Just over a month ago I was sitting in my gynaecologist’s office waiting to see her about a recurring problem I was having. After my last visit she had suggested that I have a full blood work up so we could see all the factors. Sitting in her waiting room, blissfully unaware that my life was about to change in a serious way, I wondered if the news would be that I would have to repeat the operation of late last year. I thought that would be my worst possible outcome! I have the funniest named syndrome in the world (Floppy Epiglottis Syndrome – feel free to crack up laughing at it, I generally do!) that makes anaesthesia a real nightmare for the administering anaesthesiologist, and life threatening for me….so I didn’t want that as the outcome. I knew that it couldn’t be worse than that…..but I was wrong! Dead wrong.
After a short wait I was ushered in to see my gynae who very carefully, calmly and kindly told me that she thought that I had diabetes. What?!? I must have heard that wrong. Are you speaking to me? Not only did she think I had diabetes but my good cholesterol was too low, but my bad cholesterol was good. Ok, what? I had to get her to repeat it all again as the first time I was sure I was dreaming or in some kind of ‘funniest home videos’ scenario. I wasn’t dreaming though and no-one jumped out and yelled “you’ve been punked”. Looking back I really wish someone had because that would make everything that has followed a distant bad dream.
After my initial shock, my gynae referred me to an endocrinologist who happened to be right next door to her, which meant I could see him that day. That was a great relief as my mind was in overdrive and my brain felt like it was going to explode any minute. I could see the headline – DIABETIC MOTHER OF THREE HAS BRAIN EXPLOSION IN LOCAL GYNAECOLOGIST’S OFFICE! Even in my own mind, five minutes after a ‘suspected’ diagnosis I was feeling defined by the disease.
I have to say I could not have been referred to a kinder, more caring and just down right lovely endocrinologist, if I had ordered him up out of an endocrinologist producing machine! He has been a life line and a God send, but that’s a whole other blog post.
So, an hour after the floor fell out from under me in my gyane’s office I sat waiting in yet another medical waiting room. This time though I was not ‘blissfully unaware’. I was hyper-aware, on full alert and waiting….waiting to see him…waiting to hear if it was true…waiting to see what it meant. As you may have noticed from my profile, my pet hate is waiting. I have been really bad at it for as long as I can remember. I hate waiting, my kids know I hate waiting, my husband knows I hate waiting, I have had to perfect mindfulness techniques to manage times when I have to wait…I really hate waiting! So, I was in a bad situation – waiting and worrying. Whilst I really hate waiting, I am an Olympic standard worrier. I have my Dad and genetics to thank for that (thanks Dad and human genetics!. Shout out to my eldest daughter who could worry for Australia (we are Aussies) and likely inherited that from me, sorry love xx).
So – I’ve likely got diabetes, my cholesterol looks bad, my blood pressure is likely off the scales now that I am settled into a worrying for gold medal scenario in this waiting room, but no-one comes rushing, no alarms go off, and thankfully I don’t keel over on the spot from it all. Ok, so maybe it will all be okay? The first blood tests were probably wrong! I can almost feel my blood pressure going down just knowing it could all be one giant mistake. Yeah, that’s the most likely outcome…because I’m fine. I don’t have any symptoms, I am generally very well. Yep, someone cocked this one up badly, heads will roll!
I hear someone faintly, in the distance, calling my name. They call it a few times, and I slowly stir from my plans of heads rolling for this massive mistake on my blood test results, to find that my endocrinologist’s assistant is calling me to come and have a fasting glucose test, an HbA1c test, and a full body scan. What the hell is an HbA1c test? I speak two languages but Hb1Ac didn’t register in the vocabulary of either one. She tells me it’s a blood test that will measure the average of my blood glucose over the past three months. Oh yeah, this one’s gonna show you lot…average it out and I will NOT have diabetes. Now you’re talkin’! She tells me it will take about an hour to get the results and to come back then.
Come back then! Does she not sense that I hate waiting and that I have just medalled in the Olympic sport of hardcore worrying?!? No! So, I go and I wait. I walk, I worry, I rationalise. I go to the mall nearby to the doctor’s surgery. I walk some more, I wait, I worry, I plan my carefully and politely worded letter to the complaints department about the major blood test error delivered by them. I’m not litigious, so it is just a politely worded letter, no lawsuit, to help them to improve their process. Feedback is very important!
