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.

When your body starts falling apart. It will happen to you someday too.

The expression "the raves of the ages" is no more appropriate than when it comes to your body and your health. The years catch up to you long before you're ready. Yes, someday you will need the dreaded pill minder to keep track of all your pills and when to take them. That medicine cabinet that used to contain your Pepto and aftershave or perfume will soon be jammed with pill jars of every sort imaginable, many of which you won't even remember what they are for. Your calendar will go from keeping track of all the fun things you have planned, to all the doctor's appointments and tests you have. You'll be poked and prodded in every way possible trying to figure out what's now wrong with you. You think twice about taking that long awaited vacation because you don't want to be too far from your doctors.

Not that many years ago I was in the best of health. Even though back in 2004 I was diagnosed as diabetic all I took was Metformin to control it. I rarely checked my sugars, although I know I should have, but I could always tell by the way I felt. My diet didn't change much either, in fact, during my extensive renovation, when I didn't have a kitchen for six weeks, I ate fast food for every meal. It helped that I was busting my ass physically every day to work it off, but I was none the worse for wear and felt great.

My years in the Okanagan were filled with every activity imaginable. I roller-bladed for miles every Sunday. I dirt-biked in the hills around Kelowna and Revelstoke with my Dad and siblings. I water-skied, even learning to slalom. I ran a hiking club all year-round, hiking some really tough trails around Rose Valley and McDougall Ridge. In the winter I snowmobiled around Kelowna, but mostly in the mountains around Revelstoke. I downhill skied at Silver Star and Big White as often as I could afford. I cross-country skied at TeleMark usually three times a week. I played racquetball in a league at the Courtplex and usually went out and played for three hours on Sunday mornings. Back then they had a bar at the Courtplex and I would go off the court and light a cigarette and all the guys would look at me, amazed that I didn't cough my lungs out. I took the Canadian Lung Capacity test, three times, because the guy testing me couldn't figure out how I smoked, but I was in the top three percent of Canadian males. He figured his instruments were faulty. The most enjoyable thing I did was dance my butt off three nights a week at the Corral, usually from nine til two. That really kept me in shape.

My last couple of years in the Okanagan were spent renovating, first my parents' place to sell and then my own renovation from hell (long story). In my last year I worked fourteen hour days, usually seven days a week and it was all very physically demanding. When I did my river design out of rocks I figured I moved some fifteen thousand heavy rocks, placing them all around the house. Then there was framing and drywalling and painting and flooring and installing bathroom fixtures and kitchen cabinets. There was no shortage of things to do, but I loved it.

Even when things went horribly wrong and I had to flee the country to Panama, before I knew it I was renovating a three apartment house for a guy back in Kelowna. Other than playing a little pool at a local bar and taking one day to go to the ocean with friends, plus my side trips to Costa Rica to keep my tourist Visa alive, I worked very long days all over again. Except for a cold I could not seem to get rid of, I was healthy as an ox. I did continue the small doses of insulin I had been put on back home because of all the stress I was under and my sugars had spiked to life-threatening numbers.

When I returned to Canada to the safety of my cousin's place in Rexdale I did things like ride my bike all the way down from Islington and the 401 to go across to Centre Island. At one point after thinking I was not far from home I started walking, not realizing just how far it was. It had to be around thirty kilometres or so. I was exhausted by the time I got home. When I first moved to London, another long story, I biked all the trails in one day, quite the distance. I roller-bladed the trails and I ice-skated in the winter. Not a lot to do in this town. I did manage a couple of nights of dancing as well.

The downhill slide began when I was forced to leave the apartment I had been renting when the crazy landlady threatened to change the locks on me. I had no idea where I was going and stayed in my car, then a series of shelters. During this period I ran out of my medications, was out of them for six weeks and ended up in the hospital. I did not know at the time how much damage this had done. While living at the last shelter I got a job at Home Depot. At the time I could not afford decent steel-toed shoes so I bought the cheapest ones I could find and they were incredibly painful. After my shifts walking the concrete floors I could barely walk and this started it all.

Soon my feet were painful all the time. It felt like someone was holding a match under my feet and stabbing me randomly. Sleep was difficult. Walking was painful and I couldn't do anything physical anymore. Soon I was seeing a host of doctors and being put on all kinds of pills and doses of two insulins. The total lack of exercise and the insulin packed on almost forty pounds and I didn't wear it well. I had trouble hoisting myself up off the couch. The pain was intolerable and it sent me into depression. An EMG at the local hospital confirmed that I had peripheral neuropathy in my feet and it was starting in my hands, which terrified me because I spend all day on the computer. The doctor also said that the pain level was about a three and it would eventually be a ten. Not good news.

