Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Little Family History

My father was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes (now referred to as type 1) at age 15, back in 1953. His care was as good as it could be during that era in rural Washington. His mother did her best to make sure he took his insulin, stayed away from sugar, etc. When he left home at age 18 or 19 and was on his own, things kind of went downhill. He drank. He smoked. He ate things that weren’t in his meal plan. At age 23 he met my mom and her parents, who took him in and got him back on track.

It took 15 years for the mismanagement of his diabetes to catch up with him. And then he paid. Fast forward to age 38 when he was told that his kidneys were failing. This was 1976 and it was rare for a diabetic to get a dialysis machine because it was still a relatively new treatment for kidney failure. I don’t know why he was given a machine, but he was. And with my mom’s great care, plus support from the Northwest Kidney Center, he lived for 11 more years—10 years longer than he’d been given without a transplant. During that time, he developed heart disease, severe neuropathy and diabetic retinopathy to go along with the kidney failure. Sadly, he did the majority of the damage to himself in his late teens and early 20s—those years when you feel the most immortal. He died after his third heart attack at age 49, in 1987.

What’s the Point of Talking About Dad?
I lived with a textbook example of what happens when you don’t take care of your diabetes. I was warned as early as age 22 or 23 that if I didn’t change my diet and lose the extra 30 pounds I was packing, I would probably develop diabetes at some point in my life. I didn’t listen. Who does at that age? (Dr. Lardy, if you’re out there, you were right.)

So here I am, at 45. I’ve had diabetes for seven years. For most of those years, I've had reasonable (but not great) control—A1c results ranging from 6.4% to 7.6%. Mostly, I'm sure, because I swam everyday for four years—because it sure hasn't been from eating right.

Lately, through reading and such, I've come to the conclusion that in order to avoid the complications I watched my dad suffer from, I need to keep my A1c under 6%—in other words, "normal" range—regardless of what my physician thinks is a good lab result.

Contrary to my denial over the years about having this damn disease, I really don't want to end up like dad.


Karen said...

Isn't it true, we really do feel immortal in our twenties...and then when reality kicks in we have already spent so much time doing the "wrong things"...but isn't it great that the body is also resilient and the right things now go a long, long way. It's so great that you are paying attention and making the changes you need to. I agree, I want you to be around, not go through what your dad did and check out of this life early. If anybody can relate to doing things differently so that we don't end up like our fathers, it is me. Thanks for being open....

TMR said...

Hey, Karen posted before me! Darn that work deadline.

Two comments! You're on your way!

So, when's the next post? Huh? Huh? Huh?

Janet Wilson said...

this is so good.
I mean your blog.
I love your writing is just like talking to you.
Good luck with all of it.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in hearing more about your new diet that allowed you to lose the weight. I've been encouraged to do the same to avoid blood sugar issues and I'm floundering.

MaryB in Richmond said...

Ok, I snorted tea all over my monitor when I saw you had a comment from TMR. THAT is hilarious.

Kathie (already the "K" has been outed!) I look forward to watching your progress. WAY good for you!

Marianne said...

Hmmm, shall I go with TMK or Kathie..
I am so glad to see you writing about this issue, but even more so that you're figuring out what you really need to do and are doing it, we'd all like you to be around for a long time.
Looking forward to hearing all about it.

Cuzzin Tom said...

A note of encouragement -- my father, your partner's uncle, has had Type II forever, and had his 82nd birthday in January.

I love the blog, and know a couple people I need to send your way.

dragon knitter said...

my SIL's father did the same thing. partied like a madman when he was young, and paid for it in the end. when iknew him, he was legally blind (one eye was completely gone, and they were waiting for it to 'die' so they could give him a glass one, but i don't think it ever happened), and unable to work. not long after that, he developed heart disease, and just before he died, his kidneys started to go. however, what killed him was a fall. they think that he woke up in themiddle of the night, and knew something was wrong, but was unable to get to the frig for the OJ in time, and passed out, and hit his head. he was 54.

i hope his kids learned their lesson from him.

Lee Ann said...

Just a little note to tell you that you rock the house. :-) I'm extremely glad you've taken matters into your own hands...I've learned the hard way that we are our own best patient advocates.

Go, TMK, go!

Naomi said...

Your commitment to yourself has been amazing. This is what true love is...taking care of yourself! I don't want to sound condescending but I am really, really *proud* of you. I need to take better care of dad had type II also and probably could have gotten *rid* of it by eating right, exercising.

Please don't be like your dad. I'd be heartbroken!