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How it started
After several weeks of doing all the wrong things, a doctor told me it was a miracle I was still standing up. I'd been feeling very thirsty. So I'd been drinking lots and lots of cold Coca Cola, gulping down all its very sugary content. I'd been feeling very weak. So I'd been visiting a delicious cake shop near where I was teaching English and eating a lot of very sweet cakes .. washed down with Coca Cola or Brazilian Guarana Antarctica, which was just as sugary as its American soft drink counterpart.
Of course, another sign that something was up was the constant need to .... take a leak, have a pee The more I drank, the more I had to visit the toilet It was Brazil It was very hot I thought I was suffering from the tropical heat I kept going
The thing is ... as far as I was aware, there was no real history of diabetes in my family. I had no clue, no prior warning, what the signs meant. Constant thirst. Debilitating weakness. Cinstant peeing. None of these meant anything to me.
So .. when when my excellent Brazilian doctor - Dr Jose Mauro - told me that I had diabetes it came as a real shock. It truly shook me. I was angry. I felt helpless. I had a chronic illness. I was only 26.
Getting fit in Brazil
Myntaste in sweet drinks and cakes might have told you that I wasn't slim I needed to lose weight So on a strict diet of fruit, rice, meat and vegetables ... I started out on a daily early morning walk ... up a hill and round a local square where many locals could be found every morning walking and running Gradually, I began jogging Slowly Then I began running After we moved to our own flat I would get up in the usually blazing early morning sun and run several miles before a healthy breakfast After teaching from 7:30 to 9:00 every morning I'd walk to our local swimming pool at the club I'd swim 100 lengths typically most days of the week Then I'd walk 4 miles back to our flat
By the time we left Brazil to return to the UK, in 1990, little wonder I was told I had the resting pulse rate of an athlete. I was fit. And I have the photo of me with a six pack to prove it!
Beecoming insulin-dependent in England
Back in the UK I began well It was July. Early morning runs were OK I managed to keep up my runs for a while. In the meantime .. English fish and chips and other firms of convenience takeaways started to take over. My wife started working and convenient eating grew in importance. Then .. the English winter began to kick in This is absolutely no excuse but it's much harder to get out of bed for a run when the morning is cold and dark
After just less than one year back in England, I was admitted as an emergency to hospital with a severe diabetic crisis My blood sugar was very high
it was while I was in the hospital - the Royal Berkshire in Reading - that I was introduced to insulin injections through practising on an unsuspecting orange It's easy to stick a needle in an orange It's much less easy to stick a needle in yourself four times a day And at that time .. they really were needles Now, it's still a needle .. but it's cunningly disguised as a pen Still hurts though
While I do sometimes wonder whether my doctors in Brazil would have rushed so quickly to insulin -and of course whether I'd have been able to keep up my very active lifestyle in Brazil for longer - the main lesson drawn from the experience I've recounted here is that exercise and diet are vitally important for diabetics In Brazil through regular exercise and a controlled diet, I maintained excellent blood sugar control In the UK, I manage to usually maintain good control overall but it's so much harder on insulin not least as it can be (wrongly) seen as 'allowing' over-indulgence Ultimately that is not good as my post on how I almost became blind evidences I do need to lose weight Being overweight is not good for diabetics and can be sometimes seen as a potential risk for developing diabetes I'll never recapture that level of fitness I had in Brazil - not least as I'm now clearly middle aged and creeping towards the other side of even that classification! But, duet and exercise do need to figure pro-actively in my diabetic lifestyle
And, that as they say, is something I still need to work on! I'm hoping to draw inspiration from the memory of how I got fit .. long ago!
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