Chapter 1 – Diagnosis

On January 5th 2001 I quit smoking. I had been smoking for 27 years, it was too long, it was costing too much money and my chest felt tight. On this occasion, unlike half hearted attempts in the past, I really wanted to quit and I did. However, there were those times when I’d habitually lit up and probably as every ex-smoker knows, at times like those you have to find something else to do. My something else became snacking. Not huge amounts, but yes, peanuts, crisps, all stuff that hadn’t previously been included in my diet on a regular basis. The result? Pushing 2 stones in weight crept on. I wasn’t obese, but I was certainly overweight.

Some good friends were attending WeightWatchers so I decided to go with them. At first I lost steadily, a pound here, half a pound there, sometimes nothing. I was happy though, because the weight was coming off gradually and by Spring 2003 I was down by just over a stone. Then, quite quickly I started to drop weight faster and without any seeming effort or denial on my part. Each week I’d lose at least 2lbs and then it increased to 3lbs. I was drinking a lot of water, but the WW leader said that drinking lots of water helped weight loss so at first I didn’t think much of it. I did notice, but pushed it to the back of my mind, that my urine smelled odd – I’d have described it as “wheaty” rather than sweet smelling. I also increasingly noticed fatigue. I could sleep 8 – 10 hours, get up and feel exhausted an hour later. At the time I was self employed, working from home, so in effect I was my own boss and how much or how little I did wasn’t crucial. I was doing less and less each day. I was getting quite a bit of stick from husband for falling asleep on the sofa every night and I was mortified when I actually fell asleep after dinner one night when we were entertaining. Friends and hubby blamed wine – obviously I’d had too much, but really, I hadn’t, I’d been swilling mineral water for England and sipping at the wine.

Some friends came to stay and my girlfriend and I went clothes shopping whilst the husbands went off for a pint. I hadn’t seen this girlfriend for a few months and when we were in the fitting room she commented on how much weight I’d lost. I was thrilled, until she said “But really you don’t look right, it looks as though you’ve lost all your muscle”. I certainly wasn’t thrilled about that remark! I still didn’t see it though. However, as the days wore on I began to see it and I began to see how I looked sort of “hollow”. At the same time my hair which was in a shoulder length bob at the time began to look very scrawny and thin. I took to tying it back all the time so people wouldn’t notice and I put it down to my age. Doesn’t everyone’s hair get thinner as they get older? There were other things I was starting to notice. I kept tripping up the stairs and kerbs in the street. I was on the way to a meeting with our Financial Advisor and I tripped over a kerb, sprawling full length on the dirty pavement and ripping the knees out of a brand new pair of trousers. Trousers I was very proud of because they were size 10 and I’d even had to take them in! I had no time to go home and change. I felt ashamed. I also commented to my husband that I had pins and needles in my left arm and leg but I put it down to sleeping so heavily on that side. I was, however, concerned that the pins and needles stayed with me longer each day.

A while earlier I had decided that I was being lazy and not enjoying what I was doing for a living, so I decided that it would be better for me to get a job where I’d be forced to get up each day and attend a place of work and that this would motivate me. So I applied to several temp agencies and finally got sent to a Solicitor’s office to do copy typing for 3 days on one week. On the last of those days it was the WeightWatcher’s meeting at 5.30. By this time I was helping the “Leader” to weigh people. During a lull I mentioned to her that I was drinking lots of water and it was really working in the weight loss department, look at the 4lbs I’d lost that week! She looked at me in a worried fashion and said “Really Patti, I’ve been concerned at the way you’re losing weight and drinking fluids, I think you ought to visit the Dr. A man at one of my other classes was like that and it transpired he was diabetic”. All of a sudden a light went on in my head! Yes, I’d heard of the symptoms of diabetes and I certainly had them. I realised at that point that I’d been actively ignoring symptoms and staying away from the Drs because at the very back of my mind I had thought I had “something really terrible” wrong with me. All of a sudden the possibility that it was diabetes felt so much less threatening. After all a good friend of ours had diabetes and he just took some pills and otherwise carried on as normal. He even ate sweets – not that I was a great sweet eater.

The following morning I had to get up to go to the Dentist. I could barely raise my head off the pillow, but I dragged myself up, got showered and dressed and walked the mile into town to the dentist. It took me close to half an hour. A walk I’d normally have allowed 15 minutes for. After seeing the dentist and getting a lecture on the state of my gums, I dragged myself round the corner to the Dr’s surgery via the Co-op where I bought a bottle of chilled mineral water. I told the Receptionist that I needed to see the Dr and she started saying something like “a week on Thursday”. When I explained that I was drinking water for England, couldn’t stop peeing and had lost 4lbs in a week she looked faintly alarmed and asked could I come back at 2 pm to see the nurse. I said yes. I walked home via the Co-op where I bought another bottle of water to drink on my way home having already drunk the one I’d bought on the way to the Drs. I got home and fell onto the bed, setting the alarm for 1.15 pm.

The nurse did a finger prick test and said “I think you certainly have diabetes, but we need to confirm it”. I didn’t know until later that my BG tested “Hi” on the meter, meaning it was over 33. She took some blood from my arm and said “It’s quite urgent that we get this to the hospital”. I said I didn’t mind taking it, it wasn’t that far out of my way on my walk home. She asked me to come back the following day. Off I went, yet again via the Co-op, where I purchased two bottles of water. It took me nearly 45 minutes to walk home this time, as the hospital put another half mile onto the walk and by the time I got home I had finished both bottles of water. At home there was an answerphone message from the Temp Agency asking me to work at the same Solicitor’s the following day. Like a fool I rang them and agreed, but the next morning my husband was able to give me a lift into town, so the walk wasn’t an issue. Looking back I must have been mad.

In my lunch break I went back to the surgery to see the nurse. She confirmed I was diabetic, gave me a prescription for some pills (Gliclazide) and a handful of leaflets on diabetes and one on diet. I was given a meter and some strips and told how to use them. I can’t recall exactly what I was supposed to do with the results! She advised me to avoid anything sugary and that was it. Six years down the line I have a vague recollection of something being wrong with the prescription and that the Chemist wouldn’t accept it, I had to return to the surgery to get something sorted (a Dr’s signature maybe) and then rushing back to the chemist to put the prescription in which resulted in me missing my lunch. Probably just as well really!

I spent the weekend sleeping and each test I took was in the high 20s. The pills didn’t seem to make a lot of difference. I had bought a slim book on diabetes whilst in the chemist, a sort of “diabetes for dummies” book, so I was beginning to understand a bit more about the condition. I wasn’t frightfully upset by the diagnosis, in fact I was very very relieved that it was a condition that could be controlled and that I wasn’t, as I had feared, riddled with Cancer or anything worse!

To be continued….

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