I Do It MY Way

First, a smile for the day. My 84-year-old mother was visiting and I arranged to have coffee with a local friend of mine who is 86. I got to the coffee shop first and was, with the help of one of the employees, carving out a space for us at the community table.


“I’m meeting two octogenarian ladies,” I told him.

He then began wondering where their country was.

I worry about today’s youth and hope the little dude never gets diabetes. He might find the knowledge he’ll need to duke it out with the big D a bit overwhelming: Perhaps even more difficult than trying to find Octogenaria on a map.

How do you treat your diabetes? That is, do you blindly do what somebody else tells you to do (I call it fitting people into a box labeled “diabetes”) or did you work with professionals and do a lot of reading and experimenting to figure out what lets you be “free” and still maintain control?

Do you resent being put into a box or can you handle it, emotionally? Are you happy? Why?

I can’t imagine being happy in that circumstance. I would feel hot and sweaty and cramped and restrained. It wouldn’t last long. In fact, it didn’t. About two weeks. After that, I ignored the fact that I had Type 2 diabetes for about the next nine years. If I had to do all of “those” things to maintain control, it wasn’t worth it to me. It wasn’t worth the feeling of restraint; it wasn’t worth the deep depression that set in.

My HbA1c rose to 17.4%.

When a friend recommended I see an endocrinology group, I kicked and dug in my heels. “They’ll give me a list of things I can’t eat,” I said.

“No, they won’t.”

No, they didn’t. Instead, Amy the RD, CDE, asked me what I liked to eat and what brands and what my schedule was and stuff like that and worked WITH me to come up with a meal plan I could live with.

Sonja the RN, CDE, taught me the whys behind what I needed to be doing to maintain control instead of just saying “do this, do that…don’t, don’t, don’t.”

I had that kind of help. I had books and articles I could read and, if I had questions, I could ask the doctor or one of the CDEs. I could play lab rat with myself, as in “my body, my science experiment.” If I woke up with a high blood glucose and rode my bike around the neighborhood a couple of times, what happened with my BGs? How about if I ate low-fat cottage cheese instead of the high-fat variety?

I was having fun playing diabetes. I knew what I was doing and why it needed to be done. I could eat what I wanted as long as I kept to my carbohydrate counts. I was out of the box.

With a couple of forays into the 7th or low 8th percentiles, my HbA1c has primarily hovered between 5.9% and 6.4% for several years now. Diabetic complications? As far as I know, they consist of one tiny patch of retinopathy in each eye and dry skin, particularly on my foot .

Back in the day, I wanted everybody to know what I had done and everybody had to care for their diabetes just like I did mine. Looking back, I was pretty obnoxious! We each have to find what works for us. Some people can be obsessive about diabetes care; some (like me) are more loosey-goosey.

I like to cook. I like to eat. I like to nibble my way through some street food. That’s not to say I sit around and chow down on fat- and carb-laden goodies all of the time. It’s more like I usually focus on low-fat meats, fresh fruits, and veggies, but I let myself guiltlessly break outside of the box on occasion.

As long as I keep my blood glucose under control, I don’t see anything wrong with dealing with diabetes MY way. We get along a lot better that way — and I have a smile on my face instead of being curled up in the fetal position in a corner with tears running down my cheeks.

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  • jim snell

    Jan: Great article. 30 years ago I started in a box and did answer A.Things got worse and never improved.

    In 2007 after a stroke and nearly rotting out, was able to crawl literally to answer B and now am doing my darndest to keep under control.

    I am now actively involved following a 1200 calorie mediterranean style diet, exercise to do 1.5 to 2 miles walking and I have spent my spare time learning all I can about this mess, thinking and suggestions as the metformin and some insulin helps keep some nonsense corraled.
    Following excellent web sites and its bloggers have also been most helpful.

    Amagingly enough, portion control and discipline and yes there are a few foods I have to watch carefully, but I find that I can still carefully eat a favorite home made dark english fruit cake with 6 pounds of candied fruit/rum and a little candy to help balance off the numbers.

  • Ayesha Mohammed

    Excellent sharing! I agree I do not let diabetes define me, my pattern is similar to yours. Have you ever found surprises? Like I had one of those days when I went on a gentle splurge, might have ended my evening with a drink of good rum, and found next morning my reading is 7 mml, which is borderline!!