As you probably know, we had a very hot summer this year in Portland. During one heat wave, temperatures reached 107 on some days and didn’t get below 75 at night. Round about that time I found myself thirsty quite a lot. It was hot and our air conditioning infrastructure is lacking so I thought it was because of the heat that I was drinking so much water. Around about the same time I also started urinating much more often than I had ever before. Again, I chalked it up to the heat and increased water intake but I still noted a couple of events that were unusual. First, one night I woke up having to urinate which is something that almost never happens to me, especially if I go to the bathroom before I get in bed. Soon it was happening to me every night but I still didn’t put it together.
I also felt incredibly tired most of the time. The last few hours of work each day were very difficult and I would often end up in the comfy chair a few feet from my office, watching MSNBC’s political block. The fatigue had arrived rather gradually and I didn’t really notice it until our Family Camp with Troop 820 in June. When walking long distances there was difficult in terms of muscle fatigue, I chalked it up to the altitude and the weight I had recently gained. It got worse and worse all summer but even these were not clue enough for me.
During or shortly after the first heatwave, we had a strange fungus growing in the toilet in my and Tina’s bathroom. Tina cleaned the toilet thoroughly with bleach and it was gone for awhile but the fungus returned with the second heat wave (or so I thought). It was notable enough that I took this possibly gross picture of it before Tina eliminated it again. Three weeks ago it returned again! One night curiosity brought me to Google where I typed “black mold toilet“. Scanning the results I noticed that several of the summaries contained the word “diabetes”. Uh oh. What is that about? I modified my search to “black mold toilet diabetes“. Oh shit. There were lots of reports of the black mold in the toilets of diabetics. It seems that the urine of diabetics contains enough sugar in it to feed a small colony of black mold in a toilet bowl.
At that moment I knew it was true. I had type 2 diabetes. I looked it up on Wikipedia and skipped down to the list of symptoms. I had five out of the seven listed symptoms. Seeing them all there together was a giant “Oh yeah…” moment which actually made me feel a little bit better about my situation. At last I had an explanation for how I had been feeling. I also realized that I had reached a crossroads. Everything that had come before no longer mattered. I wrote “Day 0” on my calendar for the day and retreated to bed for the night.
The next day I broke the news to Tina. She was understanding and concerned. We agreed to immediately change to a low glycemic index diet and at her insistence I made an appointment to see my doctor on the earliest possible date: Tuesday, September 8. I requested that I be tested for diabetes, but was told that only the doctor can order tests. Even so, I fasted the night before the appointment in order to be ready for the test.
It didn’t take long the next morning to convince the doctor that I should be tested. They pricked my finger and tested my blood for glucose level. Non-diabetics typically have fasting (i.e. after waking up but before breakfast) glucose levels below 100 mg/dL and anything over 140 is worrisome. That morning my glucose reading was 265 mg/dL. After talking with me about type 2 diabetes for several minutes, my doctor turned me over to their dietician who handed me my own blood glucose meter and several boxes of strips. She showed me how to use the lancet to puncture my finger on the side to avoid the nerves, how to get the blood sample on the test strip and how to read the results. We discussed how often to test and she told me about the log book that comes with the meter.
In the meantime, I had been nibbling on a Clif bar that I had grabbed on my way out of the house earlier that morning. She answered a bunch of my questions and invited me to a series of classes offered by the office for diabetics. Finally, she handed me several prescriptions to help my glucose get down to normal levels. The target level for diabetics is 110 mg/dL.
After filling the prescriptions I returned home and work for the afternoon. I continued to test throughout the day with results as low as 380 and as high as 465. This caused a little alarm for both Tina and I but eventually I concluded that the Clif Bar was the culprit. Experimentation has also confirmed that my levels tend to peak after breakfast and fall the rest of the day.
Since then my average glucose level has dropped steadily and has leveled out at about 115 mg/dL. Tonight I’ll attend my third (in a series of four) diabetes class. I’ll continue to follow the Mediterranean diet prescribed by my dietician while I work to get regular exercise back into my life. If I can do that for the rest of my life, I should have few, if any, complications due to diabetes.