The number of teens and young adults living with type 2 diabetes has increased in recent years. Managing diabetes at this age can come with different challenges than an adult may face. This week on the blog, we are featuring stories of people who have been there—and how they’re determined to live long, healthy lives while managing their diabetes.
Does type 2 diabetes affect a young person in your life? Check out the American Diabetes Association’s new “Be Healthy Today; Be Healthy for Life,” a resource developed especially for youth living with type 2 and their families.
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes on Dec. 29, 2008, and congestive heart failure on Dec. 30, 2008. The road to each diagnosis began about a month earlier.
I initially went to the doctor for what I thought was a yeast infection. Turns out I was right—and given my weight, family history and some other factors, the doctor suspected that I might have diabetes. My blood pressure was rather high at the time, too. The doctor decided to order a battery of tests to check the condition of my heart as well. So, after I spent a month of testing, waiting and worrying about what could possibly be wrong with me, my doctor called me in to share all of the results.
My A1C at diagnosis was 9.6 percent. My heart was functioning at 30 to 35 percent capacity, and there was a blockage in one of the arteries.
Hearing that I had diabetes didn’t really surprise me. As I said, there were several factors in play at the time, as well as what in hindsight were some rather obvious symptoms. What scared the hell out of me was when the doctor started talking about the results of the heart tests. I had lost my father, age 47, to a massive heart attack just seven months before. I was 24 and seemed destined to meet the same end.
I was put on a pretty strict 1,500-calorie diet and an insane medication regimen to help both of my diagnoses. And it helped a lot. I lost about 40 pounds (mostly water weight) within the first few months after my diagnosis, and I lowered my A1C from 9.6 to 6.5. That was four years ago.
Today, things are a bit different. For one, I gave up on the strict diet because I felt like I was starving and depriving myself all the time. I’m eating healthy foods and the things that I enjoy in moderation. I’m also exercising on a regular basis and have joined a gym.
After trying several oral medications with limited success, I’ve switched to injectable medications. Currently, I’m using Victoza in the morning and the long-acting insulin Lantus at night. I also have the fast-acting insulin Novolog to use with a sliding scale when I need it.
Overall, I’m much healthier now than I was at the time of my diagnosis. And so far, I’ve beaten the odds that were against me.
I would be lying if I told you that life with type 2 diabetes is a walk in the park. It’s not. There are days when it can be extremely difficult to manage, despite my best efforts. On the flip side, there are days when things are easygoing. As with all things in life, you have to take the good with the bad. And you do get used to it over time. You don’t like it, but you get used to it. The important thing to remember is that no two people experience type 2 diabetes in the same way and, as such, what works for me may not work for you.
I’ve been completely open about my diagnosis from the beginning. Family, friends, my employer and coworkers—you name it. They all know. I’m not ashamed of it, so why hide it? I even started a blog, www.mydiabeticheart.com, to tell people what it’s like to live with type 2 diabetes and congestive heart failure.
Of course, I’ve gotten a lot of the annoying, uneducated reactions that many people diagnosed with any type of diabetes receive. From comments about my weight to eating too much sugar, I’ve heard them all. Ultimately, telling the people in my life about my diagnosis was a matter of safety. At least one person around should know about it and be able to help in the event that I have a problem.
It’s important to remember that I can do anything that my friends can. Sure, I may have to plan for meals and make adjustments here and there to fit my needs, and I may need to take a break and check my blood glucose while out. But I can still do anything my friends can.
Just make the most of the life and health that you have. Live each day to the fullest, take care of yourself.
There is great life after diagnosis. Live it!