This is going to be a series of posts about my experiences with diabetes, at least, until I get it under control. It allows me to vent, but primarily, it is about educating people. There are millions out there who have Type II and don't know it. Hopefully, some will gain knowledge about themselves or someone they know and take the necessary steps to catch it before too much damage is done. Before you go on, please read my first post, titled I Never Liked Needles.
"Diabetes is not a disease!"
"Is it contagious?"
The first statement came arrogantly from a friend of mine who thinks I made it up. To him, I was probably trying to elicit sympathy from friends as I sipped on a Bacardi & Diet Coke, my new drink. I knew my days of bellying up to the bar with buddies were coming to an end. His statement was cynical, at best, and, quite obviously, he knows nothing about it. The second question was from an innocent bystander who stepped back upon my pronouncement. Yes - it is a disease and - no - it is not contagious. What I can tell you is that it is often hereditary. My mother has been diabetic for almost 20 years and takes insulin daily. Her older sister is, too. My father has onset. He takes an oral medication. I have researched it over the years because of my mother.
I have no health insurance. My mother tried to get me in to see her primary care physician for blood work and a proper diagnosis. She tried to make an appointment with her endocrinologist, who would not see me without a physician's referral. This was all going to be very expensive. To just peer through the door was going to cost me hundreds of dollars per office visit and a whole lot more for the blood tests. This is money I don't have readily available. I knew I had to do something. I went to a search engine and typed in these four words, "free medical clinics orlando" and came back with a very promising hit, Shepherd's Hope. I went to the website and called the number to explain my predicament. "Yes, we can help you," the woman at the other end told me. They only see those with no insurance.
I had been feeling rundown for some time, at about 93 percent, before that fateful morning I took my first glucose test. I showed many of the signs and symptoms, but was never willing to acknowledge why I was feeling so achy and fatigued. It's not unusual to have this state of denial. I lost 25 lbs in a 6 month period, but I had tried to lose weight anyway. For the next 2 weeks, I took this sugar test morning and night and ran anywhere from 200-370. Not good numbers, and it didn't take a doctor to figure out what my condition was. In the meantime, I've changed my diet and have started to exercise. Some days, I am too weak to. Today, I feel better. Soon, I will take a nice, brisk walk.
When I got to Shepherd's Hope, there were a handful of people waiting for it to open at 6PM. The staff are all volunteers there to help those who can't afford medical attention otherwise. Depending on location, the clinic may only be open one day a week. A woman came out and assigned us all numbers. Some had appointments. We were to write our names and what kind of problem we have. I put down diabetes. When my name was called, the first thing I was asked about was what made me think I had it. I explained. Then, I went into a private room and waited for a doctor. I guess most of the people who go to free clinics are there for the flu or other simple, treatable maladies. Diabetes? I'll bet I was the first one to do that. She knocked. "Come in," I said, "like, I was going to tell you to stay out?" She laughed.
We discussed everything about it. She asked me plenty of questions and I gave her plenty of answers. Do I feel numb here? Tingly there? I told her about the sharp pains I've been getting in my toes, a sign of neuropathy. Mostly, she talked of fatigue. She asked me, if I could, what I would pick my overall average blood sugar level to be during the period of my testing. I guessed around 225. The normal range is around 100 or below, give or take a few. I was well above that mark. She got her stethoscope out and listened to me. "Have you ever had pains here?" she asked, as she pointed to my chest. I had. She said nothing more.
"OK, I cannot tell you that you are, absolutely, diabetic. I am setting you up for some blood work and I can't properly say that until the results come in. I will say that we both know you are and I am going to start you right away on a blood pressure medication, not that it's too high right now, but borderline, yes. Diabetes will bring about all sorts of complications, such as strokes and heart attacks. This is to mostly protect your kidneys from damage. The previous generation of diabetics didn't get this and other drugs you're going to get. Once properly diagnosed, you will also go on cholesterol meds, on top of what your disease is treated with, and regardless of what your cholesterol level is." She wrote a prescription for Lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor. "We have [all donated] new drugs here I could prescribe free, but they are $100 a pop. If we run out, can you afford to stay on them?" No, I can't.
My mother has had a series of mini-strokes. Her kidneys are damaged. I asked her if she had taken any blood pressure meds when she was first diagnosed. She hadn't. This doctor (or Physician's Assistant) knows what she is talking about. I think you can call it preventive maintenance. She was very good, very caring and professional in appearance and demeanor. The next morning, I went to Quest Diagnostics where they drew lots of vials of blood for all kinds of tests, including A1C, which monitors sugar for the 2-3 previous months. I have an appointment with Shepherd's Hope on December 12 to find out the results. I will probably be given prescriptions then to get me on the right path. I will have to find a physician after that. The clinic is not there for continuous care. Right now, I'll take it one step at a time.
I have often read about the benefits of cinnamon in lowering blood sugar levels. My sister-in-law, Lindsay, bought me pills, along with dandelion root tea. So far, they haven't helped. I've always been a firm believer in alternative medicines, and I've been looking at other magic herbs, elixirs and anything else associated with "curing" diabetes. Online, I found out about the remarkable benefits of apple cider vinegar, which, at the same time, will eliminate warts. I read about chromium, the magic of bee pollen, how cranberries help and how just about every natural substance known to man will rid you of this dreadful disease. Cancer, too, probably. I wonder, if I switch to eating nothing but a combination of all of these wonderful things, will I be cured? I think, I'll stick with the conventional for now. Take that, Kevin Trudeau, you huckster, you.
This morning, my siblings told me the best Christmas present I could give them was no present at all, to take what I would have spent on them and apply it towards the medications I will need. They want to see me stick around for a long, long time. Their presents to me will be in the form of money, too. I protested to no avail, but they insisted.
Family, you gotta love them. I feel better already.
Please feel free to ask me any questions. If I don't know, I will do my best to find the answers.