It’s all because of my choices…

My bout with Covid was no fun whatsoever. I was exposed mid-September, was sick all of October, and am just now weaning off Oxygen (24/7 on a machine). My heart looks fine, which is a relief. But I was also diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes while I was sick. I have since learned that many Covid survivors are left with a Diabetes diagnosis. And I am learning more and more about this disease every day.

Diabetes – the type 2 variety – is a diagnosis that affects everything in your life. And it is also a disease of choice. Every bite I take affects this disease. And every bite I have ever taken has brought me to this place. Every time I chose to ride and not walk also brought me here. Couch potato life (or in my case – recliner life) also drove me down this road. While I was in the hospital, they did a blood test called an A1C. For diabetics, this test is almost as important as your daily blood sugar. The A1C somehow (I am no scientist) can determine your sugar levels over the past 2-3 months. It looks at how much hemoglobin is coated with sugar. The higher the number, the worse control you have had over your diabetes and the more likely for complications you are. My A1C was 8.3 – that is very high. Most people who do not have diabetes test in the 1-2 range. And what this told me was I have been dealing with this for quite a while.

When I was told I had this disease, I was so sick and fighting for every breath. The nurses would come and prick my finger 4 times a day and 4 times a day I would get insulin injections. Each time I would get 1 injection of short acting insulin and 1 injection of long-acting insulin. I was taught how to give myself injections and how to test my blood. But when I went home, I was prescribed oral medication and a completely different testing system. I spent days trying to figure it all out. (And only when I had to refill those test strips did I discover it was also a costly learning curve!! ) And I had serious bouts of dizziness, cold sweats, and nausea. Getting used to taking medication – and taking it at the same times every day – has been hard for me. I never even take Tylenol! A dear friend suggested setting an alarm on my phone. Genius! I am now taking the medication regularly.

Learning to eat differently has been a challenge. When I returned to my doctor I had been recovering for 2 weeks at home. I kept a daily log of all my testing and times and my blood sugar numbers. My numbers were never under 200 and lots were in the high 200s – not good. So the doctor doubled my medication. Side effects? Yeah. LOL. Shakes, frequent bathroom visits, but also calm and I felt more solid, if that makes sense. But my numbers all hover closer to 200 than 100. Very frustrating. Because I have not cheated – not once. Honestly.

And boy oh boy is there a lot of conflicting advice out there. At first it was no sugar, no carbs, low fat. What is left? I started reading labels. Sugar is in everything. It is mind-blowing. Things I thought were healthy are not – for me. Yoghurt is one of my favorite things. Well, I was eating what I thought was a good yoghurt, until one day I really read the entire label. Hidden sugars and carbs! It was making my situation worse. And cottage cheese. I have to watch which one I choose to eat. I can’t eat anything much that is pre-packaged. No rice. No potatoes. No fast food. No “last minute, let’s grab a bite to eat” evenings for me. Because every bite either shortens my life or extends it. It is really that simple.

I had pancreatitis twice in my early 30s. I had gestational diabetes with one of my pregnancies. I was diagnosed a few years ago with “metabolic disorder.” All these markers should have been sirens going off and red flags all over the place. Because each of them points to diabetes in the end. The nutritionist at the hospital wants me to lose 10% of my weight. I cringed. Yeah, I am overweight. And I lost 16 pounds through Covid. I have already gained 6 back. And I am eating healthier and eating smaller portions. Ugh. The pressure to lose weight is real. And I feel it and I desperately want to drop the extra pounds I have carried with me for the past 37 years. My body is comfy at this weight. I’ve worn this same size for decades. My daughter-in-law explained to me that our bodies have “set points” at which they are happy. I am at my set point. It hasn’t changed much over the years. And now I need to change that set point. No easy task.

I have searched through the internet and my daughter-in-law bought me a great cookbook. And I can honestly say I am tired of salads. Ha-Ha. My body loves it when I eat raw spinach. It settles my numbers down. And so I often eat it sometimes three times a day. My nutritionist told me I need 5-7 servings of vegetables every day. Trust me – that is a tall order. Even at breakfast? A serving is 1/2 cup so it’s not a lot. But still – thinking of 3 meals as just meals and removing that breakfast-lunch-dinner label is hard.

Years ago my husband and I did the Primal Diet. And we really liked it. Then we did Whole 30 and that was truly the most eye-opening. I think that between the two we had changed our minds and were resolving to think of meals as just meals. We could have what people would judge as dinner for our first meal of the day. We learned to think of them as meals 1, 2, and 3. And I have to get back to that mindset. This time, it has to be permanent.

When you are fighting an illness and are prescribed lots of steroids and antibiotics, it can artificially inflate your blood sugar. So none of my medical “team” is overly concerned, yet. They all have told me that it takes a few months to settle down and get a rhythm going. And I am hoping that works out to be true. In the meantime, I am trying to adjust to this new paradigm in my life. I am trying to gather as much information as I can. And I am equally determined to beat this thing into submission. Not sure what it is submitting to – my indeterminant will, I guess.

