Diabetes - having a good doctor

Back in 2004 I was first diagnosed with diabetes and it changed my life forever. Although initially I just used metformin to control my sugars, soon I had other complications and had to start taking insulin, albeit small doses at first. Soon the worst complication was peripheral neuropathy in my feet which resulted in 24/7 pain. My previous very active lifestyle of roller-blading, water-skiing, cross country and downhill skiing, hiking, cycling and dirt-biking, not to mention two to three nights a week dancing, ended because I could barely walk. Soon I needed a cane just to maintain my balance. I honestly didn't know if I was going to be able to live with the constant pain.

For the neuropathy my doctor at the time prescribed Gabapentin, a drug with many side effects. I was taking the maximum daily dosage of 3600 mg and knew that wasn't great. Although it did mitigate the pain a little it was certainly no cure. Over the years it seemed like every time I went to a doctor they just increased my meds and my insulin doses. Before I knew it I was taking 90 units of Nova Rapid, 30 after every meal and 120 units of Lantus, the long lasting one. As I moved my new doctors questioned the amount if insulin I was taking, suggesting that I had become insulin resistant.

After I moved to Belleville and found a new doctor, Dr. Savic, he was the first to really question the meds that I was on. He asked me how my testing was going and I shyly admitted that I hadn't been testing because all I ever got from my meter was "too high! too high!". Very depressing. He sent me for blood work at the lab and my A1C came back at a very discouraging 14.6. Not good. Then he switched me from Gabapentin to Lyrica. In only a matter of days my foot pain was a lot less and I was even able to sleep a full night. Next he put me on Jardiance to "flush out my system", removing sugars in the process. I did start peeing like a racehorse and hoped that it was doing something. He also cut my insulin back to 50 units of the Lantus, morning and night and 30 of the Nova Rapid. He also added vitamin D to my daily vitamins because I was deficient.

Nervously I thought I had better start testing again because the doctor wanted my results on my next visit in only a few days. First one was after a meal and was only 8.9! Much better than "too high!" Next was fasting and it was only 5.6! Hadn't seen that in years. The day of my visit I tested first thing in the morning and my fasting was 3.7! That's actually too low. When I went to the doctor, eagerly ready to share these great results with Dr. Savic, he surprised me with the news that my new blood work showed an A1C of 6.9! That's better than a fifty percent improvement!

The point is never underestimate the importance of your doctor and be prepared to question what they tell you. My history has always been that doctors are far too quick to just add more meds or increase the dosage without really looking at what's going on. I suffered excruciating foot pain for years just because I was on the wrong meds. If you don't like what you hear from your doctor get a second opinion. It can't hurt and may save you needless pain and suffering. These new results have given me the confidence to sign up for a new program that claims to eliminate diabetes, which most doctors will tell you is impossible. If there's even a remote chance that I can reverse my diabetes it's worth a try. There is no miracle cure and it does require changes to my diet so we'll see. I'll post my results.

Never underestimate how much of a difference you can make

This was a very sobering experience and came as quite the surprise. My last post asked my "friends" to help me with the most important decision in my life. I am alone here in London with no friends to talk to and I hoped that people who I felt had been close friends in the past would give me their advice. With the exception of a handful of people, frankly people who were not what I would call "close" friends, not one of the people I asked for help from responded, even those who knew me very well for years.

Yes, I left the Okanagan in 2007 to go to Panama, so it's been seven years and I guess even your friends forget you after all those years, but I have kept in touch through Facebook and emails. The ironic part is that many of those same people have connected with me asking my advice. I chatted with them on Facebook or by phone and gave them all the time they needed, often several hours, but when the tables are turned and I ask for help, they're nowhere to be found. Sad.

One of the factors in thinking about moving back to the Okanagan was to reconnect with what I thought were my many friends. I had such great memories of all the great times we had over the years and thought it would be great to share some new times together. Apparently I am incredibly naive and stupid.

