San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetesSee all posts »
The War of 2003, the Stalemate of 2012
It started out as a Crusade. Now I’m content with an armed truce.
When my doctor bluntly told me that summer day in 2003, “You have diabetes,” his announcement wasn’t unexpected. I’d been having bouts of thirst and excessive urination for some time, and knew those were classic symptoms of adult onset diabetes.
He gave me some generic advice about sugar intake and exercise, and then set me loose with a prescription for a sulfonylurea. I felt like what people in 1941 must have after the attack on Pearl Harbor: I knew I was at war but I had no experience or knowledge about how to wage it.
Like the people in 1941, I started out grimly determined to fight back and beat the enemy. I embarked on a crusade against type 2, determined to be one of the exceptions who would battle it to a standstill. When I was diagnosed, I was a sedentary man who enjoyed his meat and beer a little too much. So I began creating a new me, a fellow who exercised more and ate and drank less. I’d been a track runner in high school and college, so my legs quickly got used to brisk, often strenuous, walks up and down steep terrain. I was no stranger to setting up and sticking to a diet, so over the next six-months, my weight came down 35 lbs. My blood pressure dropped dramatically. My A1c dropped from 11% at the time of my diagnosis to 5.6%.
The war was going well. In a way, diabetes had become a useful enemy, like the high school rival you couldn’t stand but depended on anyway as a goad to make you work harder.
Those initial successes lasted about a year. The drama of my early, often impressive, victories sustained me. But once I had reached my ambitious goals, I was in the quandary that many like me have found themselves: What do I do now?
So a bit of drift set in. I wasn’t as scrupulous about diet and exercise, and some pounds began to creep back onto my scale. My A1c’s inched up, and exercise seemed to become less of a joy and more of a chore.
I then realized that I had to change my thinking. My numbers were not ideal, but they were far better than the ones I started out with on the day I was diagnosed. I decided that I didn’t have to feel compelled to manage my diabetes as though I were marching off to war. Short of a miracle or a statistical fluke, no matter how resolute I was in my struggle with diabetes, I wasn’t going to win over it in the sense of defeating it. I had to settle for an armed truce—the arms in this case being diet, exercise, and drugs.
What I can win, and have won, is a set of realistic expectations. I know I can do the things that make it harder for my diabetes to progress, and not to drive myself crazy if I don’t do them immediately, all the time, perfectly. I’ve learned to live with good enough.