Wednesday, August 12, 2009


If I’m going to have a chronic, progressive and potentially fatal illness, it might as well be something that’s reasonably well understood, treatable and might even lead me to behave myself.
Welcome to diabetes.
I’m 53 years old and I haven’t behaved myself. I love to cook, and even more, I love to eat. I’ve never understood the people who say they get pleasure from exercise – they always look as if they’re in pain. I’ve lived in the mind, not the body.
Diabetes always was a possibility, I knew. My mother was diabetic. My grandfather was diabetic. I inherited what my mother called a “German goiter” – the characteristic, if unpleasing, manifestation of what the medical-pharmaceutical complex now calls “metabolic syndrome.” That means I’ve got a fat gut, and it’s a sign of all kinds of bad things.
I ignored it all, until it started messing with what I wanted to do. I was hungry and tired all the time, thirsty, cranky, and always having to pee. I was having trouble focusing. Living in the mind is tough when the mind doesn’t work like it used to. Achieving moral victories over my inner underachiever is tough when I fall asleep on the couch like a grumpy old man.
It took a little while to figure out what the problem was. Along the way, the docs figured out my thyroid was a little off-kilter, but fixing that didn’t fix the whole problem.
Nope – it turned out to be classic, all-American, he-got-fat type 2 diabetes. But if I’m going to have this disease, it’s not a bad time to have it.
I’ve been put on something called Byetta – brand name from Amylyn/Lilly for a drug with the generic name exanatide. This is essentially a synthetic version of a hormone first isolated – and I can’t make this up – in the saliva of Gila monsters. (Who collected that? And why?) In other words, lizard spit.
As I understand it, my normal hormones don’t stimulate the Isles of Langerhans (say that in a stentorian voice) in my pancreas enough to produce sufficient insulin. The lizard spit does. I inject Byetta twice a day, just before meals.
It’s an under-the-skin injection in the abdomen. Yep, I give myself shots in the belly. The discomfort level is minimal – about a tenth of squeezing a pimple. I have a pen that gives me a tiny, premeasured dose. It’s a no-brainer.
And it works. I’ve been getting blood glucose levels that would be considered outstanding if measured in a non-diabetic. My energy level is where it was years ago, and I’m accomplishing so much more than I was six months ago.
The down side: I have to learn a whole new way to cook and eat. White bread, rice, most pasta and lasagna are out of here. Potatoes in almost any form are deadly. Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables (sweet corn in extreme moderation) and lots of protein are on the menu – like permanently.
It sounds so healthy and happy! It's a chance to make aggressive changes in my lifestyle to live longer and live better in my Golden Years!
I have to keep reminding myself of two things that I learned from very wise people many years go:
• The key to a long life is to develop a chronic disease and manage it well.
• Nothing changes – and this includes business, politics, love and lifestyle – until the pain of changing is perceived to be less than the pain of not changing.
I’ll admit – at the onset, I’ve still got a severe case of the “I don’ wanna’s.” But I gotta.
I won’t deny that I miss McDonald’s French fries and sunshine rice – my own recipe for rice cooked in chicken broth flavored with turmeric and a touch of paprika. But they’ll make me miserable, and I’m enough of a selfish SOB that I don’t like being miserable. And the people I love hate it when I whine.
I’ll do it. I have to. I know there’ll be a payoff down the line, but going on the journey there is tough to embrace and cherish right now. But I’ll go.
Is “kicking and screaming” considered aerobic exercise?

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