The other issue was that I developed what's called an incisional hernia which was a result of the botched surgery done in Panama to remove my gall bladder. It was painful at times and I was sent to consult with a surgeon at University Hospital. He confirmed that I had the hernia and required surgery, but said I was too fat for the surgery and if I had it done I might be in even more pain. He said I had to lose at least twenty pounds before he could operate. Just more good news. The results of the ultrasound for the hernia also showed that I had an enlarged liver and spleen. I still haven't seen a specialist on this one. I am also being referred for bariatric surgery but the wait times here in Ontario are up to ten years. I am also seeing a urologist in December because things aren't working down there, if you know what I mean. It's probably a combination of my age and the medications I take, not to mention my boy hasn't been called on to perform in years.

For me, the scariest issue is cancer. My mother nearly died because she had fifth stage melanoma but they caught it before it reached her lymph nodes, so she survived. Had it reached her lymph nodes and spread she was given less than a five percent chance of surviving more than six months. It was a terrible time for our family, partly because my mother was in the pink of health. She had never smoked and she walked five miles every morning. It made us all more aware of cancer. I had a birthmark on my forehead that had changed colour and developed little bumps. When I had it checked it turned out to be fifth stage melanoma and I had surgery to remove it. Just recently I had another birthmark that the doctor didn't like the look of, so I had a biopsy which came back positive as zero stage melanoma. The pathologist had the surgeon repeat the surgery to take a larger sample and I am waiting for the results. It's frightening on so many levels to think you have cancer.

So, if you have your health, treasure it. Eat right. Stay fit. One day you will look back on those days with longing. We are all mortal. I'm reminded of the saying, "live every day like it's your last because one day you will be right".

Healthcare in Ontario SUCKS!

When I lived in BC and was diagnosed with diabetes in 2004 everything I needed was covered by my medical plan. Not so in Ontariario. You have to fight for every dollar. The best example of idiotic care here is that they pay for insulin but not the needles to take it. Are we supposed to drink it? Needles are $40 a box, and, if like me you use six a day, that box doesn't last very long.

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What's more important - your job or your health?

This was my letter to Service Canada regarding filing for medical benefits –

I find myself in an intolerable position with my current employer, Stream Global Services, here in London, and I need urgent advice.

I started with this company October 12th, 2011 as a Customer Service Representative for the Bell Satellite TV contract. I fell for the stated goal that we were to offer “exceptional service” to Bell’s customers to regain market position. I attended various training sessions in which we were encouraged to investigate all possible issues with a customer and do our very best to resolve the issues and retain the customer. On the floor this turned out to be a lie. What, in fact, we were to do was as little as possible in the shortest amount of time. I was admonished on every call where, although I solved problems that had been ignored before and thus retained the customer, my AHT (Average Handling Time) was over the goal of ten minutes. The fact that I retained thousands of dollars of business by solving customer’s problems; had the highest FCR (First Call Resolution), meaning my customers did not have to call back again, and my PCCS (Post Call Customer Survey) scores were the highest on the floor, various managers constantly berated me over my AHT.

It got so bad that they put me in a remedial program called B2B to “correct my behavior” and lower my AHT. Upon completion of the program I was forced to sign an acknowledgement of my target AHT and that I would be fired if I did not meet the “agreed” goal. Shortly before graduating one of the senior staff berated me on the floor in front of my colleagues, treating me like a five year-old, over a long call that he claimed was unnecessary because I was wrong, even though I had consulted a senior on the call. He claimed he would also discipline the senior, even though she did not report to him. When I consulted with my senior, she not only confirmed that he was wrong, but was also livid that he told me she would be “disciplined”. I reported this issue to Human Resources and advised them that if I was ever berated in public again I would take the matter up with a wrongful dismissal lawyer.

It should be pointed out this is a deplorable company. They have no respect for their employees, lie about their programs and treat employees unbelievably poorly. We have fridges that don’t work. Broken Microwaves in which to heat our lunch. Toilets that have been broken for months. Their practices are Neanderthal. Knowing that staff had been quitting in droves in February they announced a whole new program of metrics that would allow us to make more money. To date this program has never been implemented. Even their current program, which offers minimal reward for meeting all of your metrics, and on which they find every excuse in the world to not pay you, they run a month behind on payments, a clear violation of the contract.

