‘I was killing myself with pies, pastries, cakes, crisps and beer’
November marks diabetes awareness month and to raise awareness local charity Diabetes Gibraltar has written articles highlighting the symptoms, treatment and stories of those living with diabetes. The articles will be published weekly on Fridays throughout the month of November.
This article is Paul’s personal experience. He had a momentous wakeup call when he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. He educated himself, learning what foods to eat and when, increased his exercise, and, with support from his family, the GHA Diabetes Team and his steadfast determination, he achieved remission. A remarkable and encouraging story.
For many years I ate and drank more than I needed, this is my Diabetes Journey.
Twelve years ago, I was suffering slight chest and arm pains at home. I was going through a stressful period, and my daughter insisted I seek medical attention. I was diagnosed with a “lazy Heart” and told to continue with the heart medication prescribed by my GP who advised me to lose weight.
I did well for about 18 months, exercising and watching my food, but then old habits and poor food choices crept in, I loved the odd Guinness or two. A lack of proper exercise did not help; I was lethargic and always tired after simple tasks. My family and friends were concerned about my health because they cared. My GP said I was very close to being pre-diabetic and to watch my weight which by March 2020 was 126kg.
I ignored them all; I knew what was best for me.
In November 2020 that stubborn stupidity and ignorance finally caught up with me. I was out walking our two dogs; I could not see the road signs from a distance of a few metres. It was like I was not wearing my spectacles, I felt dizzy and unsteady on my feet. My wife took me to A&E. My blood sugar level was 21mmol/L (normal levels are 4-7mmol/L). The A&E doctor’s words hit home hard; he confirmed I had Type 2 Diabetes.
He told me that if I didn’t lose weight and start an exercise programme, I would be increasing the possibilities of contracting cancer, therefore possibly reducing my life expectancy by ten to fifteen years. I was only 57 years old.
I immediately thought of my father who was 57 years old when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It was May 1992 when he sat me down with my mum and sister to tell me. It was the worst thing I had ever heard. It broke my heart the thought of losing him. In December 1993 he died aged 59. I think of him every day.
I had a new wife, two adult children, everything to live for and I was killing myself with pies, pastries, cakes, crisps and beer.
I found a space away and cried, tears rolling down my face, I did not want to die young, I did not want my loved ones to go through what my sisters and I had gone through with Dad. I was so angry at myself, why don’t I listen and take care of myself? Stupid, stubborn man! “I know best”, well I did not know best this time. This time it could be the last chance saloon.
My military instinct kicked in; I was going to fight. I followed the diet plan, no white bread, rice or pasta. I started walking a few kilometres every few days, building it up each week. I stopped drinking beer, no chocolates or high carb snacks, smaller portions at mealtimes. Simple things to reach my aim. I took my medications, checked my blood sugar three times a day as instructed. Went online, looked at websites including Diabetes UK with good advice, recipes etc.
My weight started to drop. I felt alive, motivated by my love for my family.
Moving forward, by March 2021, my 1st achievement. After reviewing my condition the diabetic team reduced my medication and, by May 2021, I was advised to stop medication and started only checking my blood sugar once a day.
July 2021 was my 58th birthday, and I had a review by the diabetic team. I weighed 106kg (losing 20kg since March 2020) and my blood sugars were averaging at the low end of normal (around 4-6mmol/L). Other tests revealed I was in the best health I could be in at my age. I was declared no longer diabetic; I was in remission. The nurse was amazed at my progress and I enjoyed my birthday so much.
I did not stop. I now exercise five out of seven days depending on my shift, I still stick to my diet eating low carbohydrate foods and controlling my intake. My mentality is simple: I am an addict, a food addict, no different than an alcoholic or person with drug issues. So, like them, every day is a challenge; if I give in to temptation, I could go back to square one and my efforts for the last two years would be for nothing. My battle to be with family, who mean the world to me, for as long as possible would mean nothing. So, I will keep fighting to keep diabetes away.
My advice to fellow diabetics: educate yourself, listen and heed the diabetic team’s advice. Make simple food changes, but most importantly Exercise, Exercise, Exercise.
Walk more, join a gym, take classes, be comfortable in what you do, set realistic goals. Seek advice from the GHA Diabetic Team and Diabetes Gibraltar charity and educational information.
I do not accept Type 2 Diabetes in my body, because I am still a stubborn middle-aged man. As a lifelong Liverpool fan, “I’ll never walk alone” because I have my wife, my family, friends, and the GHA diabetic team, who I thank with all my heart for their time and support on my journey. Without them I would be a big fat guy dealing with extreme Type 2 Diabetes, and most likely heading for an early grave, watching my loved ones’ cry.
That was my reality. Like me, it does not have to be your reality.
For more information find Diabetes Gibraltar on Facebook or contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org