Sep 16

How I ended up insulin-dependent

The management of diabetes needs so many tools and lots of patience!

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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.



Get .. and stay fit .. whatever it takes

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!



The weather in the UK just can't live up to the weather in Brazil!!

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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