As a type 2 diabetic coming from a family of the same, I’ve always had an aversion to the idea of using insulin. For all the years I watched my mother measure her insulin and stick herself in the abdomen or thigh, I vowed I would do everything humanly possible to avoid it. Humanly.
My mother was a woman ahead of her time nutritionally. Our family’s diet consisted of the basic food groups, but heavy on the veggies, fruits and proteins, much lighter on the carbs, starches and sweets. No soda entered our house until my eldest brother married, at which time Diet Rite made its appearance with his lovely bride. Chips and snacks were rare treats, although Jiffy Pop® was a regular player.
When, back in the early 2000s, I was diagnosed with diabetes and began taking oral medications to control it, I had no difficulty with eating prohibited foods, as they were not part of my diet, anyway. For 12 years, diet and exercise kept me reasonably healthy on the diabetes front and I didn’t give it much thought. Lest I get too complacent, the universe threw a wrench into the works.
After many months of doctor visits, myriad tests, scans and other diagnostic procedures, all of the results were normal, save one, a “jitter” test, otherwise known as a [torturous] single-fiber EMG. At the same time I felt vindicated to know that something was going on, that I wasn’t imagining all these symptoms, I was horrified to find out that something was going on that was causing them all. I was relieved to have a diagnosis, but not actually surprised to find that I have myasthenia gravis, with which my father was diagnosed in 1972 at the same age of 59.
While the myasthenia didn’t cause his death at age 79, the prednisone he took every other day to control it resulted in an escalation of diabetes and dangerous complications that did. When I first received a diagnosis, I started on a different med commonly used to treat MG that was supposed to be diabetes neutral, but after 10 weeks of a stomach ache and overall crappy feeling 24/7, increased blood glucose and 15 extra boxes of butter attached to my belly, my doctor and I engaged in a risk-benefit analysis and the Mestinon lost. While I waited to get in to see a local specialist, I went untreated, but hey, in the midst of that, my arthritis was so painful and debilitating that I got a shot of cortisone in the tush and unexpectedly entered a marvelous three-week remission from the symptoms of everything ailing me.
By the time I’d had a couple of appointments with my new doc, the remission was wearing off and I was back to square one. I accepted the preliminary risk/benefit assessment for prednisone and soon began to feel pretty good, with only one little [potentially very serious] issue. My blood glucose was spiking over 300-350 daily, a recipe for organ damage and stroke. I soon maxed out on oral meds without the desired results and suddenly, all of my insulin anxieties grew like giant Venus Flytraps in my psyche. I saw my internist in the morning, accepted the Rx for the insulin, which actually comes in a sort of pen these day (nothing like in my mother’s day), and went to get it filled. I was to give myself my first injection before dinner.
All day, I stewed about this, worrying and fretting, working myself up into a crescendo of trepidation. I read and re-read the instructions, re-read them again, and finally the hour arrived. I followed all of the directions meticulously, pinched one inch of the acres of flabby abdomen and said to myself, “OK, come on, just point and shoot.”
I felt absolutely nothing. Did I get the needle in? Had I done it right? I was sure I had. What’s more, I was feeling incredibly SILLY, having worried over a non-event and wasted so much precious energy being a fraidy-cat. If you ask me why I was afraid, I doubt I can even give you a coherent answer. I seldom worry about anything, even things much bigger than a teensy-weensy shot in my flabdomen, as things usually work out one way or another in the end. And if they haven’t worked out, it’s not the end. My fears were far bigger than the actual doing, and as I’m writing this, I’m feeling silly all over again about something so simple. A molehill.
I used to wonder whether my mother would run out of real estate in which to inject herself, but one look in my mirror tells me I won’t have to contemplate that anytime soon. It doesn’t much matter, as long as I get the desired result. My father lived another productive, active 20 years after his MG diagnosis. With a little luck, I will, too.
Oh, hey, I hear the ice cream truck! Jingle Bells? It’s Christmas in July!