Every morning I wake up and before I do anything, I test my blood. I then eat some plain yoghurt so I can stomach my diabetes medications. Every morning. And I am reading this great devotional entitled, “Living Well With Diabetes” by Constance Brown-Riggs. And this book has brought the importance of relying on God for all things. Each day it has caused me to look at this differently. It’s not a life-long sentence of being full of disease. It is an opportunity for me to grow and learn and change. To make what I have better. I finally had a morning this week with blood sugar under 200…it was 144. That is the lowest it has been since my diagnosis. I felt like I had a small victory!!!

Sunrise in an Alaskan Winter

I love winter. I was born blocks from the beach in sunny Southern California. I hated being hot. I longed for four seasons. We finally made it to Alaska almost 9 years ago, and I love the seasons here. Granted, spring and fall are so fast you could miss them, but summer and winter are glorious. Our dogs love the snow. They are standard poodles and they have very deep foot pads. They get crammed full of ice and snow and you have to dig it out each time they go outside. If you do not stay on top of it, they will develop bleeding foot pads. Luckily the Iditarod mushers found a way to prevent this with booties and this salve you can put on their pads. The dogs hate the salve and the booties, but they work. Do sore feet keep them from running for hours in the snow banks and drifts? It does not! As a responsible pet owner, it is up to me to research solutions and to care for them and their feet. And so I insist on digging out the snowballs and caring for their feet. Every day, several times a day, in the wintertime.

Hope!

We all need to take responsibility for the health of those we love – dogs included – as well as ourselves. We have to acknowledge the problem and take steps to correct it. I sought out resources for our dogs’ feet; why would I not be as diligent about my own health? And so I have found some resources through the assistance and suggestion of friends and family. I am coming to terms with my emotions about having a disease, because until I learned more I did not know diabetes was a disease. I had never thought about it, honestly, and had assumed it was just a metabolic mis-wiring. I had no idea of the far-reaching consequences of living with diabetes. LOL. I was also given some app suggestions for my phone to learn about counting carbs and sugars and fats. Label reading is now part of my life. As I mentioned before, my daughter-in-law bought me a cookbook, “Diabetes for Beginners.” What an amazing collection of recipes. I am trying new things in the kitchen. And because I acted on learning more, discovering more, and wrapping my brain around this whole subject, I have garnered hope! And hope is an amazing thing. I truly believe action helps give us hope, so I am continuing to learn. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Ha!. I am an old dog, for sure, but I am still learning. Each day I hope is a better day for my diabetes. Stay tuned, my friends. I am sure this will be a bumpy ride.

“….a single hour to your lifespan…”

One thing that is so frustrating for so many caregivers is the endless red tape that is we have to untangle to get loved ones the care they need and require. Did you know that even with supplemental or “gap” insurance, benefits that cover prescriptions run out before the end of the year? Why is that, do you ask? Because the drug companies charge so very much for their drugs. And some of them do not come in “generic” so you have to pay the extra for that name-brand prescription. And it is medicine that keeps the disease at bay – it slows its progress – it makes the day smoother for everyone. And the cost? More than $300 per MONTH. For just that one medication.

And you know what is sad? There are literally millions of people with Alzheimer’s who use this medication. Millions. And is there a cure? No; there is not. The medication just helps to slow the progress. But know this – it is a fatal disease and it always progresses. The medication just eases us all into it, until it no longer matters if they take the medicine or not. And even if you have savings or good retirement programs, if you run into a disease like Alzheimer’s, all that planning may come to naught. My mom lived in a beautiful retirement home. She had assets. But she outlived it all. She is vigorously healthy – other than this stupid disease. And now, she has literally nothing. Trying to find a doctor that takes Medicare is (a) hard and (b) finding one that deals in Alzheimer’s? Double whammy. Then add in all the expenses of these medications, and the fact that they have pretty much run out for the year (it usually runs out in October every year) and you have disaster. Because as I struggle to find a funding source, I am taking a person off her usual round of medication and only administering it every-other-day, to make it last until January. Why? It’s when the funding re-applies to her medication portion of Medicare. Our days are now back to what they were when she first came to live with us – precarious at best.

So now I get to delve back into the miasma known as Medicaid. If you have never tackled trying to get covered by a federal aid program, you have missed nothing exciting. I used to manage a welfare office, and I was in charge of 28 clerks. All they did, all day long, was process welfare applications. I used to review them for errors. And I had to go into the system and make adjustments. I had to attend meetings where new systems were taught to all of us at the supervisory level, to instruct our clerical unit. So it is not as though I am unfamiliar with governmental online programs, nor how they work. But this is day #2 that I have attacked Medicaid. Is it 5 o-clock somewhere?

And another part of being an in-home caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s – you cannot leave them alone for too long. It makes doing this a stop-and-start process. So yeah, another facet to caregiving that people do not think about.

In the book of Luke, chapter 24, verses 22-24, the Lord tells us not to worry overmuch about these things in life.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifespan?

And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans pursue all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”

And frankly, my faith is what spurs me onward. So today I will put into perspective these nasty, little, pains-in-neck that are part and parcel of caregiving. As I head back to that fun website of horror, Medicaid, I will think about the leaves changing color and time passing, and God at the helm of it all. God can overcome Medicaid applications. And I am hitting up the angels on my shoulder for some help, as well as asking for the intervention from some pretty amazing Saints who have gone before me, too! We all got this!!!