After a very long hour I return to my endocrinologist’s surgery to be greeted by his kindly spoken assistant who told me Dr. Richard would be there very shortly, he was just in the hospital wing. Okay, so I wait some more. By this time I am settling into waiting quite well, they say even old dogs can learn new tricks…and just look at me! I’ve become a waiter….
Not long after, Richard walked in. He was the friendliest person and medical professional one could hope to met. He immediately shook my hand and asked me to call him Richard. Was that a good sign? Was he going to tell me it was all a mistake, so he was buttering me up?
Richard took me into his office and his lovely assistant followed. Richard had read all of my history and he had my results from the tests with my gynae, the new results from the blood tests taken an hour ago, as well as the results of my full body scan. He smiled. I liked that – positive. Then he spoke. Crumble….
I was falling through space, well it felt like it. Richard told me that my results from today had confirmed a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes. No! That’s not right! It was a big mistake, an error in the testing. My results don’t confirm, they deny. I deny!!
Richard didn’t let me deny though, which I am now very grateful for. He was kind, educational and positive as he went through all of my results, line by line. Explaining to me what it all meant. You haven’t had diabetes more than a couple of months, he told me. We have caught it early which will help now and in the long term, he said. You are really lucky that you found out now, he explained. He talked to me about lifestyle and dietary changes and discussed medication options with me. After we agreed on goals and changes, he prescribed me an oral medication that we had agreed on, Trajenta, to be taken each morning. We reviewed the goals together and he gave me his contact details and email address. Contact me anytime, he said. I floated out of his office, after nearly an hour talking to him, with my brain thoroughly detached from my body. I could see myself below me…that me down there is the diabetic…that me has to change her life…that me has a chronic, debilitating disease that she knows nothing about.
I floated out to the waiting area with Richard’s lovely assistant. I watched from above as she gave the diabetic me the medication and a blood glucose meter. She demonstrated how to use the meter to diabetic me and made sure diabetic me was comfortable with what she was doing. She also gave diabetic me a month’s supply of lancets and test strips, and a nifty little black bag to carry it all in. Diabetic me nodded, answered her questions, showed her that that me could use the blood glucose meter, and then she took her bag of ‘goodies’ and wafted off into the corridor and a new reality. My diabetic reality.
Both of us caught the bus home that day (me and diabetic me), with her bags of things from the endocrinologist, and my mind thoroughly detached: I think my mind even took a seat on the bus as far away from diabetic me as possible. It really didn’t want to be associated with diabetic me. Mostly that was because I was overweight, and I was embarrassed that I hadn’t managed to not get diabetes! What a dolt!
I had told Richard during my visit that I had been really worried about my health as I just kept gaining weight. In the 6 months since moving to our new home (Singapore), I had gained 30kgs without any reason. He was worried too and explained that that was likely why I had developed diabetes. Yes, but why had I gained the weight? He didn’t know and neither did I.
Weeks later I would find out that another medication I was taking for that whole 6 month period had been clinically proven to cause massive, unwarranted weight gain in a small number of patients. My endocrinologist and my original prescribing doctor agreed that I, sadly, had fallen into that category. Well when life deals you lemons….you make a Margarita!
Unfortunately for me I don’t drink but I do believe in making the best of every situation and finding a positive. So I set about reading, researching and learning as much as I possibly could about diabetic me, and slowly I accepted that all of me was diabetic me, and diabetic me was all of me. And together we were ok!
Some might see a life sentence in a diagnosis such as mine, and sure there are lots of terrible and terrifying possibilities. I need to look after myself for life, not just in the short term. However so many other people not only live with this disease every day, but they also live with so many other, far worse things and they do it with bravery, determination, and a positive spirit.
My learning take away from my countless hours of research and reading, and my subsequent visits and emails with Ricahrd, is how preventable Type 2 Diabetes is and that, as an educator, I needed and wanted to be a part of the education about diabetes movement. So I started this blog as a first step and I hope it helps, even in some small way……