It was Tax Day 2019 and I was sitting in the office of my primary care provider when she uttered these fateful words, “So, your diabetes is diet-controlled?”
My what is what?
Those were my exact words to her. I was beyond shocked.
What is this diabetes of which she speaks?
It had been years since a doctor uttered the term insulin resistance and then told me to go find out for myself since I had graduated from the Naval Academy (what that had to do with anything at the time I’ll never know).
I learned insulin resistance was a pre-cursor to type 2 diabetes but no one said I was actually pre-diabetic or even close to having type 2 diabetes.
I also heard, as many other providers would say over the years, that I needed to lose weight. I knew that. But I wasn’t ready to address my eating disorder, so I looked for all medical reasons why I could have gained so much weight. There were none.
What I also found out on Tax Day 2019 was that I had likely had type 2 diabetes for the previous 10 years and went undiagnosed.
How the *bleep* does that happen?
Since my A1C (a 3-month average of blood glucose) was only 6.4, I was told to continue managing through diet and exercise. Having a 6.4 A1C is like telling me I’m barely diabetic.
I thought I would take care of this nasty thing, lose weight, and be healthier for it.
I did nothing. In fact, short of taking the dog for walks, I didn’t get much exercise and my diet was nothing to be proud of.
Other than the 5 races I completed in the fall of 2019 (including 3 half marathons), I didn’t do much of anything about my diabetes. And my knowledge of diabetes was mostly what I had acquired from neighbors and friends who had both type 1 and type 2.
Turns out, there was a lot I didn’t know, and that lack of knowledge and action landed me in the ER in May of 2020.
While my blood sugar numbers have normalized and some of my medication has been reduced, I quickly grew frustrated at the piecemeal approach I had to take to get a sense of this disease and what I needed to do.
I wish there had been a list of questions I could have had to call my doctor and ask as a follow up. Because you’re not going to remember all the things after a diagnosis or health scare. And you won’t take notes either.
Ask the questions
So, I am offering you a list of questions you can use when you follow up with your doctor after a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Remember, I am not a medical professional, dietitian, or nutritionist and this information is not meant to treat or diagnose a disease or condition.
- How long have I had diabetes? Is this from having too much sugar?
- What does this mean for me now? How does my life change?
- Will I need to take blood sugar readings? How often? What are my target numbers? How do I get the equipment?
- Are there diabetes classes I can take?
- Can you give me a referral to a dietitian or nutritionist?
- What does weight loss have to do with diabetes?
- Will I need insulin? How does that work?
- What about those diabetes medicines they advertise on TV? Do I need those?
- Do you have any good books to read about diabetes?
- Do I have restrictions on exercise?
And then after you’ve covered all of your bases with your primary care doctor, ask for a mental health referral.
I believe this is important when anyone gets diagnosed with a chronic disease or condition. It truly affects your mental health and you may need new coping skills to deal with this change in your life and people who mean well but say cruddy things and act like the food police.
Diabetes doesn’t have to ravage your body. It doesn’t have to take over your whole world and become your sworn enemy.
After all, the point is really to adopt a healthier lifestyle overall and that’s totally possible.
So, go out and become the best possible version of you!
If you’re reading this and you’re diabetic, what questions did you need answered when you were first diagnosed? What questions and suggestions did I miss?