Next week, July 12th is a very important anniversary for me. 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. In fact, I almost died. Now, I realize that this post has nothing to do with our stated topics on DeafInPrison.com, but I had to put it up, somewhere. And this seemed as good a place as any.
I had recently lost a teaching job, turned 49 years-old, and it was an extremely hot Summer. So, I could attribute my general feeling of misery to depression, age and the weather. I was chronically thirsty. I couldn’t perform the most basic of physical tasks – climbing stairs, opening doors, etc. I couldn’t regulate my body temperature. I’d stand in front of the air conditioner, or sit with my feet in a bucket of ice water, and I was still miserable from the heat. I couldn’t stand the taste or smell of food, but I craved ice cream. Ice cream was the only food I wanted to eat. I was coughing all the time, and I even started putting sugar and cream into my coffee, because I couldn’t stand the taste of black coffee, which is how I’d been drinking it my whole life. My skin had become sensitive to touch, and my clothes were always painfully uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep, and I needed to use the bathroom every 15 minutes or so. But above all was this constant, unrelenting, unquenchable thirst. I could inhale a full half gallon of juice, get up and go to the bathroom immediately, and be thirsty again, before I had my pants zipped back up.
Finally, as I was driving home from school one night, it started to rain. I unrolled the car window, and stuck my head out, trying to get cool. I drove all the way home, with my head out the car window, and my tongue hanging out like a dog. Parched with thirst, I stopped at a 7-11 and bought a half gallon of grapefruit juice, which I downed in the parking lot, on the way back to my car. By the time I got to the car, I was thirsty again. I decided that I would go to the doctor the following day.
He listened patiently, did the requisite blood tests, and told me he’d be in touch. He called me at 6:00AM the following morning. “Get to an emergency room, right away. You have Diabetes, and you’re in a state of shock.”
“It’s 6:00 in the morning. Call me back in a couple of hours.”
“No. I’m not kidding. Tell me which hospital is closest to you, and I’ll fax them your info. If you don’t get up there right away, you could go into a coma and die.”
“Here. Talk to my wife.”
At the hospital, they triaged me past all the car wreck victims and gunshot wounded, put me on a gurney and raced me to the tubes and radar machines. They didn’t think they could save me. I was so far gone, that they told my wife she needed to start making plans for me. My blood glucose – normally 70 to 110 – was up in the thousands. My blood pressure was twice normal, and my kidneys had shut down. My pancreas and liver were both permanently damaged, as were my lungs. It took them 5 bags of saline and an insulin drip to stabilize me. I was in Emergency for 10 and one-half hours.
Metformin made me at least as sick as the Diabetes had. I was constantly nauseous and the drug was making me incontinent. I decided I could beat this disease without medication. I started by weening myself off the Metformin and onto a drug called Starlix.
I began walking every day. First a mile, then two, and finally three. I developed an all protein diet, quitting all carbohydrates, sugars, starches and saturated fats. At first I would eat only meat, eggs, cheese and fermented dairy products. I counted every calorie. I learned about food chemistry and caloric fullness. And slowly, I started incorporating some running into my daily walks.
I had been a bike messenger, in a past life. So, I bought a bike. After about 2 years, I found a boxing coach. All my life, I had been obsessed with physical combat and combat sports. I had practiced Kung Fu for almost 15 years, and I had also taken several other styles of martial art. But I was intrigued by the free-form nature of Western boxing. Boxers weren’t stiff and controlled. They didn’t follow formatted sequences. There were no forms or katas. And boxing is taught differently – at least in America – than are most martial arts. In martial arts, you train in certain techniques, waiting for the day that you might have to use them. Whereas boxing is taught by putting you in the ring with a goon, and telling you, “O.K. Fight.” You don’t wonder what you’d do when confronted with a situation – you know.
But boxing requires tremendous physical strength and endurance. The training involves running, lifting and jumping rope. As I got better, I began itching to compete in other sports. I wanted to run in 5K races. My first 5K was about 6 or 7 years ago.
Yesterday, July 4th, was my 11th. At 59 years old, I did that race in 33 minutes. That’s a 5 mph average.
I weigh 159 pounds, at 10.4% body fat. My goal is to get down to single digits. It’s taken me a full 10 years, but I think I can realize that goal. It has been 5 years since I’ve had any type of Diabetes medication, and I’m asymptomatic. My blood glucose is normal. My kidneys and liver function are back in the safe zones. My A1-c is at or below 5 at all times. A reading of 6 results in a positive diagnosis for Diabetes. So even though my Endocrinologist cringes at the word, I can say I’m cured.
So yesterday was officially my Independence day. Independent of medicine, independent of medical intervention and independent of disease. I’m America’s 60 year-old boxer, and America’s 60 year-old obesity and disease warrior. I’ve conquered this disease, and I’ve done it without medicine.
Now to close this post, I need to say that I couldn’t have done any of this without an absolutely wonderful support network. My parents and my brother have been unceasingly helpful. My 2 doctors have worked tirelessly and supported me with good advice and constant monitoring. But none other has done more to support me during this time, than my wife. She was with me in the ER, and has been with me in every way you can imagine, since.
BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.