom and I headed over.  Helpful hint--if you are in pain or have some sort of illness that makes it hard to pay complete attention, it's an excellent idea to take another person with you.  Often, they will remember things (and may even take notes) that you don't remember because you're so focused on the pain or that ungodly blood pressure cuff or trying not to watch them suck out a liter of your blood.

And shocker--this doctor and his nurse were absolutely awesome.  Nobody told me I was going to die.  Nobody treated me like a "bad patient".  Nobody asked me why I hadn't been to the endocrinologist in a long time.  They just treated me normally, like a real human being, and we discussed options to provide better control.  They didn't even lecture me for my lack of a meter.  And best of all, nobody made me feel like a bad girl.  The doctor noted that it may be helpful too, to get my blood sugar a bit more stable to help me feel better.  I really liked that idea.

Yesterday my therapist said something really important to me.  She told me that as I go forward in this process, I'll learn my own unique tricks to manage my fibromyalgia.  That I won't always feel this badly. This is kind of the bottom, and it will get better from here.  It will get better.

And I wasn't sure if I believed her, but it sure was a good bit of hope and promise.


  1. I know about those discolored lines! They're called Acanthosis Nigricans and our school nurse told me about them. She actually checks the children for them and even at such a young age (my school serves pre-k through first graders) we always have several children with the lines each year. I think it's a fascinating medical concept (although it's cool if you don't, that would be understandable!).

  2. You're one of very few people who know! In fact, most doctors don't know, or didn't when I was growing up, as not a single one ever mentioned it to my parents or to me. It was only several years after I had been diagnosed that an endocrinologist pointed them out and explained they were a sign of insulin resistance. Can you imagine if I had known that at twelve? I watch both of my kids carefully, and my daughter has some very faint ones, so we keep a closer eye on her and like for her blood to be tested for a glucose reading every once in awhile, especially since diabetes runs in her family.