Uncaring? Get a Clue!

More than a decade ago, I wrote a column for a(nother) diabetes magazine about Type 2 diabetes. One comment sent in by a reader at the time said, in part, that her daughter had to wear an insulin pump and added that she wished all her child had to do was “take a pill and not eat cheesecake.”

Yeah, that would be nice. For me, too.

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There are a lot of “facts” about Type 2 diabetes. “Fat and lazy” is one. Another is that we are clueless and uncaring.

I thought about that after I wrote last week’s blog entry, which didn’t exactly portray the picture of a clueless, uncaring, “typical” Type 2. I bust my butt trying to keep my blood glucose in some kind of control, even though I’m not always successful.

Like now. My numbers have sucked for some time, and my HbA1c, which is usually less than 6.5%, has climbed to 7.9%. My white blood cell count is high, indicating there is an infection somewhere, which can account for my increased insulin requirements and miserable control.

Yesterday, I faxed an intensive blood glucose (and carbs and insulin dosages) log to my endocrinologist and anxiously await his suggestions. I’m tired of feeling like crap all of the time.

At the same time, I’m fighting the urge to just give up. Hey, nothing seems to work, so why bother? Plus, cheesecake sure sounds good. I even made one on Sunday — then sent it off for a post-burial meal yesterday. I didn’t even get to lick the pan. But I got some compliments, which is better.

There are, however, some Type 2s who are clueless and uncaring. After meeting one of them last week, I have a theory about why: Many could be uncaring because they’re clueless.

As I was scootering along on my way to have blood drawn for follow-up labs one day last week, a car pulled up beside me in the parking lot I was crossing at the time. The window lowered and the driver asked, “Are you the person who comes into the (coffee shop she owns) all the time?”

“I don’t go often,” I said, “but I’m meeting a friend there in a little bit.”

We chatted for a little while and, long story short, it turned out she’d recently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. And pays absolutely no attention to it.

“I just don’t feel sick!” she noted.

“Yeah, it’s a sneaky little devil,” I said, before listing some of the ways it can make its presence known. (Heart attack, stroke, that kind of stuff.)

And then I went to the lab.

When I got to the coffee shop, she was at my table before I could move over to a chair. “Is it OK if I sit with you for awhile?” she asked. “What would you like to drink?”

So she sat and we talked about diabetes. She had not been referred to a certified diabetes educator. I guess her doctor didn’t tell her much. Or she didn’t listen (which is common, because, after that, all you hear going through your head is “you have diabetes”).

“Oh, that’s OK,” I told her as I grinned. “Diabetes only affects the areas of your body that have blood flow.”

“But that’s everywhere!” she exclaimed, looking startled.

I told her insulin is not a medicine, it’s a naturally occurring hormone that everybody needs, and told her how it works. And that all carbohydrates convert to sugar — glucose — in your body.

And I deliberately checked my glucose in front of her after she shuddered at the thought.

“That’s not that bad,” she noted.

My friend came in at the point where the woman basically said that, when you have diabetes, you can’t do stuff: That your life is over.

My friend told her about her daughter, who was diagnosed with Type 1 at age 10, played varsity sports, and is now an elementary school teacher and a single mother of a 5-year-old. (The daughter was also my grandchildren’s babysitter and wrangled the eight Camp Lobegon children for a few hours every day beginning when they were ages 2 to 10 or so, and included one with Down syndrome.)

It was rather interesting. Maybe she’s a little more caring now that she’s not as clueless. Frankly, it’s a concept I’d never before considered although, looking back, that’s what happened to me: I had to learn about diabetes before I cared about taking better care of me.

I’ll have to head back to the coffee shop after the snow clears and see what transpires. Maybe I’ll get another cup of coffee in return.

  • Deb

    Jan, this is just one example of why you’re one of my diabetes heroes. You were so caring and helpful to this woman. I’ll bet she won’t be uncaring and clueless from now on.
    I appreciate your honesty about the problems you’re dealing with, whether it be diabetes, other health issues, or handicapped bathroom stalls!
    I’m hoping your labs and logs are helpful in figuring out what’s going on with your body. You can be sure there are a lot of us who care.

  • jim snell

    I was most curious where Jan was heading after the prior column and this one. Once plane back on ground and tied to the ground firmly in the parking area; the purpose was clear.

    As one who has been at this 30 years plus as T2 and having stroke and having to clean up mess, Jan’s comments are dead on.

    This is a sneaky disease/condition that sneaks up on one so quietly and slowly, its deadly effects and rot on body are devestating. It is absolutely critical and early as possible to take steps to arrest this mess and keep under control as well as monitor.

    Simply cutting back on sweets, taking a pill won’t hack it. Yes it seems one is initially escaping the end show but in fact ignoring it. One does not need stroke, hemorages on retinas, failining kidneys, heart attack, rotting viens and arteries. I know, I got too close to the edge.

    It starts with carbs/control – diet with hearty exercise; and as the years go by, the liver, pancreas, skeletal muscles conspire to make things worse and more agrresive meds treatment is needed in conjunction with necessary continued carbs control/diet and hearty exercise is needed to keep mess arrested.

    Message – dead on Jan and thank you for sharing!

  • David Spero RN

    Jan, it sure sounds like an infection is causing your high sugars and high white counts. Infections are such a drag with diabetes — easy to get, hard to fight, causing all kinds of trouble. Hope your doctors can find the infection and you can get rid of it soon.

  • Jan Chait

    Deb, you’re making me blush! (Don’t stop.)

    Honest is the only way I can be. You know the joke about women not having babies after they reach 50 because they’d put them down and not remember where they put them? I did something like that when I was in my early 40s: Took my infant grandson to show him off to my friends and, when I was ready to leave, told the secretary “goodbye” as I headed to the elevator.

    “Aren’t you going to take the baby?” she asked.

    Baby? Yikes! (In my defense, he was my first and I hadn’t had a baby around for a number of years.)

    Anyway, you see that, with me, honesty really IS the best policy: I have enough trouble remembering what’s really happening. I could never remember anything I made up!

    Jan