Hello all! I’m writing to explain why I took the past few months off. You see, I needed to regroup, re-prioritize, and in general get a grip on myself.
Starting last October, I kept falling ill every two weeks. Just colds really, but bad ones that left me exhausted and really run down.
They also left me fearful. I’d experienced a sequence of unhealthiness like that before…the year I got cancer.
Over Christmas I seemed to get a little better. I went a full three weeks before I got sick again, but the first week into the New Year I got rocked again. This time it settled in my lungs and eventually developed into bronchitis.
Here is when dates become clear in my mind. On January 25, 2013 I drug myself to the little urgent care by our house and told them my asthma meds were just not cutting it. I couldn’t breathe. I needed help.
The doc listened to my lungs and agreed I was all clogged up. This was the scary part for me, though. When I got cancer I sort of felt the same way. Sort of. It started out like that. I asked if he thought I needed a chest x-ray. He said we’d see how a breathing treatment helped first.
Luckily that did help. Pretty much immediately. He prescribed antibiotics, oral steroids, and also a steroid shot.
About three weeks after that, on February 14, I ventured to my primary care physician’s office for my yearly checkup. I’d felt great ever since I got over the bronchitis. But I admitted to my primary doc that I was worried. I had been sick pretty much every two or three weeks since October. I’d had my checkup with my oncologist at the beginning of the year and he’d told me, “The good news is you’re officially four years in remission! The bad news is this is where we start looking for what we did to cure you to cause other problems.”
That had been weighing pretty heavily on my mind. That and the fact I had been knocking myself out trying to lose weight but couldn’t. Maybe a pound or two here or there, but ultimately I’d gain it right back.
My doctor said she’d check my thyroid and stuff along with the other stuff she checked when she drew blood. Great.
A week later I got a call that there was a problem with my blood test. I about passed out. Great. The cancer was back after all.
Except, nope. That’s not what they were worried about. It appeared I had diabetes.
Say what? Surely there was some mistake.
I immediatey Iaid off the sugar, which, admittedly, I had been absolutely horrible about. I went cold turkey on the soda. In the last year I’d gotten really bad. I had one almost every day. Not quite every day, but maybe close to 5 times a week.
A GOOD SIGN – A BLUE HERON
A week later, on February 21, I went in for another blood test. That’s when I saw my totem: a great blue heron. It flew directly overhead as I walked up the path to the doctor’s office. As it does whenever I see one, I instantly felt a sense of peace that everything was going to be all right.
But that was not to be the case. Not the way I imagined it would happen. It has since worked out marvelously, but there was a couple months worth of crap to go through first…
So a week after I went in for my second blood test, both my cell phone and home phone blew up at the same time. I knew that could not be good. I opted to answer neither. I listened to the messages instead. Both were from nurses at my doctor’s office saying I needed to come in immediately, I had a severe case of diabetes and they needed to get me on meds ASAP. They could not let me go one more day without them.
DENY, DENY, DENY
My first reaction was denial. Certainly there was some mistake. I had been reading about diabetes. I didn’t have any of the symptoms. I was not peeing frequently or constantly thirsty. I didn’t have bad headaches. I wasn’t tired. There had to be some kind of mistake.
I knew diabetes ran in my family. I knew I was at risk since I was overweight. But other than carrying around some extra pounds, I was pretty healthy. I did eat a lot of sugar, but I also tried to eat good things too.
Well, I went in a few days later to get my diabetic teaching. I did not hit it off with the nurse practitioner, who my doctor passed me over to. She wouldn’t listen to me. I kept telling her I’d ttried to lose weight. Yes, I was bad about eating sweets, but I watched my portions and I definitely exercised. I play a shit ton of tennis each week. I’m on the court a minimum of an hour and a half at least three times a week, but usually five or six times. Something was wrong. Something that might explain my high sugar reading. Maybe even the steroids I’d had for my bronchitis was to blame.
She wasn’t hearing any of it.
“Most times people exaggerate how much they exercise. And steroids shouldn’t account for an A1c of 8.”
Thank goodness my husband was there. He saw how frustrated I was getting at not being heard. He jumped to my defense and said he could attest I’ve been trying to lose weight to no avail. Also, I was not exaggerating how much exercise I do.
TAKE THESE AND CALL US IN THREE MONTHS
She backed off on that, but said it didn’t matter. I was going to have to watch what I ate big time, meaning limiting carbs to only 30 grams per meal, and I was going to have to take meds, most likely for the rest of my life.
I don’t take meds unless I have to. I’ve always been funny that way. With meds come side effects. The radiation I took for my cancer permanently damaged part of my heart and my lungs. The chemo…well, that messed up my already messed up digestive tract. The last thing I wanted was any kind of new meds and their side effects.
I begged and pleaded to let me try correcting my numbers with diet and exercise.
“Sorry. You have to take the meds. You don’t reallize how bad your numbers are. Diet and exercise alone won’t correct them.”
LISTENING TO MY GUT
But you know, I have a strong inner voice. I knew four months before I was officially diagnosed with cancer that I had it. I knew with the same conviction that I did not have diabetes…or at least not such an advanced case that only medicines were going to help me.
