A Lesson In Discipline From A Diabetic Person



Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

The resources to understand and cope with diabetes are many. The American Diabetes Association has an extensive number of cookbooks and educational materials; Better Homes & Gardens publishes regular magazines, plus cookbooks and more to help those with the disease stay on top of the latest medical information, and eat in a healthy way.

We are talking about living with medical conditions — I am a diabetic. And not a very good one. Most of the time, I live with diabetes as a passing acquaintance, not the intimate friend it should be. So, this is an article about how not to live with diabetes.

Growing up, I was told by my grandparents I should be tested. It ran in the family.

So, during the first physical I had when I was “out in the real world,” I asked for the test. It was negative. That was in 1977.

Several years later, in the early 1990s, I asked to be tested again. The doctor asked why and I told her what my grandparents had said. She then asked if I’d had any of the symptoms: frequent thirst, frequent urination, sores that would not heal. I hadn’t, so she said it wasn’t necessary to be tested.

Then, in the summer of 1997, something bit me on the shin and the sore would not heal. I still had it when I had my physical that October, so I asked to be tested a third time. I was told I had Type 2 Diabetes.

What did that mean?

After listening to the doctor and reading all kinds of material to figure out what she had said, and more material to figure out what I had read, I could sum it up: I had beat up my body with bad behavior and this was payback.

So, I kept reading and started taking medication and monitoring my blood sugar with hawk-like intensity. I was a very good record keeper, but not so good at being a good diabetic — changing the things that could make the biggest differences: eating and exercise habits.

Without those changes, my diabetes remained out of control, which meant increased doses of the medication I was given until it was maxed out and I was given different pills. Finally, my treatment had to go to the next level: insulin shots plus pills. I have since had to go to two different kinds of insulin, which I am supposed to take a total of five times a day and a pill I am supposed to take twice a day (and that’s just for diabetes — there is also a pill for cholesterol and one of osteoporosis).

When I do what I am supposed to — eat right (for instance, doing the Weight Watchers Points® Program and using Smart Choice and Lean Cuisine frozen meals twice a day), and exercising (three times a week at Curves) — I get good results. My blood sugar tests in the normal range. In fact, at my last physical (in October), the doctor said I had been such a good diabetic, I was “almost in control.”

But then I got off track with the holidays and other distractions.

So, now it’s spring and I am determined to start anew and work toward being “good” again.

What does that mean?

For me, that means starting at the beginning:

• Checking my blood sugar with a glucose monitor when I get up in the morning, before I eat and before I go to bed;

• Eating right — there are all kinds of healthy frozen meals that I know keep my blood sugar in control and help me lose weight; I also have a small fortune in diabetic cookbooks and if I made a new recipe out of each of them for every meal I would probably never eat the same thing twice the rest of my life;

• Exercising — going to Curves three times a week for just 30 minutes a visit and just walking the dog for 10 minutes three times a day would add up to a very healthy regimen;

• Taking my medications the way I am supposed to;

• Seeing my health care providers as frequently as I am supposed to; and

• Staying informed about the latest research.

There are many health conditions with which we have little individual control — diabetes is not one of them. It is something that can be managed with planning and discipline.

Self-discipline with our health — and in other areas — goes a long way to giving us a better, more rewarding life.


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