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Alive January 19, 2007

Posted by becoming in Uncategorized.

Yes, I’m still alive.  Perhaps barely.  I’m less healthy by any yardstick than I was 6 or 7 months ago, but I survive.

And, MAYBE, I’m finally prepared to act.

Numbers April 30, 2006

Posted by becoming in Becoming Worse.

I’m starting a new category with this post: “Becoming Worse,” because that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks. I could summarize things quite accurately by saying, if it was good for me I didn’t do it and if it was bad for me I did it.

My progressive exercise program has transitioned from walking twice a day to walking once a day to stationary-biking once a day to basically nothing.

As I experimented with taking less and less insulin and finding that doing so did not immediately send my blood sugar levels skyrocketing, I gradually convinced myself that I didn’t need any at all. It was a small step from taking no insulin to doing no blood glucose monitoring. And with that check on my body’s response to what I was putting into it out of the way, I began to feel more and more at liberty to indulge all those food cravings that had never diminished.

About the only thing I haven’t done is start smoking again. And to be frank, in the past couple of days I’ve had some cravings along those lines for the first time in months!

I’m getting very much out of control, and the effects (while somewhat subtle) are significant enough to already see.

Here are the numbers.

My surgery was on 15 March 2006, about six and a half weeks ago. I weighed about 305. Immediately after surgery my weight went as high as 315 due to edema. I came home at 299, and watched it steadily drop (with the assistance of the diuretic HCTZ) down as low as 281. This morning it was 291.6. Two hundred ninety-one point six. And, no, that’s not some sudden abberent overnight spike. It’s been edging back upward, a little bit almost every day, for the past three weeks or more.

My blood pressure has also been going up, daily, during these last couple of week or so… as high as 190 over 118. My cardiologist had made some changes in my hypertension medication recently, but I strongly suspect that my food indulgences are more to blame.

I have to regain control. Either that or I should simply tell Lara that I’ve decided being lazy and bingeing on all the wrong foods mean more to me that trying to get healthy enough to be around for a few more years.

It’s extremely frustrating, intensely depressing. And how have I always dealt with emotional turmoil? By feeding my fat face. I have to stop, but it’s as if I don’t know how to stop… which to anyone else I’m sure sounds like a cop-out. I feel that I’m reaching a critical point in a gravely serious situation. I cannot afford to ignore this, to back-burner this. If I go on auto-pilot I know what the outcome will be.

Back in the Saddle Again April 21, 2006

Posted by becoming in Becoming Productive.
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Well, it’s been just over two weeks since I’ve taken the time to write here. They’ve been a very busy two weeks. Probably not so busy that I couldn’t have found the time…. But, I kind of promised myself no recriminations if/when something like that happened.

The thing is, so much has happened that it’s going to be difficult to even summarize it all So what comes next is going to be more of a strange sort of highlights reel.

Going back to work on Monday the 10th was nice. Several coworkers expressed some genuine, sincere, really-glad-you’re-back sentiments. Some others felt more comfortable going the route of good-natured kidding: “It’s about time you got back,” or “Some people will do anything for a few days off!” It was all appreciated. It was very pleasant to sense that I had really been missed… and even that my absence had raised some awareness of just how hard I worked there, of the volume of work that I did.

Two months or more ago I had been promised that, just as soon as circumstances allowed, I would be transitioning away from my responsibilities in human resources and payroll into a new role — IT. No, not “it”… Eye Tea …the magical enchanted land of Information Technology. For me, in many ways, a dream job.

Basically, since about the time I bought my first “real” computer (a very used, very bare-bones 286 with a 40 Mb HD and not enough memory to run Windows 3.1), I have realized that I love working with computers. The more knowledge, the more skills I acquired the more I enjoyed time at the keyboard. I revelled in the fact that I was virtually entirely self-taught. But when I did finally take a couple of programming classes at the U of A, it felt like cominghome to a world I had never seen before.

So, on the 10th I was more than anxious for the transition to begin… and more than a little disappointed that it did not commence immediately. (more…)

Fingers Uncrossing April 5, 2006

Posted by becoming in Becoming Healthy.
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No call-back from the cardiologist's office this afternoon, contrary to their promise.

I've decided that I'm going to go to work tomorrow for a little while.  Mainly I feel the need to just begin getting reoriented there. I probably won't stay for more than two or three hours.  The task of moving from my old office into the new one (which was almost ready to happen mid-March) will have to wait a few more days, though.

If all goes well, I'm planning to return to work more-or-less full time on Monday, the 10th.  I'll round up some guys with strong backs perhaps that day.

Hmmm.  I just realized, Monday will be exactly one month since the last full day that I worked.  

It's about time! 

The Needle and the Damage Done April 5, 2006

Posted by becoming in Becoming Healthy.
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I don't like shots. I'm a manly man, though, and so I put on my poker-face when I know I'm about to receive an injection of whatever. If there's time, a preparatory deep cleansing breath. Often I'll opt to watch the insertion rather than looking away. Still, bottom line: don't like 'em.

Therefore, the prospect of injecting insulin into myself four times a day, every day, for the rest of my days holds no appeal for me. Neither does spending well over two hundred dollars a month for insulin and syringes. Shelling out $130+ per month just for testing supplies is more than sufficient.

In short, I want to "un-diabetic" myself.

At the very least, I want to become a non-insulin-dependent diabetic.

Is that too much to ask?

Before my heart surgery, I had never been told by a healthcare professional anything like, "Your blood sugar is a little high; you'd better keep an eye on that." And as part of various blood work done for various purposes, in the last six years or so I have had blood glucose checked on average at least once or twice a year. No, so far as I know, on March 16th I was a diabetic. On March 14th I wasn't.

