I am lucky to have been somewhat enveloped into the awesomeness of the diabetes online community, despite not having diabetes myself. Diabetes is a complicated condition, and is sometimes hard for people to understand. Type 2 diabetes especially has a lot of misinformation surrounding it: as Kate shares, lifestyle may play a role, but there is a genetic component as well. For background, in type 2 diabetes the insulin that is made by the pancreas is not used by the body properly–this is called insulin resistance: blood glucose rises, and while very high blood glucose often causes weight loss, too much insulin in the body (as in insulin resistance) can contribute to weight gain or difficulty losing weight, even if you are trying to help your body out by eating well and exercising. You can already see how there is far more to type 2 diabetes than sometimes meets the eye!
Today, I’m happy to welcome my friend Kate to the Identity Doctor blog, to share about her thoughts on life with type 2 diabetes.
Hi Kate! Thanks for joining us today to raise awareness on World Diabetes Day! Tell us about yourself.
I’m retired and I love it! (I do miss a paycheck though.) I live in the mountains of Northern Arizona, just 60 miles from the Grand Canyon, with my husband. I have 4 grown children and 4 grandsons. My family is amazing! I love to camp, read, hike and am an amateur writer.
Tell us more about your experience with diabetes… When were you diagnosed, how long had you had symptoms, and what did that journey look like?
Type 2 diabetes is often misunderstood which can make dealing with a diagnosis and living with the disease difficult. I was diagnosed in June of 2005 during a routine exam where they did a blood test. In hindsight I was having a few symptoms but I racked them up to hot weather, ie: thirsty and lots of trips to the bathroom. I was completely surprised! My experience way back then was dismal. I was given no education nor any directions on what I should do. About the only thing that doctor told me was to buy a meter with the cheapest test strips. Not helpful. I went about learning all I could about diabetes, mostly using the Internet. There is SO much information out there and that’s both a blessing and a curse.
What adjustments have you made since your diagnosis? How has being diagnosed affected you?
In the beginning I attempted to make some changes to what I ate but the recommendations about what to eat were confusing and honestly not helpful. For instance, I was supposed to be able to eat a small potato but my blood sugar would soar when I did. My blood sugar remained too high even though I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do. I began using my glucose meter to help me determine what foods to avoid, etc. I kept track of what worked, and what didn’t, and slowly made changes. Today, after 11+ years, I eat a fairly low carb diet. That works for me along with my oral meds. I’ve heard many people say this, and it’s true: I am much healthier since my diagnosis. I pay better attention to what I eat and exercise regularly.
What do you wish people understood better about type 2 diabetes?
Oh, where to begin? Diabetes is hard. The media, and even healthcare providers, make it seem simple. Just make a few changes and you’ll be fine! That is far from the truth. I think the one thing I wish people understood about people with type 2 diabetes is that this isn’t our fault. The Standard American Diet is fueling the rise in type 2 diabetes, in my opinion. The advent of the food pyramid which told us to eat 6-11 servings of grains per day and avoid fats was criminal! People who develop type 2 diabetes are just like everyone else but they most likely have a genetic predisposition to develop the disease. We didn’t eat dozens of donuts or vats of chili cheese fries. We ate like the majority of people eat. We probably ate too many processed foods and didn’t exercise enough: just like most everyone else. Please stop vilifying us. We aren’t to blame.
Has connecting online been a part of your patient journey so far? Why or why not–and if so, what has that looked like?
I don’t know where I’d be without the DOC (Diabetic Online Community). It took me awhile to find my way but I’m so glad I did! Reading blogs and connecting via social media with others who “get it” was invaluable. I think that the mental aspects of dealing with any chronic disease are often ignored. Like I said, diabetes is hard and it’s easy to blame yourself or want to give up. Having friends who understand helps me to get through those times. I started my own blog in 2011 (http://kates-sweet-success.blogspot.com/) as a way to help keep myself on track but it has also allowed me to connect with many others in the online community. I count them among my friends; even those I have never met in real life… yet.
Final thoughts, or anything you’d like to add?
Although I’d love to be able to live without diabetes, it has brought many good things to my life: a better diet and more daily exercise as well as friends. I also have a feeling of accomplishment when I write an article or post to my blog. I like that I can show the world that I’m living a great life, despite my diabetes.
Thanks so much Kate–I love your final point: being diagnosed with diabetes can actually help you become more aware of your health, and become healthier. Keep up the great work!
If you live with type 2 diabetes or want to learn more, visit Kate’s blog. Living an active life with type 2 diabetes? Check out our diabetes medical ID products to ensure you receive the best care possible in an emergency.