People have asked me how I can have type 1 diabetes for 74 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 diagnosed with diabetes. My diagnosis was made a few days after my sixth birthday. I had symptoms of type 1 while recovering from chickenpox and mumps. Those diseases probably caused my diabetes. Animal insulin brought me back to life, and I regained my normal weight. My health was very good during the rest of my childhood. School, six years of college, and becoming a college teacher did not cause many problems. Insulin from pigs and cows did that for me.
There was very high blood sugar, and some seizures at night for my first 50 years, but my health remained good. There was no meter to measure my blood sugar until the mid 1980's. I had to rely on urine testing, and 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 can cause 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. I am still using 1000 mg of Metformin each day.
In the early part of the new century I was diagnosed with 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 5.5-6.5 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 was still present, but it rarely bothered me at that time. A good A1c and reasonably stable blood sugar has resulted, with 74 years of type 1, and no serious complications.
In 2002 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After chemotherapy and radiation I had anemia. I was very weak, with weight loss. There were other problems including cataract removal, carpal tunnel, and ulnar nerve surgeries. I had 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 when rising from a seated position in the mornings caused dizziness. That is a characteristic of autonomic neuropathy. My blood pressure med, Lisinopril, also caused dizziness. I have reduced my dosage to 2.5 mg per day, and that has helped. One of my falls caused a head injury, and there was bleeding on the surface of my brain. That is 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 surgery with no serious after effects.
In 2013 X-rays showed the cartilage was depleted in both of my knees. One knee was replaced in Sept, 2013. The other knee has very little pain. In January, 2016, an EMG test given by my neurologist revealed neuropathy in my legs. Prior to that time I had neuropathy in my feet, but now it is also in my legs. My neurologist says the neuropathy is severe. There is numbness in my feet and legs all the way to my hips, but there is not much pain. I am not using any medication for the neuropathy. Maybe the neuropathy is not actually so severe. I can walk rather well, without a cane. There is some problem with my balance, but physical therapy has helped me very much with that.
My eyes and kidneys are good, and I had a nuclear stress test in March, 2018 that shows that my heart is in good shape. This blog, however, shows that my overall health has not always been so good. Many people have assumed I have great health, and no diabetes complications. I wanted to let you know there have been problems.
The Joslin Medalist Study, begun in 2005, has examined more than 1000 type 1 diabetics who lived with their diabetes for at least 50 years. I have the 50 year Joslin medal, and will be eligible for the 75 year medal this year, in September. I participated in the study in 2009, and again in June, 2018, for a follow-up study. 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 problems with my nervous system, but I still think I may have some of 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 one of the purposes of the study.
This is 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 lifetime. A wonderful marriage, two sons, and two grandchildren, none of whom have/had diabetes. I am 80 years old, and my wife is 75. We will celebrate our 56'th wedding anniversary on May 31, this year. It has been a very good life for both of us!