From diabetes diagnosis to treatment: Two weeks in no-man’s land

I apologise for what I said when I was hangry.

That sums up the past two weeks of living in what I’m describing as no man’s land. The fortnight between being told I’m diabetic and getting an appointment to see a specialist. You can catch up with the few months leading up to this here.

The fortnight of wondering, worrying, and Googling. Of eating not much other than salad and Quorn, while watching Stew and the boys carry on with their usual diets of bagels for breakfast and pizza for tea (they do also eat fruit and veg, but in my woe at me state it’s felt like they’ve been indulging in nothing but the good stuff).

I was advised to cut out carbs while I waited to see what treatment I needed, but I underestimated how hard it is having to make big lifestyle changes for yourself while keeping things normal for your children … and just how difficult it is to stop eating their leftovers (which I’ve realised is something I do *ALL* the time).

They’re boys, and they’re constantly hungry. An hour after breakfast, they’re asking for snacks, not long after the snacks, they need dinner … it’s a non-stop relay between them and the kitchen cupboards. And normally I’d be helping myself to some too. A few weeks ago on a day off, me and the littlest went through about five slices of toast together. How can I refuse when he suggested we “watch something on the sofa and share some toast”?

As well as the snacks, there are meals … and there’s no such thing as a quick lunch these days. Normally when we get home from a morning out I’d make us all a baguette or some sandwiches and crisps.

Now, it’s a case of sorting out the boys’ food, while also trying to make something from scratch for myself, or trying to make a salad more appealing by throwing in some bacon or cheese (I have learned to make a pretty decent one now). I’ve lost count of the times I’ve opened the cupboard, stared at the contents and shut the door again, overwhelmed with trying to work out what I can eat.

One of the lowest points was when the boys asked for toast (with deliciously carby white bread, of course) and pizza wraps for dinner one day, then decided they were no longer hungry as son as I set their plates in front of them.

I don’t think shouting “will you stop wasting all the good food I’m not even allowed to eat any more??!!” will go down as one of my finest parenting moments…

I’m well aware that I’ve mentioned toast a million times so far, by the way. I miss toast, ok?!

And of course each meal has come with the fun of finger pricking to test my glucose level, and setting an alarm to check it again two hours after eating. In a way, I was lucky I had gestational diabetes and know what counts as high and low … the complete lack of help from my GP (who told me testing my glucose before and after each meal would “just leave you with sore fingers”) would have had me in an awful mess if I didn’t at least have that background knowledge.

My glucose testing supplies come everywhere with me now

I’ve done my typical me thing of spending hours online, Googling low carb recipes (ok, desperately looking for easy to make low carb desserts), trying to find other people’s stories, and looking for Facebook groups and forums to join so I can ask all the questions running through my mind. Of the 46 browser windows currently open on my phone (I know, I know), 30 of them are diabetes related websites.

I guess I’m trying to feel more in control of something that’s mostly out of my control.

What’s scary is that I’ve read in various places that if I’d carried on in the way I was, and hadn’t had the advice from a dietician friend to cut out carbs while I wait to see if I need medication, I could have ended up in something called diabetic ketoacidosis, which is very dangerous.

Luckily our friend has been willing to answer my many questions. He’s been so helpful, and I’m really grateful for his time, but I have to admit I was disappointed when I asked him if I could carry on running and his answer was “ahh, that makes things more tricky”.

I’ve really got into running over the past couple of months, and was starting to feel like I was getting better at it. Then all of a sudden it I hit a wall (metaphorically … I didn’t actually run into one). My legs were heavy and I felt sluggish.

The way he explained it was that without producing insulin, my body is unable to convert what I eat into energy. So no matter how many carbs I eat, the energy they should give me will never make its way into my muscles … it’ll just float around in my blood. That explains why I sometimes felt like my veins were shaking (I’m starting to realise that a lot of what I was feeling really wasn’t normal!).

It also explains why I’ve been feeling utterly exhausted. One night I’d popped upstairs to put my phone on to charge and Stew found me asleep on the bed!

So running was off. Except that I had an event that involved a training run half way through my no-carb fortnight. I couldn’t not go, and I was getting so anxious about it.

It was with people I don’t know, so I wouldn’t have anyone to lean on for support if something went wrong. My concern was low blood sugar from not eating enough, and feeling light-headed or faint.

I tested my glucose level before we set off, and started off well, at a decent pace for me. Half way through, the fatigue hit me and I felt like I was going to collapse. I thought maybe it was the heat, so grabbed a bottle from the water station, but that made me feel worse – like I was weighed down. It wasn’t even a long run, at 3.5 miles, but it felt like an eternity. Every time I checked my watch, my pace was slowing, and I ended it at the slowest I’ve ever run. I somehow managed to get to the end, checked my glucose level again and found that it had actually gone up because my body was under stress.

So running was off again. And my confidence to try again was knocked.

I did manage a slow cycle with Stew and our biggest boy on our day off. It seems my body can cope with the pedalling speed of a five-year-old. In fact, at the half way point my glucose level dipped quite low and I optimistically bought a chocolate bar in case I needed to get it back up to normal. I know I shouldn’t have been, but I was a teeny bit disappointed when we got home and it had gone back up to where it should be with no need for sugar.

It was on this cycle that Stew took the photo above, which made me realise how much weight I’ve lost. You can see every bone in my chest!

I also typically had a work trip to London a week after seeing the GP. Usually this would be an excuse to stock up on carb-heavy train snacks to keep me going. So I was devastated to pack a Quorn salad and some carrot sticks in my bag for the outward journey.

If you know me, you’ll know I’m not a violent person. But the third time the trolley man asked me if I was sure I didn’t want a biscuit or muffin to go with my cup of tea, I was ready to throw the cup at him.

That night was spent with a sad hotel picnic of chicken pieces, cheese and a scotch egg as I wasn’t sure what I’d be able to eat out, and the train ride back was going to be more tricky as I couldn’t pack my own lunch. Our friend had said if I was desperate, to go for a tuna mayonnaise sandwich … and here’s the best bit – to choose dark chocolate over crisps!

Imagine my excitement at being allowed bread! And chocolate! What a day!

By the time I got to Paddington I had precisely 10 minutes to buy my lunch (and a book) and get on the train. I grabbed a tuna sandwich on brown bread, a small bar of chocolate and a pot of carrot sticks and hummus for good measure, and ran to board.

I didn’t want the journey to peak too soon, so I counted down to 1pm to crack open my sandwich. I inhaled it in about three bites, and sensibly decided to wait and see the impact on my glucose level before breaking into the chocolate.

Two hours later, I pricked my finger, waited a couple of seconds and saw the result … 17.1. I should be in single figures. Damn.

No more running, and no more bread.

It felt like a long wait, but eventually my appointment letter came through. It’s a waiting game now to see what the specialist recommends … if I’ll need medication, injections (?!) or if diet control is possible. Although given the high glucose readings I’ve been getting, that’s not looking likely!

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