I have been living with diagnosed Type 2 diabetes for only 2 months or so, but it honestly feels like it has been an eternity already of thinking about everything I eat, testing blood sugar, making sure I don’t exceed my self designated carb maximum for the day, exercising vigorously multiple times a week, etc. It has been exhausting, but thankfully, I have gotten this under control at the time being so all the work has definitely been worth it.
My diagnosis story isn’t the typical one that I have read about on other blogs or heard about on YouTube videos. I didn’t have the usual symptoms of excessive thirst, urinating frequently, etc. The only symptom I had (that may or may not be related to the diabetes) was weight loss. I lost 10 pounds in a matter of a few weeks, which brought me to be borderline underweight (and I still haven’t been able to gain any of the weight back despite my efforts). I dropped to a measly 105 pounds, which is quite low for someone that’s 5’2. I have never been that thin in my entire lifetime as an adult. It was concerning to me, but I attributed it to the fact that I had been making modifications in my diet because I was having some unexplained acid reflux, and wasn’t eating much because everything made me miserable. I tried to eat normally again after seeing the number on the scale so I wouldn’t continue to lose weight, but have yet to gain any of my weight back.
Fast forward six months later (to October), I went in to get a yearly health risk assessment done at work (where they check lipids, glucose, weight, waist circumference) and that’s were I found out my blood sugar was not doing well. My blood glucose reading after fasting for 12 hours was 173 mg/dL. This was odd to me as my fasting numbers during my health risk assessment during the previous year were normal. In addition, I had a metabolic panel a few months after that when we were looking for causes of my chronic upper body pain and my glucose (non-fasting) was normal as well. I talked to my doctor to get an order in to get my glucose checked at the lab to see if there was any mistake in the results. I wasn’t able to go immediately as I then went on travel and life got a bit busy. A few weeks later, at the beginning of November, I went into the lab to get the lab work done, and low and behold, my fasting glucose number was even higher, 254mg/dL. Seeing this number creep up so quickly was quite terrifying! We then got an A1C test done that same week, and my A1C was 9.7% with an estimated average glucose level of 214mg/dL.The reality started to sink in at that point, I was in my late twenties with diabetes, and I would have to live with it for the rest of my life.
After seeing my A1C results, the doctor told me to schedule an appointment for a physical with him and referred me to a nutritionist and diabetes educator nurse. Unfortunately, there were no appointments available with any of them for a month and a half. So now I was stuck with high blood glucose levels, which would probably continue to get worse, and not able to get in to see any of my new diabetes care team members to get help for a month and a half. Although I was paralyzed with fear, I knew I would have to take matters into my own hands and do something about it because a month and a half is a long time to do nothing about it. High blood glucose levels would continue causing havoc in my body during that month and a half if I didn’t find a way to resolve it fast. In my attempt to find out the whole story of what was really going on in my body and solve the problem, I bought a glucose meter and started testing myself at home. This would allow me to figure out which foods were hurting me and also have more data to bring to my doctors so we could design a treatment plan that is targeted to my specific situation.
Data collecting and looking for trends is something I actually enjoy doing. I work as a data analyst and am well aware of the importance of having as much data as possible to make better decisions. As a statistician, finding trends and making projections with limited data is impossible. You need high quality data and many many many data points to be able to paint a good picture of the situation so you can then find trends, make better forecasts, make the best decision for your organization/company, etc. The same applies in the situation of testing your blood glucose. A small amount of data (in this case, just two glucose measurements from labs and an A1C) are not enough to determine the whole story of what’s really going on. It’s enough to determine that you have the disease and are having trouble metabolizing glucose, but not enough to determine why it’s happening, which makes it harder to design a treatment plan specifically for your situation. With health conditions, there is often no “one size fits all” so the more information you can provide your doctor, the better the odds of finding a treatment plan that will actually work for your specific situation. A few examples of different situations: maybe your blood glucose is high all the time because you are insulin resistant and extremely sensitive to any intake of carbohydrates, maybe there’s specific foods only that are hurting your blood glucose and all you need to do is avoid those specific foods, or maybe your blood sugar is super high in the morning because your liver is dumping out an abnormal amount of glucose into your system in the morning, but your results are normal throughout the rest of the day. These are examples of things that would be impossible to know without testing often and I assume all of them would require different treatment plans tailored to the individual. We want to reduce (as much as we can) the odds of having the wrong treatment applied, which can end up hurting our health further in the long run because it wasn’t targeting the actual problem (of course, negative reactions to treatments/medications sometimes happen anyway as everyone’s body is different and a lot of times it’s difficult to predict what will work for who).
Phew, that was a lot of stuff to talk about. In my next blog post I’ll discuss what I did to get my blood sugars down and back into a normal range. But in a nutshell, it involved testing before and after meals, experimenting with foods to see what they did to my blood glucose and determine which foods I could eat, and planning walks strategically throughout the day (especially around meals). I also logged all my blood glucose measurements and every single thing I ate so I could refer back to it and look for patterns and trends. Thanks for reading! 🙂