I've tried more than once to discuss with my endocrinologist the long-term possibility that regular exercise plus significant (maintained) weight-loss could equal insulin independence, but he does not even want to talk about it.

So I've decided that I'm just going to do it. It's something that I'm going to work at until I achieve it. And once I do achieve it, that's a very special type of independence that I'm never going to give up again.

I'm up to walking 20 minutes twice a day now, and I will be increasing that progressively. I'm struggling some with portion sizes and late night snacking to keep the weight-loss going, but right now I weigh approximately 20 pounds less than I did a month ago.

I am also looking into nutritional supplements that have demonstrated the potential to increase insulin sensitivity [e.g., chromium, vanadyl sulfate, and alpha-lipoic acid]. I have begun taking "fish oil" for Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids, and evening primrose oil for Omega-6 EFAs. I'll discuss more my personal supplementation program as it develops and changes. For now, one little tidbit:

Keen, H., et al. Treatment of Diabetic Neuropathy with Gamma-Linolenic Acid. Diabetes Care 16(1): 8, 1993.

This was a year-old British study of 111 diabetics to whom daily doses of 480 mg. of GLA [one of the Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids] were given. The study concluded: "Administration of GLA to patients with mild diabetic poly-neuropathy may prevent deterioration, and, in some cases, reverse the condition."

Fingers Crossed April 4, 2006

Posted by becoming in Becoming Healthy.
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Today could be a big day, a very big day for me.

Yesterday I went in to have blood drawn for some labs my cardiologist had ordered. He made some changes in my medications last week and I'm guessing just wanted to see that those changes were doing what they were supposed to.

Today is my first follow-up with my surgeon. Actually, I'm hoping it's with Dr. Counce, but I recognize I might be seeing one of the other doctors with whom he practices. Whatever the case, I am hoping to get a clean enough bill-of-health to return to work. If he gives me the go-ahead, I'm ready to get back in the saddle a.s.a.p.

Tomorrow, even.

More than ready.

Bad Things Can Happen April 3, 2006

Posted by becoming in Becoming Healthy.
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A friend who visited yesterday, after listening to me go on and on about my desire/intent to become insulin independent, asked what would happen if I just stopped taking insulin. I did not supply him with a particularly good answer.

So I did some research. Before I share the results, let me try to provide a little perspective.

The current consensus is that the formula for diabetic complications is:

Diabetes + Time = Complications.

What this means is there is a much higher potential of a diabetic becoming diagnosed with one or more complications over time. Still, the evidence to date shows that excellent control of blood sugar and the maintenance of an active lifestyle go a very long way in preventing and/or slowing down the onset of diabetic complications.

It's estimated that more than 15 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes, but as many as one third of those who do – more than five million – don't know it, and therefore aren't treating it. The consequences of untreated diabetes are bad things.

Studies have shown that up to 60% of adults with diabetes have high blood pressure and nearly all have one or more lipid abnormalities, such as increased triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, or elevated LDL cholesterol. If you have diabetes, you’re much more likely to have: coronary artery disease; vascular disease, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or peripheral arterial disease (PAD); a heart attack; and/or a stroke.

Diabetes can cause kidney disease (nephropathy). High levels of blood sugar make the kidneys filter too much blood. All this extra work is hard on the filters. After many years, they start to leak. Useful protein is lost in the urine. Having small amounts of protein in the urine is called microalbuminuria. When kidney disease is diagnosed early, (during microalbuminuria), several treatments may keep kidney disease from getting worse. Having larger amounts is called macroalbuminuria. When kidney disease is caught later (during macroalbuminuria), end-stage renal disease, or ESRD, usually follows. In time, the stress of overwork causes the kidneys to lose their filtering ability. Waste products then start to build up in the blood. Finally, the kidneys fail. A person with ESRD needs to have a kidney transplant or to have the blood filtered by machine (dialysis).

The longer a person has diabetes, the higher their chances of developing diabetic eye disease (retinopathy). If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness. Prolonged periods of high blood sugar levels cause damage to the small blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye. These blood vessels initially become leaky, and then may become blocked off. This causes hemorrhages (spots of blood) and exudates (proteins) from the blood vessels on to the retina. It may also cause swelling, known as oedema of the retina. People with diabetes are 40% more likely to suffer from glaucoma than people without diabetes. The longer someone has had diabetes, the more common glaucoma is. People with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop cataracts. (more…)

Whining Avoidance April 2, 2006

Posted by becoming in Becoming Healthy.
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Alright, in retrospect that last post sounded pretty much like whining.

During the first couple of days post-surgery, even though I did seem a bit mentally foggy (which still seems to continue to a degree, darn it!), I consciously resolved to stay positive with regard to all this new crap in my life. Already, this has proved to be not an easy promise to keep to myself, but I am convinced that giving truly my best efforts in that endeavor are crucial.

Yes, there are a heck of a lot of foods that I'm really going to miss. I'm going to miss (at least initially) the sensation of fullness that comes from eating as much as I want. I can already tell that "portion-control" is going to be something of a struggle.

What I must focus upon is that I can still enjoy cooking and eating. Many old favorite dishes and techniques are things I'm now going to have to avoid. But there remains a world of possibilities out there. I must take it as my personal challenge to find new favorite dishes, new techniques, new flavor combinations with which to reward my palate.

I can do this. I have a partner who's very open to culinary exploration. I'm a pretty darned good cook, and I love learning new things. I have considerable resources at my fingertips (i.e., in my bookcase) and know how to reach a vast wealth thereof online.

It's time to wrap up the mourning and get to work.