Without hopefully being too dramatic there has been a fourth option that I didn't mention in my original post. There have been times over the last few years, starting with being ripped off for everything I owned in Panama, really dark times when it all seemed to be too much to handle. Discovering that the girl I loved, the one I moved to London for, cheated on me with someone else she met on the internet, which broke my heart. Being forced to go to a shelter and lying in filth sweating in hundred degree heat trying to sleep. Getting kicked out of the shelters when the government screwed up. Sleeping on the floor of a colleague's office. Finally getting a job at Home Depot and my own apartment, then having my hours cut back to a minimum and I couldn't pay my rent. Going without my vital medications for six weeks and ending up in hospital, resulting in painful peripheral neuropathy that has ended any physical activity. Researching and applying to over a thousand companies for a job, with no response. The government denying my application for a disability pension because I missed the deadline for a Medical Report because I could not find a family doctor in London. Getting wrongfully dismissed from the worst job in my life at Stream and taking a year to get paid. Being turned down by three different Meet-Up groups with no explanation.

The worst time in all of this was when my diabetic specialist put me on Oxycontin, a narcotic, with no warning about the side effects. My life went from working long hours on the computer every day trying to get anything going, to lying on the couch all day, crying because I was so depressed. My seventh floor balcony looked awfully inviting many times. The struggles I had fought so valiantly, like the heartbreak of missing my kids, suddenly became overwhelming and I didn't see the point in continuing to fight. I had lost my will to survive.

I was very fortunate that I did fight back a little and researched the Oxycontin, only to learn that one of the major side effects was thoughts of suicide. In all there were seven side effects and I had all of them. I called my family doctor for advice on how to wean myself off this dangerous drug and I got back to normal. I had come far too close to ending it all. Part of the reason I asked for advice from my "friends" was to avoid making another mistake.

The fact that so many "friends" didn't think enough of me to give me just a few minutes out of their busy lives speaks volumes about who I thought I was to them. It has certainly given me a different perspective on my options.

I do again thank those who did take the time to try to help me.

Diabetes - PLEASE heed this warning

Nine million Canadians are living with some form of diabetes. An estimated two million Canadians are undiagnosed. The number of people diagnosed with diabetes is projected to increase 56% over the next ten years. Juvenile diabetes has increased forty percent over the last ten years, mostly because of poor diet, physical inactivity and obesity.

Back in 2004, after I had crashed my dirt bike, tore up my ankle and couldn't do any physical activity for a year, I gained fifty pounds and I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. When I was able to return to my many activities I lost the weight quickly and my diabetes was managed with only Metformin.

In late 2007 circumstances led to a high level of stress and my sugars were literally "off the charts". My doctor put me on high doses of insulin and my sugars moderated. He told me I was a poster boy for a heart attack and I needed to get out from under the stress or it would kill me. I moved to Panama and my diabetes was managed with Metformin and daily insulin in relatively small doses.

Circumstances led to my return to Canada and, at one point, I found myself living on the streets, unable to afford my medications for six weeks. I did not know at the time that I was doing irreparable damage to the nerves in my feet. I developed severe diabetic neuropathy, a burning, excruciating pain for which there is no cure. A host of medications, plus huge increases in my daily insulin, do little to mitigate the pain. The only "relief" is when I sleep, but obviously I can't enjoy it because I am asleep. I wake to the vicious cycle of every step being painful.

I have gone from a healthy, ridiculously active person who hiked, biked, danced, roller-bladed, skied (cross-country, downhill and water skied), played racquetball and tennis, and even para-glided, to someone who can barely walk with the aid of a cane. All this in only a couple of short years. My doctors offer little hope and just tell me to learn to live with the pain.

I cannot urge you enough to get tested, regardless of your age. People often think that diabetes is an old person's disease, but this is not true. Diabetes can reduce your life expectancy by more than ten years. It can result in amputations. It is a leading risk factor for heart attacks. If diagnosed early enough diabetes can be managed, not cured, but the risks of amputations and early death can be greatly reduced. Don't ignore the warning and be part of that two million people undiagnosed. It is much better to know and be able to manage it.