There have been countless incidents of employees being bullied and harassed. One employee who had to book time off for a medical procedure was told she would lose her shift seniority and be placed back on a night shift where she would not see her kids. When I asked why the outside door to the smoking area did not have handicapped access for an employee in a wheelchair, I was told not to report it because the company would close the smoking area. Every piece of equipment we have to do our jobs – the phones, the archaic computers and, most importantly, our software, constantly break down or are unavailable. The most critical software tool we have to deal with customers goes down on a regular basis, every day. We are told to lie to customers and tell them “our software is being updated”.

Every word you say to a customer is recorded and Quality Control staff are constantly monitoring what is said. They write you up for the slightest mistake and are more than often wrong in their interpretation of what was said. I was written up for calling someone at Bell “stupid”. Only when I objected to signing the report did they listen to the call again and realize I had said “that was stupid”. Big difference. Last Monday I was written up for saying that I was glad that Bell was recording the call, inferring that because the company was so stupid I was glad it was being recorded. Again, I refused to sign the report because I knew what I had said. The customer was being obviously flirtatious with me, making suggestive comments and I advised her to remember that the call was being recorded to keep the call professional. My manager had grabbed me the minute I walked in for my shift and threatened to write me up and action (fire me) over this call. I told him to listen to the call before he went any further. I also questioned why Quality had never once written up a call where I had saved a customer who called to cancel or on any of the other hundreds of calls where I had saved a customer. My most frequent request from customers is to be able to call me back personally because I am the “only one who ever helped me properly”. No, they only report you on negative calls.

Instead of fixing all of the countless issues we have with our software, they focused their efforts on their new “Rockstar” program based on feedback from customers. They list numerous issues we are to investigate with the customer, mostly to sell them more programming, but not once do they qualify this lofty objective by adding “in the shortest possible time”. The program was to launch last week, but, no surprise, there are “glitches in the software”. Our new desktop phone management system was to launch last February, but we are still waiting. The current version crashes all day and even disconnects customers, but nobody cares. They also changed policy this week that we are to call disconnected customers back within thirty seconds, but, first our system fires the next call at you in less than one second, and, secondly, we are to get a manager’s approval before making a callback. Yet more stress.

During my time with this company my health has deteriorated substantially. Even though I am a diabetic my blood pressure has always been low (110 over 70) and my sugars were under control. I do suffer from diabetic neuropathy which results in very painful feet. My work limitations resulted in my being approved for ODSP as of last July. Due to my earnings I lost my financial assistance and my drug card, which I appealed and won and my drug card was restored. On my last visit to my diabetic team at St. Josephs they were very concerned that my heart was “racing” and my BP had increased to a dangerous level. I told them that my experience with my employer had gone from being upset, stressed and shaky after my shift, to experiencing the same condition going to work. The pressure has become intolerable and I cannot work there anymore. My health is more important to me and I will not let a job this bad kill me.

As for my current status at Stream I emailed my manager after the berating over the call, asking for VTO (Voluntary Time Off) and was told none was available. I was told to ask for vacation time, but the system would only allow a request for the next day. I then advised him that I wanted to go home sick because I could not do my job effectively under the present conditions. I reminded him that my AHT metric had been cause for termination weeks ago, at least that had been the daily threat, so just terminate me and stop threatening me. He told me he would speak to the Bell rep on site and then I was to meet with HR, but no one got back to me before the end of my shift. My manager is off the same days as I am, Tuesday and Wednesday, so I sent an email to the Bell rep that I would not be back, but I was not quitting. I would phone in sick, if only because I haven’t missed a single minute since I started and have voluntarily worked every holiday since I started.

To make matters worse, my doctor has discovered a potentially cancerous growth on my abdomen and is trying to get me in for a biopsy as quickly as possible, which is only adding to my stress. My mother died of cancer and I had a birthmark on my forehead removed several years ago because it tested positive.

My situation is complex, but I do not wish to make my life even worse. London Housing has also been taking the maximum $612 a month in rent from me, which makes working even more pointless. ODSP has been deducting the full amount of my wages plus my pension, leaving me wondering why I am working when it is killing me? I need to support myself and, most importantly, get my health back under control. I know I have worked the required hours to file for Employment Insurance, but I need some direction on what I am to do with my employment. Life has been stressful enough without making my situation worse.

I would very much appreciate your guidance.

(Due to the urgency of my situation I was hoping to meet with someone who could advise me, but I was told the process takes five days. I phoned in sick this morning mostly because I am waiting to get a biopsy, plus my stress level is off the charts.)