Accepting My Diabetes Diagnosis
In 1986, when I was pregnant with my second child, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I was placed on a strict diet, and fortunately, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. I remember feeling so thrilled as I held my new son. But I also remember the doctor telling me, “You’re going to develop type 2 diabetes at some point. It’s really not a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘when.’”
I don’t remember being too upset about that statement at the time, although it really frustrates me now. I didn’t realize what a chronic disease diabetes really is.
When I finally got my diagnosis 15 years later, I wasn’t that surprised. The doctor had said it was inevitable, and I hadn’t changed my habits. I’m from the South, so of course I love Southern cooking. Fried chicken and waffles, heavy gravy over biscuits… it’s part of my identity. I took my diagnosis in stride and looked for next steps. The first few years, I managed my diabetes solely with diet and exercise. But eventually my doctor and I realized that I have a certain type of diabetes that required more treatment. I would keep my blood sugar levels under control throughout the day, but at night, they would spike. My doctor told me that every night, I should take metformin, which suppresses glucose production in the liver.
Eventually, we moved to the insulin pump, which really regulated my whole body. When you’re on the insulin pump, it’s critical to keep track of everything you’re putting in your mouth, so you know how much insulin to take. I lost some weight and I felt like things were under control; I was happy with my lifestyle.
A few years later, though, I went to a new doctor, who felt like I was overdoing it on the insulin. I also have hyperthyroidism and most of my thyroid has been removed, so it takes a lot to balance my endocrine system. My doctor said that the best way to do that was to try the insulin pen, and to take one dose every night. That’s been my routine for a while. And I’ve found that everything is connected – when I’m successfully balancing my thyroid disease, my diabetes is much more manageable.
A big part of managing my diabetes is paying close attention to my diet. Although I still love Southern cooking, I’ve learned to take smaller portions and to make sure there are a lot of vegetables on my plate. I’ve also added more exercise into my life – I walk about an hour every morning with a friend and it’s been a great addition to my lifestyle. I sit at my computer all day working, so I know it’s important that I get some activity in when I can.
My advice to others who’ve received a diabetes diagnosis is to take it in stride and accept it with an open mind. It’s all about your outlook. If you frame the disease as a way to get healthy and treat your body well, then managing diabetes doesn’t seem so daunting.