Friday, March 28, 2014
My Status, March 28, 2014
People ask me how I can have type 1 diabetes for 68 years without any serious complications. I want my online friends to know that I am not the picture of perfect health. During my early childhood I had three kinds of measles, tonsils removed, a hernia operation, mumps and chickenpox. I was very much underweight and very sickly in 1945 when finally diagnosed with diabetes. My diagnosis was made a few days after my sixth birthday. Animal insulin brought me back to life, and I gained weight. My health was very good during the rest of my childhood. School, six years of college, and becoming a college teacher was all very easy. Insulin from pigs and cows did that for me.
There was very high blood sugar, and many seizures at night for my first 50 years, but my health remained good. There was no meter to measure my blood sugar, and I had to rely on the way I felt. In the mid 1990s I stopped animal insulin and started using modern day insulin. That resulted in much weight gain. Modern day insulin causes the body's cells to store fat. I was diagnosed with insulin resistance in 1998. That is a characteristic of type 2 diabetes. A type 1 diabetic with insulin resistance is called a double diabetic, and many type 1 diabetics have been diagnosed with insulin resistance. I used type 2 medications, and lost all the weight I had gained. Those medications were no longer necessary.
In the early part of the new century I developed retinopathy and neuropathy. Those were my first diabetes related complications. I started using an insulin pump in 2007 and my blood sugar was much more stable. That is when I stopped having bad hypos that required assistance from my wife. My A1c's were consistently in the 5.5-6.0 range, but those complications still occurred because of the highs and lows I had been having. The pump and more stable blood sugar saw my retinopathy disappear in late 2007. The neuropathy is still present, but it rarely bothers me now. A good A1c and reasonably stable blood sugar has resulted in my present status, with 68 years of type 1 and no serious complications. I have the 50 year Joslin medal, and will be eligible for the 75 year medal in the year 2020.
It has not all been a bed of roses. In 2002 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After chemo therapy and radiation I had anemia and was very weak, with weight loss. There were other problems including cataract removal, carpal tunnel and ulnar nerve surgeries, and terrible dizziness that caused me to fall on several occasions. My neurologist diagnosed me with autonomic neuropathy in 2010. A 30-40 point drop in my blood pressure in the mornings causes the dizziness. That is a characteristic of autonomic neuropathy. One of my falls caused a head injury and there was bleeding on the surface of my brain. That was called subdural hematoma, and I had surgery. The surgeon drilled holes in my skull and attached tubes to drain the old blood that was putting pressure on my brain. I was very lucky to recover from that with no serious after effects.
In 2013 X-rays showed the cardilege was depleted in both of my knees. I needed knee replacements. One knee was replaced in Sept, 2013, and the other will be replaced later this year. Then, just a few weeks ago I found a lump in my left breast. A mammogram showed it was not cancer. That was a relief. Then I had a nuclear stress test that suggested I have a narrowing of one of my heart arteries. My cardiologist now says that is a false alarm, and my heart is healthy.
This blog shows that my health has not always been so good. Many people have assumed I have great health, and no diabetes complications. I wanted to write this blog to let you know there have been problems.
The Joslin Medalist Study, begun in 2005, has examined 850+ type 1 diabetics who lived with their diabetes for at least 50 years. Many very interesting things have been found. Dr. King, head of the project, announced that there is a special inner protection that keeps many of us from having any serious problems with our eyes, kidneys, and nervous system. I have mentioned minor problems I have had, but it seems I may have that protection. Maybe the source of that protection will be found, and it may result in a treatment that will help younger type 1 diabetics to live long, healthy lives. That is the purpose of the study.
This was a very long blog, and I doubt that many people will read the whole thing. I hope I have shown that my health has not been as good as many people think, but I have been very fortunate throughout my life. A wonderful marriage, two fine sons, and two grandchildren, none of whom have diabetes. My wife and I will celebrate our golden wedding anniversary on May 31, this year. It has been a good life!