My suspicions were confirmed when they showed me how to use the blood glucose meter. I’d eaten lunch maybe three hours earlier. My number was 95…for you non-diabetics, that’s normal.
The nurse and nurse practitioner looked at each other in disbelief. If they hadn’t seen the blood come from my finger, they never would’ve believed that was my number.
Suddenly they both said, “Okay, so now we have to worry about your blood sugar going too low on the meds. You have to be really careful. If you feel like passing out, you need to stop whatever you’re doing and get some sugar in you immediately.”
My inner voice screamed that was just not right. I have a neighbor who has crashed two cars and broken various bones in her body from passing out due to her diabetes. The next week Spring tennis season was kicking into full gear. There was no way in hell I was about to start new meds and risk passing out on the court, potentially breaking something or cracking my head open, if I wasn’t positive I needed that pill.
So instead I tracked my numbers four times a day for two weeks. The nurse practitioner had told me to shoot for under 140 fasting in the mornings and under 160 two hours after meals…on meds.
I was hitting all those numbers, well under them in fact, with no meds.
So I called back and asked why I’d need the meds if I was hitting the numbers through diet alone.
I never got to speak to my doctor or even the nurse practitioner. Only the nurse practitioner’s assistant spoke with me. She asked only for two numbers: my morning fasting numbers –the lowest I’d had over the two weeks and the highest. Not even my average.
My highest was 148. I knew why. I’d eaten a brownie the night before. That’s all they heard. The assistant called back and said, “Don’t shoot the messenger, but Jeneth says you have to take the meds because you eat brownies.”
I ate one brownie for Pete’s Sake. And my highest number was an anomaly. The rest had all been fine.
THE SECOND OPINION
I didn’t start the meds even then. Fuming, I ranted to a neighbor who was appalled I’d been treated like that. She suggested I get a second opinion and helped me get in with an endocrinologist.
On April 23 I went to see her. My first appointment with my other doctor, or rather, her crap nurse practitioner, was on March 12. This second opinion one was exactly six weeks later.
The nurse practitioner had told me even with meds I’d have a hard time dropping my numbers. She doesn’t know me. I’m as stubborn as they come and when I resolve to do something, I do it dammit.
I watched everything I ate. I recorded every bite of food I put in my mouth. I was strict about 30 grams of carbs per meal. On days I didn’t play tennis, I walked either outside or on the treadmill for a minimum of a half an hour. There were no more brownies. Soda was replaced with sparkling water.
An amazing thing happened. I dropped 10 pounds. I hadn’t been able to lose in years. Apparently because I was counting the wrong thing: calories instead of carbs.
Anyway, the endocrinologist took my blood and ran an A1c test right there in their office. I went from an 8 to a 6.2, or in normal range, in that six weeks.
She listened to my story and applauded me for (a) watching my diet and being so willing to make such a big change, and (b) listening to myself about not taking the meds. As she put it, “That could’ve created big problems for you if you had. You were smart not to take them.”
She also suspected the steroids had kicked my sugar numbers up…without me even asking if that could’ve happened. The moment I mentioned I’d had bronchitis, she asked, “Did you take steroids for that.”
When I said, “Yes,” she said, “That’s what likely kicked you over. You have some kind of glucose impairment but watching what you eat will help keep your numbers in range.”
So that’s what I’ve been concentrating on these past few months. Being sick, trying to get healthy, dealing with a diagnosis that made me feel ashamed, angry, and sad at first. I struggled with it more than when I learned I had cancer.
Then again, I knew I had cancer. I also let myself feel what I was feeling when the words “You have cancer” were officially spoken.
I didn’t do that when I got this news. I guess because I was in denial. I was never in denial with the cancer. I skipped that step entirely.
But when I finally realized I could control my numbers with my diet, I felt empowered. And when I saw the scale budge down? I got excited.
Then I turned it into a game of finding new foods and recipes. And ways to move more throughout the day…in addition to tennis.
So far, it’s all paid off.
NOT BACK TO BLOGGING JUST YET…OR NOT THE SAME WAY
Just a few days after the endocrinologist visit, we went on vacation. No time to start back to blogging just yet. Then when we came home, well…it always takes me a week to get back on track.
But I’m excited to say I am ready to get back on track now. I might not blog every day as I tried to do for the past four years. (And often didn’t accomplish, but the pressure to write or post on Twitter or Facebook was always there.)
I’m eliminating that pressure and just writing when I can from now on. If some weeks that’s every day, that’s what it is. If some weeks there’s nothing, that’s what it is.
This diabetes thing was another wake up call that I’m putting pressure on myself to do things with my time here on Earth that aren’t always aimed at my true intentions. I really want to write several fiction books, as well as a few non-fiction ones. Including a Haunt Jaunts-specific one. Since I’m not a super fast typer but am super particular about writing, blogging and social networking eats up time and mental energy that I could be spending writing my books.
So….my hiatus is over, but there will be some changes I’m making as I go forward. I sure thank those of you who’ve stood by me all these years and who welcomed me back when I sent out the newsletter a couple of days ago about coming back. My break was good. It let me contemplate if I wanted to come back at all. It also made me realize just how much I’ve missed blogging and how much a part of me HJ is…as are all of the folks I now call friends because of it.