A patients perspective on her diabetic journey
I’ve lost a lot of weight in the last three years. About three and half stone to date. It’s the first time in my life I’ve been able to lose weight without struggling. I started by controlling my late night munchies and as I saw results I moved to intermittent fasting, where I would try and fast for at least 12 to 14 hours in a 24 hour period. As the weight started coming off, I moved to portion control.
Before the lockdown, I was working in an office 4 days a week. I had a daily commute, park and walk into work. I worked in a very large office with a capacity of over 100 people per floor in a 13 story building. Just getting up and going to the loo or canteen or for a meeting enabled me to get a lot of walking in. I also worked in Canary Wharf occasionally. I went from taking the lift at the station to running up the stairs.
This brought me to the point where I caught COVID on January 21. My mum had a stroke, was admitted to hospital, caught COVID and was discharged. My dad and I, acting as her carers, caught it from her within 24 hours of her being home.
I remember the extreme exhaustion and having spasms in my stomach and feeling nauseous a lot of the time. I recovered after about a month but had a number of lingering symptoms. A few months later, as I started to suspect I hadn’t recovered fully, I spoke to my GP who ordered a round of tests.
A day after my blood test, I received a call to say my sugars were high and my GP thought I was diabetic. He arranged for another blood test which showed exactly the same result. Two days later I was on medication and officially diagnosed. My GP told me he couldn’t say if it was COVID that triggered it, but equally he couldn’t say it hadn’t.
After my diagnosis I started conducting my internet research. Turns out the tummy pain was my pancreas crying. If I’d checked earlier, I might have gone to the GP earlier and caught the problem before getting full on diabetes.
I have to acknowledge, since COVID my eating habits have changed. I kept reaching for sweet stuff, cake, pastries, biscuits. I’d never really done that before. True I was a carb addict, but these were mainly things like pasta, roti, rice etc. I had carried on losing weight, the last stone I had shed was from January to about May. So, in my mind I was OK to carry on with the dirty sugar habit I had formed in recent months.
In the month before my diagnosis, my portion sizes had really reduced, so I was puzzled as to why I hadn’t lost more weight. I reasoned that perhaps the exercise I had recently taken up was enabling me to build up muscle, and that was not translating to weight loss. Now I know my sugars were so high, there was no way I could have lost weight.
I was devastated with my diagnosis. The implications for diabetes are far reaching; from heart disease, to kidney issues to problems with circulation and feet. I cried for a week, and then I spoke to someone who told me about her husband who had gone in for a routine appendectomy and was found to have cancer. I felt like a bucket of cold water was splashed over my head. These guys are younger than me and have young children. It enabled me to set aside my upset and put my situation into context.
A positive change in the diabetic journey
So since my diagnosis I have changed my eating drastically. Gone is my love affair with carbs! My relationship with carbs is now one of respectful distance instead of passionate indulgence. I only drink water now, other than a cup of tea and coffee a day. My carbs have reduced drastically to now more than about 40 grams for a main meal. I eat regularly three times a day. Porridge or eggs in the morning, soup at lunch and a low carb meal in the evening with either humous or an avocado as my carbs.
I suspect I may have gone the other way too much, but until I get my head around what I can eat, I would prefer to stick to this. I can say this is a period of education and learning what is safe to eat, at what time and how often. I have decided to treat my diagnosis as a blessing, a warning sign I couldn’t carry on neglecting myself anymore. I have now promised myself I will look after and respect myself as much as I look after the people around me.