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It's a Type 2 Life
It's a Type 2 Life

San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetes

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We’re All Scientists Now

A few days ago, while I was walking my doofus boxer, Baxter, I noticed a couple of eight-year-old boys who had just overturned a big rock along the path. Their faces wore fascination at what they’d found underneath: tiny salamanders, which they were now delicately transferring to a jar for later roles as pets and possibly guest stars in a school project.

After getting their solemn promise that they would treat the salamanders kindly, I walked away thinking, “I just watched two little scientists in action.” The intensity of their gazes and the excitement in their voices as they had chatted about the salamanders reminded me of when I was a kid who was curious about almost everything.

If you are a person with type 2 diabetes, it’s not a big surprise when you find yourself reverting to that childhood state of intense curiosity. You become, whether you’re conscious of it or not, a scientist, just like those boys. I mean scientist with a small “s,” the kind of person of any age who becomes so immersed in a topic that he or she will come out the other side well-informed and conversant about it.

Being a scientist comes naturally to almost all of us, but I think especially so for type 2s. When I was first diagnosed, I had no knowledge about type 2 diabetes. My doctor, a popular man with a big caseload, quickly loaded me up with conventional tidbits—no sugar; maybe watch out for potatoes; start taking a sulfonylurea; get more exercise; check your blood glucose levels. His cascade of disjointed factoids almost drowned me.  

Fortunately, the scientist in me emerged. I did some research on each piece of his advice: Cut out sugar entirely? Well, not necessarily. Check my blood sugar, sure, but how many times daily? (I had started out checking once daily until I realized that what I needed was an album, not a snapshot.) Glipizide as my first drug? Why not metformin, which I soon learned was the classic “gateway drug” most doctors prescribed for freshly diagnosed type 2s?

Once I realized that my preoccupied doctor was not the diabetes primer I needed, I observed and experimented, and reminded myself to watch things as they are, not as I wanted them to be or had been told they should be. When I started a regimen of vigorous walking and it didn’t result in dramatic blood sugar reductions, I realized that I was being unscientific. What I really needed to do was look for patterns, a process that would require me to patiently compile numbers and to factor in the effects of diet and drugs.   

Eventually, my research allowed me to see what works best for me: How many times I should measure blood sugar daily, what medications I want my doctor to consider prescribing for me, how my body reacts to exercise at different times of day, and whether I can sneak a bite of potato without my body sounding a four-alarm glucose alert.  

I don’t think my experience is uncommon. When I sit around talking to other type 2s, their stories are always much like mine. We became intensely interested in this new thing that life handed us, and we plunged into learning all we could about it. We are all scientists now. 

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Tags: Drugs , Education , Science , Insights

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About the Author

Bay Area resident Patrick Totty was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July, 2003.

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