Discovering I Had Type 2 Diabetes

An image from three decades ago has stuck with me, though I’ve tried to forget it. I was watching my brother help his wife inject insulin, feeling both fascinated and repulsed. She was nearly blind as a result of Type 1 diabetes, a disease I knew nothing about.

My father developed Type 2 diabetes, but it was not something we talked about. Those were the days when urine tests were the only way to check sugar levels at home. I never asked him what he did for it because I was happy to keep diabetes a vague cloud in the background.

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So I was not prepared when Type 2 diabetes burst the bubble of ignorance I had built around myself. Looking back, I should have known better. My dad died from early-onset heart disease, just like his own mother. Both had what was then called “sugar diabetes.”

My own journey with Type 2 diabetes began with two days of blinding headaches. A trip to the emergency room for a CT scan and some blood tests led to a diagnosis of a mild stroke brought on by high blood sugar and high blood pressure.

In one day I went from zero medicines to five. I had to visit more doctors in the next six months than in the past twenty years. I felt doomed.

For five years I struggled with depression and hopelessness over this supposed “death sentence.” I would read about some new cure, give it a try, and then abandon it because it did not work. My father died in his mid 50’s, and I fully expected to do the same.

But when I did not die, it seemed that I needed to find some way, some reason to live with Type 2 diabetes. With that decision my eyes began to open, and I realized I was able to dream again.

I saw that I was surrounded by people, including children to cherish and laugh with. And I could write. Type 2 diabetes took none of that away.

In fact, it gave me something to write about. Writing led to research, and research led to a better understanding. I was finally looking at the diabetic condition, where it came from, and what could be done to live with its complications — even improve them.

I learned that huge numbers of people have diabetes, with numbers growing so fast that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call it an epidemic. One out of ten U.S. citizens has diabetes.

What alarms me is that about a fourth of those do not know it. That means that over eight million people in this country are like I was.

I wish I could talk to them. They need to know that ignorance is not bliss. The sooner diabetes is diagnosed, whether it is Type 1 or Type 2, the better.

If you are one of them, a simple blood sugar check at your next doctor visit is a place to start. Treatment for early Type 2 diabetes can often begin with only some dietary changes and increased exercise.

The depths of my own ignorance led to the serious diabetic complication that knocked me over. You do not have to make that mistake.

Why do so many people not know they have diabetes? Because it is a quiet, sneaky condition. It is possible to have prediabetes, the beginnings of insulin resistance, for years before high blood sugar throws you into full-blown Type 2.

For that reason, if you have a family history of diabetes, ask a medical professional for a blood sugar check. If you are overweight and do not exercise much, ask for a blood sugar check. If your doctor says your blood pressure is high, ask for a blood sugar check.

Please do not wait like I did. It is better to know. And if you do become one of us, be assured that our community is huge. You will not be alone on your journey. I would love to hear from you.

  • Sharey Travis

    Thanks for writing this most informative article. This could have been me. I just could not accept that I had to change my way of life or maybe not live. I still do not do it all perfect, but last year my doctor put me on insulin and now I take it all more seriously. The depression goes away somewhat once you accept the fact that yes you do have diabetes. I hope that you will keep sharing with us. These blogs are party of my therapy.

  • Kim S

    Welcome and thanks for your insights. Diabetes is a sneaky disease and yet it leaves tracks if we are tested and aware. We are personally responsible for knowing our family histories and taking ownership of our health, including annual (at least) checkups. It also takes health care professionals that will read our test results and provide us with some warning when the numbers are trending toward a diabetes diagnosis. In my personal case, my blood glucose numbers were in the “pre-diabetic” range for 2 years before I was diagnosed. I would have liked to have known where I was headed when I could still do something about it.

  • Pat Knipper

    I found out I had type 2 diabetes when I was having surgery. The pre op testing required a blood sugar and the surgeon said after the procedure he recommended I have my doctor order a blood sugar test for diabetes. That is how I found out and beginning taking life more seriously. I take my doctors advice seriously and make an effort to balance my life and diet. Believe me with a family and a career “me time” has always seemed selfish. Just think about what would happen if your family had to take care of you. Especially, if you did not do all you could to take an active part in your health. Your body lets you know when you aren’t eating properly, exercising and relaxing when you get the chance. Your loved ones would be so much worse off without you so the few minutes a day you spend on yourself will all pay off to a long happy life. The recent medications, losing some weight has helped me to feel better now than I did twenty five years ago when I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I look forward to each and every day and still have to push myself on some days to move and eat right. But before one can love others you must first love yourself.

  • BEdiabetic2

    Thank you for your post. I am also a type 2 diabetic and heaven only knows for how long. I have known for the last 8 years and have tried a huge variety of treatments and have also seen those lovely false “cures”. It disgusts me how many take advantage of people just looking for a way to live with a disease that terrifies them. I am now on an insulin pump (by choice) and my control is fantastic! I am looking to start a blog for those who are interested in using a pump but are scared or feeling as though they failed. It is not a failure. Thank you again.

  • Robert Torrence

    Thanks for your article. Things just got real for me this morning as I had to wake up for the first time and check my blood sugar and give myself a shot of insulin. I am 44 yrs old and have lived a sometimes reckless life, the funny part is that for 5 years I sold diabetic supplies, and never once thought it could happen to me, boy was I wrong. Now the questions, how did I get to this point? What could I have done differently? Why me?. Let me digress, I have been extremely tired for a long time, and thought it was just me getting up in years. Then about a month ago I decided I was gonna start to change by drinking water all day and try and cut out soda. A week ago I started being thirsty all the time, and I would drink and drink and drink, you get the picture. But with everything I drank I was still thirsty, and constantly having to urinate as it was just running through me. I would wake up 4 to 5 times a night, and have to urinate and my mouth would be dry to the point my to une would hurt and I would drink more water. As I said this continued for a week as I became the Google king and constantly looked for answers, yet not wanting to accept the ones I was being given. I waited a week because of fear, fear of the unknown. I have 6 children, and didn’t want to know what was really going on , or have to look into there eyes and tell them something was wrong with daddy. I can count on one hand the amount of times I have been to the Dr.’s office in the last 10 years. FEAR a small word but a mountains sized obstacle to overcome. So I finally went to the ER on Sunday and was admitted and advised I was type 2 diabetic and that I had high blood pressure. Now looking back the news could of been worse. Waking up this morning gave me the realization as to where I am now, even though I feel depressed a little and have so many thoughts running through my head, I also realize this is my cross to bear, my fight to win. I must win, for my children and myself. I got myself to this point and it is my turn to change my life style and become healthy so that this is controlled.

  • Wayne Thompson

    This article is so straightforward and informative and it reminded of my own journey in discovering I had type 2 diabetes, knowing your blood pressure status is vital it was the first thing I had developed.
    Three years later I became familiar with every restroom in the city I worked and visited them every 10 – 15 minutes, visit the doctor and was told I had type 2.
    Having known many person who had lost limbs because of sugar it never dawn on me that I could have this disease too.
    Thank you for sharing your perspective on this matter.