People with type 2 diabetes write back to their younger selves, to share personal insights and reflect on their experience of living with diabetes and starting on insulin therapy. In this post, Giovanni reflects on living with diabetes.
Giovanni’s diabetes announced itself dramatically when he was 30. He had gone to make a cup of coffee at work and fell to the floor, unconscious. After a couple of minutes, he came to, not sure what had happened to him or where he was. His boss at a Council in West London, UK, where Giovanni worked as an allocations officer in housing, suggested that he see a doctor immediately to check for concussion. The doctor’s report: he was not concussed – but he did have type 2 diabetes.
Giovanni’s first reaction was an intense desire to push others away. “I wanted to go home to my partner and end the relationship of seven years,” he recalls. “I didn’t want pity, or anybody to be with me out of a sense of obligation or duty.” His partner dismissed the idea, saying it was silly to split up over something as trivial as this. He certainly wasn’t going to leave just because diabetes had entered the picture.
Bothered as he was by the diagnosis, a part of Giovanni didn’t fully believe it. He kept feeling that this couldn’t be happening to him. In the back of his mind he thought that ‘they’ must be wrong. In the end, he allowed himself to carry on life as before. He ate cakes and junk food, all the things he had always eaten. He kept irregular hours and frequently missed meals.
Six years later, Giovanni’s grandmother, who also had diabetes living in Italy, had to have her toe amputated because her diabetes was not well controlled. Because he had always been close to her, this event triggered a good deal of concern and reflection. Giovanni, 54, is writing to himself at 36, after hearing about his grandmother’s health setback.
Although it is easy to say “I can’t imagine what you are going through right now” I have to say “I can imagine what you are going through right now.” You love your grandmother because she has always accepted you and who you are. Her health problem is making you think about your own mortality. I don’t want to be patronising, but this is the wake-up call you desperately need.
I’m here to spell out the details of that wake-up call: you’ve been in denial. You don’t want to have diabetes so you’re acting, at least partly, as if you don’t. But, Giovanni, pretending won’t make it go away. More importantly, to neglect taking proper care of yourself is a mistake. It’s time to stop and think: where do you go from here?
I won’t say it will be easy. You’ve been told to change your diet. That hasn’t really worked, and now you are on tablets. You don’t want to go on insulin, because you hate needles and can’t imagine using them on yourself four times a day. But one thing you will realise once you add insulin to your current treatment plan of tablets and a balanced diet is that you will see your blood sugar control start to improve.
You should also think about losing weight. Keep trying, even though it’s a challenge. In the future, you’ll succeed! You’ll go from 100 kilograms to 84 kilograms and feel a lot better having lost that excessive amount of weight.
There’s also something wonderful ahead that will make you eat healthier. You will inherit a rescue dog named Molly from a neighbour. Sometimes that ‘extra thing’, like Molly, can make a huge difference. When it is just you on your own, you think differently compared with when you have a dependant, even if that dependant is just an elderly dog.
Remember you will get through this. And that instead of being controlled by diabetes, you can control diabetes. You are the boss. I am still here. And you will be too, a confident person in charge of your own destiny.
This story has been edited by Ellyn Spragins and shared with support from Novo Nordisk Canada. The views and opinions expressed are not representative of Novo Nordisk, and should not be considered treatment advice. Novo Nordisk has permission to share this letter and included personal details.