As a child I can recall going to the icebox (yes, this was before we got a real refrigerator) and getting the vial of insulin for my grandmother who lived with us. I would watch her fix her needle, pull out the right amount of insulin and then, inject it into her thigh. Then I would return the vial to the icebox. This was my first memory of Diabetes.
My grandmother had to wear special shoes because her left foot was much shorter than her right foot due to numerous amputations. She was a large lady – the first policewomen on the Evansville, IN police force. I, on the other hand, was always the smallest kid around.
I grew up about as active as a guy could be. I was always outside playing, riding my bike or, hanging out with my friends. I played all kinds of sports as a kid, but my main love was football which I continued playing through grade school, high school, college and even played on my U.S. Marine Regimental squad. I played at 150-160 pounds in high school and in the Marines. I had to bump up to around 175 pounds for college ball. I found it easy to gain weight.
After earning my degrees, I taught high school sciences: Biology, anatomy & Physiology, Environmental Science and DNA Science. Plus, I coached year-round: football, wrestling and track. I was very aware of what it took to stay in shape and I practiced what I preached. I was back to around 165 pounds.
I retired from teaching in 1999, with a weight of 175 again, and went to work for a series of Science/Education companies. I held an office job and was on the road for extended periods. I was not focused on maintaining my fitness as I should have been. My weight steadily increased to about 190. In 2000 I was diagnosed for the first time as having Type 2 Diabetes and started on medication.
I was well aware of the effects and concerns of diabetes ever since my grandmother’s experience. My uncle lost a leg and later died of complications due to diabetes. So, I started exercising more and eating better. It worked—I lost weight and maintained my blood glucose levels. This was my first endeavor at getting back on track.
Over the years I have lost hundreds of pounds!! Only to gain them back (and usually more.) I have been on various programs such as First Place (local group), Weight Watchers and Nutri-System. They all worked! Well, they worked until I got lax and lazy and the pounds kept slowly returning. Then, in January of 2013, I fully retired (I highly recommend it!).
My A1c reading in December, 2013 was 7.5 and my weight was 251—this was down from my at-home scales highest measurement of 263!! I had had a knee replacement and could not walk much for quite a while. Walking my dogs was my main form of exercise then. We would go up and down the block and that was plenty for me then.
In 2015, my doctor diagnosed me with Stage 3 (out of 5) Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). THAT GOT MY ATTENTION!!
Through my nephrologist, I consulted with a nutritionist who told me all the things I already knew but stopped doing. She was very encouraging and my mind was made up. I was tired of being short of breath after going up the stairs and just being fat — no OBESE! — and experiencing my body falling apart. I attended a “learning” session at DAVITA and saw what Chronic Kidney Disease was all about and how it affected others in attendance – dialysis, amputations, kidney transplants. I wanted no part of that!
So, I used the advice of my nutritionist plus some tricks and methods from all my previous weight control programs and took charge of my diet and life. My main focus was on counting calories. I cut out bread, starches and sweets and started eating mainly protein (eggs, fish, some meat), fruits and vegetables (LOTS of salads!)
Have you ever tried yellow mustard as a salad dressing? It’s very tasty plus there are no calories in most brands.
My nutritionist informed me of a couple of great apps for my phone: “My Fitness Pal” – it efficiently keeps track of my calorie input; and, “Map My Walk” – it efficiently keeps track of my calorie output through exercise and connects to “My Fitness Pal”.
Recording my diet and exercise has become second nature to me now and, I feel, that is the main reason I have been successful. I started at eating 2000 calories/day and walking up and down the block. That gradually went to 1800 calories/day and walking 1 mile. Currently, I have maintained for over a year at 1500 calories/day and walking 2 miles.
December, 2014, — A1c was 7.2, weight was 240;
December, 2015 – A1c was 6.2, weight was 213;
February, 2016—A1c was 5.9, weight was 199 (a GREAT DAY to be under 200!);
December, 2016—A1c was 5.9; weight was 160;
June, 2017–A1c was 5.4; weight was 154. My doctor told me that was enough! I had mentioned to him that I had at-home scale readings of 146-148.
In 2016 the nephrologist said my CKD was down to Stage 1 which was normal for a person my age and he released me from my CKD diagnosis and said there was no longer a need for him to follow me.
Also, my regular doctor informed me he was taking me off my medication (after 16 years) and changing my diagnosis from “diabetes” to “pre-diabetes” even though my blood glucose levels were well within norms and he was taking me off my diabetes medication after 16 years.
Nowadays, I consider myself to be on a maintenance program. I still need to fight getting complacent and not recording my calorie inputs and outputs. But my energy levels remain high and I, once again, enjoy being active in our Lexington Lions Club and other community groups.
Working with the Lions Club International Foundation and the Fayette County Diabetes Coalition, my goal now is to help others with diabetes (and especially those that do not know they have it) by providing screenings and other aids such as can be found at: diabetes.org .