Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Dark Time In My Life . . . (PART 2)

(Continued from PART 1)

Things went from bad to worse in a jiffy. The following week I got the results back from my A1c test. For someone healthy, a normal A1c range is between 4.0 and 7.5. Anything higher is hyperglycemia; anything lower, hypoglycemia.

My doctor called me and told me that my number came in at 11.5!!!

"You have diabetes," he said, just like that. My heart basically skipped a beat. I was devastated. But it got better -- I also had unusually high cholesterol, too. He said I had the trifecta -- a disorder known as Metabolic Syndrome, where one disorder (usually diabetes) goes hand in hand with two others . . . high blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

He wanted to see me in person and discuss medications. He also wanted me to see a nutritionist. I never felt so low (and scared) in my life.

The next day I went in and he told me the whole news. I had Type II diabetes, and that while some people could manage to get it under control, very few actually get rid of it completely. He told me that I probably had the genes for it, and in which case I would have it for life. I told him that no one in my family had Type II diabetes, except a really old Uncle on my father's side. And he only got it at the onset of old age. Still, my doctor didn't want to hear it and just assumed that everything was genetic. I tried to tell him I didn't think so, but eventually I just gave up. He was the doctor after all.

He also told me my bad cholesterol was genetic. That someone my age shouldn't be producing as much cholesterol as I was just from bad eating habits alone. Cholesterol is broken down into 3 components:

LDL -- also known as "bad" cholesterol.
HDL -- also known as "good" cholesterol.
Triglycerides -- a fatty substance extremely bad for your heart.

Add these all up using a particular formula (I know it by heart now) and you get a patient's "total" cholesterol. The total is what most people, and some doctors, go by, but really it is the LDL number that is most important. Normal total cholesterol is below 150.

My total was 202.

Normal LDL is below 100. Mine was 169. You get the picture?

So, basically, I was fucked!

My doctor told me that he was going to prescribe me Metformin for the Type II diabetes. I would have to take 2 pills every morning, and prick my finger to check my blood glucose level at least twice a day (morning and night). I would keep a log of my numbers to show him each time I went in for a visit. This was my definition of pure hell.

As for the cholesterol and the high blood pressure: he gave me some medication for the blood pressure, but said that he wanted to hold off on cholesterol-lowering drugs to see how well it went down on its own with diet and exercise. Cholesterol drugs, it turns out, have some very nasty side-effects, most dangerously liver damage. He was a good doctor in that he didn't want to just arbitrarily hook me up with meds just to make money. He actually had my well-being in mind.

Did I mention I've since grown to love this man? It bears mentioning now, in case I come across as some ingrate. :)

But anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Because, ultimately, my road to salvation would come almost completely at my own hands.

So, oh yeah, I was going to have to start a workout routine to loose the weight, in addition to dieting. Two things I did NOT want to hear! I'd been beating myself up for years after college to do just that, but to no avail. Work was too stressful and tiring for me to do anything but drag myself home and zone out on the couch.

But first things first, the doc wanted me to see the nutritional nurse who would hand me literature on how to eat a diabetic diet. After which, I would have to find a nutritionist and really map out a diet plan.

The literature was a bust. I hated it. None of the food appealed to me because I just didn't have access to most of it in the little rinky-dink bullshit ghetto supermarket in my neighborhood. The whole of the Bronx, I would soon find out, has this weird anti-health kick going on. Despite having the highest concentration of diabetics and heart disease sufferers, it has almost no healthy food selections in the supermarket. No low sugar choices, and very few low-fat and low-sodium ones.

So, I decided to do what always worked best for me: do everything on my own! I owned a treadmill at home. We bought it five years earlier back when I thought it would motivate me to jog. Instead it collected dust for those years, just one big hunk of wasted money. I also had a room full of free weights and a pneumatic workout bench (also collecting dust).

I knew it was going to kick my ass and that I would most likely give up, but I thought I'd try it my way and see what I could do on my own. I was 230 lbs, and I thought it would be nice to eventually get down to 185 lbs like I was in college. I had been an extremely skinny kid all throughout childhood and the first 3 years of college. I only bulked up to 185 my senior year there, and even that was a nice weight to be.

But to be realistic, I set the bar a little lower first. I thought, if I could at least get down to 205 lbs, that would be awesome. Also, since my wedding was in six months, I figured that would give me time to look trim when I walked down the aisle.

I was about to endure the greatest challenge of my life. If I knew at that moment just how difficult it was going to be, I never would have made it. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

What I also didn't know was that the experience would change me forever, and that there was indeed a bright light at the end of this dark tunnel.

But first I had to break some truly bad habits . . .


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