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Diagnosed with Diabetes

In March 2018, aged 60, I was diagnosed with diabetes. My experience so far is listed below.

The year from March 2017 to March 2018 was a year from hell for me. Over the course of that year I had become an almost full-time carer for my Dad who turned 92 in Feb 2018. A brief summary of events may help to set the scene.

Things had been getting worse for a few years with my Dad's right knee disintegrating until there was no cartilage at all on the inner side. In parallel with this there were other issues.....bladder incontinence, sky high blood pressure (up to 230/130!!!!) skin cancer on the face, dental problems etc... and chronic tiredness. Astronomy had taken a back seat for me, with my garden equipment unused. What with driving my Dad to all his medical appointments, preparing meals, washing, coping with his huge garden, etc....etc... I was on the limit.

When his knee finally gave way in March 2017 and I had to drag him out of the bath his blood pressure went so high he became unable to speak coherently due to his sheer frustration. Two 999 calls in a week resulted in him being put on stronger blood pressure drugs. At that stage the house started to fill up with zimmer frames, rollators, wheelchairs, power chairs and other gadgets.....thank goodness for Amazon Prime!!

In 2014 he had been given a TURP operation on the NHS to fix his bladder. They later admitted that the disgraced surgeon had given him a totally pointless operation and the problem had gotten worse......more NHS visits ensued.

In August 2017, tired of going around in circles with the NHS (who suggested physiotherapy!!), my Dad forked out 10.5K for a partial knee replacement op. at the local BMI hospital.....under the distinguished surgeon Willem Schenk. This was the ONLY big success story....the operation has made the knee work again, but the physiotherapy was considerable...and there were weeks of back pain and other pain.....

Things were almost starting to look optimistic until my Dad suffered a serious bladder infection in mid-November 2017. The side-effects of this are too grim to recall......but when bladder and bowels sieze and can only be freed by catheters and nuclear grade laxatives....well my life coping with this became an order of magnitude worse..........

My Dad was just about recovered from this by Xmas 2017. Unfortunately there was only a brief two month respite because at the end of Feb 2018, into the start of March (coinciding with the Siberian 'Beast from the East' weather) my Dad was hospitalised for 9 days with severe pain originating from spinal disintegration. Days of physiotherapy and morphine followed, and on my Dad's release several weeks of visits from carers ensued, to help him wash........

It was around this time that I realised my own health was deteriorating. I'd assumed it was due to the almost intolerable stress I was under, coping with an apparently immortal Dad with an infinite number of health complaints. I'd had no break in this 'carer' situation for years and my life in 2017 had been dawn to dusk chores. I'd always been fit and prided myself on being just over 11 stone in weight, but my weight (I was shocked to find) had plummeted to 10 stone. Eating more did not help and I was drinking lots of water. But the worst thing was the terrible nocturnal leg cramps with my calves and toes seizing up, typically at about 3 or 4am.

I suspected diabetes, and ordered a blood sugar monitor from Amazon Prime. With a stable period in my Dad's ill health I also phoned our GP and went for a blood test at the West Suffolk Hospital. The blood sugar monitor and blood test (on 28th & 29th March) confirmed my blood glucose was off the scale.....20, rather than the 5 or 6 mmol/l required.

In the next few days my blood glucose was oscillating violently between 30+ (!) and a normal 5 or 6, with most of the time spent around 20.

At the time of writing, April 10th, my GP has me on Metformin a day moving to three a day over the coming weeks. I'm also doing 15 mins on the exercise bike after meals and avoiding sugar and high carbs.....In the last week my BG has typically been about 13 with no sign of any spikes above 20. My eyesight prescription (right eye) has changed dramatically due to how high sugar affects the lens. I have suddenly found I need no glasses for distance viewing but low power reading glasses for the TV. Close reading hasn't changed!

This has been a scary time for me, along with still being a full time carer, but I'm trying to stay calm as I feel stress has been a factor. Our GP does not yet know if I'm a thin Type 2 or a late onset Type 1 (like Theresa May). An ultrasound pancreas scan is scheduled for the next few weeks.......... I've dropped my one remaining astro contribution and no longer will be writing for Astronomy Now....just not enough hours in the day....... I hope to post more info on my progress in due course......

Update on April 14th. Here is a graph showing my progress in getting the blood sugar down in the last two and a half weeks via a very low carb/no sugary stuff diet, more exercise and Metformin tablets. These are measurents 3 or 4 hours after the last meal to avoid post meal spikes. At the start the wild swings were insane, almost as if huge sugar overloads prompted the pancreas (or maybe the bladder, via the kidneys) to choose a nuclear option to get the sugar down to normal...?

Blood sugar progress April 14

Update on April 26th. Here is a graph showing my progress in getting the blood glucose down in the last four weeks. Readings typically taken about 4 hours after the last meal. Typically I exercise for 10 - 15 minutes (exercise bike) 1 hour after each meal to lower the post-meal spike. My eyesight prescription has become about 1.0 to 1.5 dioptres higher than it was but most of the recent astigmatism has disappeared since lowering the blood glucose level. Apart from sleeping very, very well (difficult to wake in the morning) I've had no serious side effects from the Metformins.... Still get some overnight leg cramp by about 4 am, but I can avoid this by getting up and walking about for a few minutes around 3 am or so.

Blood sugar progress April 26

Update on March 11th. 2019. After almost a year since being diagnosed as a diabetic I thought it was time for an update/summary. When diagnosed last year (March/April 2018) my Blood Glucose was peaking at over 20 mmol/l and sometimes over 30!!!! (4 to 7 is the range for a healthy non-diabetic away from meal times) An HBA1c test at the hospital (long term average blood cell test) came out at 14%...a horrific value where 6.5% or lower is the aim! After a few months with no bread, potatoes, breakfast cereal and no sugar at all my HbA1c was down to 8.1% in late June 2018. By mid-Jan 2019 the next HbA1c was 6.6% and the Doc is very pleased with my progress. During the day my typical home glucose monitor results show a range of between about 7.5 and 9.5, but I can get it as low as about 5.5 after, say, an hour mowing the lawn, or an hour on the exercise bike, or an hour swimming 70 lengths of the local pool. A retinopathy scan showed no damage to either retina...a HUGE relief as I only have one good eye and my hobby is astronomy. An ultrasound scan showed nothing abnormal around my pancreas/liver so why I am a Type 2 diabetic is still a mystery. I may be a TOFI (Thin outside, Fat inside) but no abnormal fat levels showed up on the scan. However, an MRI scan is really needed for that. My eyesight finally stabilised with absolutely no astigmatism now in my good eye and no need to wear glasses other than for reading. I still get occasional night- time leg cramps, but nowhere near as excruciating as the regular agonising ones I was getting last year. My weight has gone up from a near anorexic 9 stone 11 to 11 stone. So, what with a strict diet, exercise and a Metformin tablet per meal, I am a lot healthier than last year (and my blood pressure is much lower). Things are still rather grim though as I my Dad is now 93 and still has many, MANY health issues, not least his limited this is very stressful...NOT GOOD! I have toyed with going on a crash diet to burn-off any internal fat that may be causing my diabetes, but I need to stay healthy for my Dad......and a crash diet is a bit risky. However, I do occasionally fast for about 16 hours, which does bring my blood glucose down to 6 or so until I have another meal. So, my day-to-day life is still stressful but I am much healthier than 1 year ago.


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