By Patrick Totty
You’ve just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
It doesn’t matter whether your doctor looked you in the eyes with a kindly gaze when he dropped the bomb, or she just told you straight with no preliminaries: “you have diabetes.”
If you’re feeling shell-shocked right now, it’s a perfectly normal reaction to news that has just turned your life upside down. Not only do you have this distressing new burden added to your life, you have to figure out how to deal with it.
Most likely you’re starting from scratch and don’t really know much about the disease. Your first source of advice will be your doctor, who will tell you about diet, exercise, and drugs. But at this moment of psychic disarray, chances are what your doctor says will sound to you like so much noise. Understand that it’s going to take some time for you to properly absorb the tsunami of information that will now start surging your way.
The second source of information you’re going to reach out to so you can get a grasp on type 2 is the Internet. You’ll scour sites like this, and the Mayo Clinic’s, and the American Diabetes Association’s.
It’s a good move. Starting a methodical search for facts is a great first step.
Now, there’s another crucial thing you must do if you are going to be (and feel) successful at managing your diabetes: Become as informed about your diabetes as your doctor and the other healthcare professionals you’ll be dealing with.
That sounds absurd, doesn’t it? After all, your doctor, endocrinologist, and certified diabetes educator have studied for years to learn about and understand as much as possible about diabetes-a disease the ancient Greeks were writing about as long as 2,500 years ago. How are you going to match their insights and knowledge?
The answer is in the description: your diabetes.
Everybody who is first diagnosed with type 2 shares general symptoms: insulin resistance and high blood sugar, an often sedentary lifestyle, or too much weight, or an unhealthy diet.
But despite all that we have in common, we are all unique. How each of us responds to a change in diet, or medications, or stepped-up exercise will be different. There is no one-size-fits-all therapy for type 2. Finding that “custom fit” for your type 2 will be your main task over the next few months.
Here are five things to keep in mind as you begin dealing with and managing your disease:
1. Time is on your side-Diabetes is called a “progressive disease” in that it often takes years for its bad effects to reach the point where they create serious health problems. That means you have time to experiment with diet, exercise, and medications to understand which combination of them works best to slow down-and sometimes even halt-the advance of the disease.
2. Technology is on your side-The tools for managing and medicating type 2 have come a long way over the past 20 years. Blood glucose meters are lightweight, accurate, and covered by almost all health insurance plans. Drugs such as metformin and sulfonylureas are fairly inexpensive and effective in managing the early stages of type 2. Later, if you need to start taking insulin, there are effective manmade insulins to choose from, with more in the pipeline. Wonderful thin-needle technology has made self-injection virtually pain-free-stings, yes, wincing pain, no.
3. There’s a scientist in you that can look for patterns-One simple fact about us humans makes almost every one of us a scientist: We detect patterns better than any other creature on the planet. Our ability to observe is second to none. Bring that ability to bear on managing your diabetes. Track your blood sugar numbers in relation to how much you eat, exercise, and medicate. It takes a month or two to detect consistent patterns, but when you find them they will help you immeasurably in dealing effectively with type 2, and building the confidence that you can.
4. Be alert and resist pie in the sky-Now that diabetes is on your mind, you’ll start noticing a lot more discussions and advertisements about it. It’s like when you buy a new car-you suddenly notice how many of your car’s make are on the road.
Be wary of claims from people or organizations that say they know how to reverse diabetes or are “this close” to a cure. In the first instance you’ll probably be invited to buy a book, product, or seminar as the price for finding out how to reverse type 2.
In the second, when you read reports about closing in on a cure, take them with a grain of salt. Good researchers are very tentative about how they describe possible breakthroughs. However, public relations people and fundraisers aren’t so reluctant. Their goal is to cover their bosses in glory or shake the tree for more grants and funding. Just keep that in mind.
5. Don’t be intimidated-You’re going to be inundated with new terminology and surrounded by people who know a lot more about diabetes in general than you do. But in anything we do for the first time, we’re novices. It takes awhile to get up to speed.
As you do, remember the advice above: You’re trying to learn as much as possible about your diabetes, which is something you’ll become expert at soon enough. Others may have greater medical knowledge of your condition, but you will have a fine-tuned, hard-won intimate knowledge of your unique version of type 2.