Monday, October 10, 2016


by Karen

We all know someone who is diabetic.  Just like everybody these days knows someone who has cancer or someone who has died from cancer.  I think this  growth in knowledge speaks to more education being  undertaken about these diseases as well as the fact that people are more willing to share stories of various progressive illnesses.

When I first got diagnosed with diabetes, one of the first things I had to learn was about blood glucose and blood sugar.  I had to learn about carbohydrates as against starch.  I also had to learn more about how my body works and how it uses the food that I eat to not only generate energy but also how my insulin, which is naturally produced reacts to blood glucose.

I won't bore you with the details of this but suffice it to say, I should have paid a lot more attention in biology class.

In the first few days after diagnosis, I usually stopped at my local pharmacy to get it checked.  Part of the problem was that I was afraid to stick myself with a needle (lancet). The second and most significant was that I did not have a testing kit.

When I decided to get my own testing kit (no matter how much my pharmacist and I like each other, I think I was beginning to bore him), I looked online for not only affordability but also I had to do some research regarding the readings. When my doctor sat down with me she spoke to me about what my blood glucose readings should be like.  She explained how my body breaks down food to convert it into glucose and how it then uses that glucose to allow me to do the things that I do, like exercise.  

One thing that I never really understood about diabetes is how come if my body is not breaking down the glucose in my body, why in certain situations my blood sugar goes down, and I need something sweet to eat.  It was then that the explanation came about white blood cells and AIDS.  She explained to me that insulin is similar to my white blood cells.  It is produced by the pancreas.  The pancreas releases insulin to break down the sugar in my body.  If there is too much sugar in my body, my pancreas will release insulin to combat it.  The more sugar, the more insulin.  After awhile, the amount of insulin that is being released plateaus and it becomes meaningless.  It is no longer breaking down the sugar in my body and this is how insulin resistance comes into play. 

So, the first step was diet.  I couldn't really starve myself so I had to relearn about complex carbs, how they work.  I had to start reading labels again.  One thing I have become very savvy about is reading labels.  I try my best not to buy prepackaged foods.  I try to cook every single meal and whenever I have left overs I take it to work. 

However, I am a working woman with a busy life and so, especially in the mornings, I have to use stuff that is already packaged.  To wit, bread and sardines have become one of my favourite breakfast items.  Ever since growing up in Jamaica, I have always loved bread and so as I was now deprived from eating white hardough bread hot from the ovens of Captain's Bakery slathered with lots of butter, I had to find a bread that would not only fill me up but be healthy as well.  Enter Rudi's whole range of breads.  They are not the fanciest and they are certainly not the cheapest but they taste good and they do what they are supposed to do.  My favourite from this line is their Honey Sweet Whole Wheat, their Seeded bread as well as the regular Whole Wheat bread.  I have also tried their gluten free burger buns which are absolutely delicious.   You can find them in the frozen food aisle in the supermarkets. 

But back to blood glucose testing.  So I have now purchased the whole kit & kaboodle of blood testing.  I went with Embrace.  One, the test strips are much less expensive than One Touch and it speaks to me which I find to be quite helpful.  

Keeping a track of blood glucose is for me the most rewarding aspect of being a diabetic. Seeing my blood glucose fall from the alarming heights of 178 mg/dl to 140 and then down to 125 tells me that my diet and exercise regime is working. 

For the past 5 days my fasting blood glucose has been below 100 mg/dl.  The highest I have been in the last 5 days is 140 and this is because I had a pack of Cheez-Its (snack packs). 

This morning (10 October) was my fifth day waking up to a below 100 fasting blood glucose.  I am tempted to call my doctor and share the good news but I want to wait some more and see if it will continue. 

On Saturday (8 October) I did a weigh in at my doctor's office.  I have lost 17 pounds since I was diagnosed.  The jacket that I am wearing in this picture is one that I have had for over 5 years.  Today is the first time since I bought this jacket that I was able to wear it in the way it is supposed to be worn.  My weight loss goal is 2 pounds per week.  I have surpassed that goal by 1 pound entering the week of 10 October.  

I have upped my walking from 30 minutes per day to now 45 minutes per day.  I now do a mile in 16 minutes, up from 24 minutes.  I ran full out for 2 minutes last week and all my clothes are fitting once again.  I feel absolutely proud of myself. 

As soon as I have reached another milestone, I will no doubt share this with you guys.  

Thanks to everyone for reading and I do enjoy the comments. 



Sunday, August 28, 2016


by Karen 

It has been almost 6 weeks since I received my diabetic diagnosis.  During all this time I have had to make some radical changes to my life.  The most radical was actually implementing an exercise programme and sticking to it.  

Each time you have to make life changing decisions folks always say to you, exercise, eat right, etc.  All the usual buzz words.  They never really tell you how to go about doing it.  No one really suggests how do I change the habits of a lifetime?  How do I start doing something that I have not actually done, especially for a long time. 

When I was young I was pretty athletic. I played hockey.  I played netball, football and I swam.  As I got older the only sport that I really kept up with was netball and even that fell by the wayside after awhile.  Life, as we all know gets in the way of things.  And so, as soon as I got this diagnosis, the first thing my doctor says to me is that I need to do 30-45 minutes of exercise each day.  I say to myself, that is easy, I can do that. 

I leave the doctor's office and I start thinking about exercise programmes.  I hate the gym.  I mean I am overweight.  I have no gym clothes.  I am seriously uncoordinated and I really can't afford a personal trainer. What do I do?  Just thinking about what to do is exhausting and it is demoralising. 

In my situation, the first thing I did was go to the internet.  No help.  Then I remembered that years ago I used to do a step aerobic activity to a video by Reebok.  I thought to myself I could possibly do that.  I thought about how I would watch the video and perform the steps.  This is when technology comes into play. 

With my 55 inch Samsung SmartTV (that I bought so I could enjoy watching tennis), I found the video on YouTube and I started working out.  It was hard.  I was not motivated.  I had no company and after 10 minutes I felt as if I was going to die, but I stuck with it.  As the days wore on and I did better and better and started going longer and longer I realised that I could be my sole motivator. 

I realised however that despite my best efforts I really wasn't doing as well as I wanted to do and so this is where a friend comes in.  When you are diagnosed with a progressive illness like diabetes it is so important to have a friend close by with whom you can talk.  It is also important to find someone who is in the same income bracket and who has the same challenges as you do.  I call it shared experiences.  It makes no sense that you are impecunious and you are discussing your income deficiencies with someone who is earning 10x what you are earning.  They won't get it. 

And so I have enlisted a friend from my office. We have the same challenges.  We have the same goals and we have the same struggles.  And so I have started an exercise programme with my colleague.  Rather than coming home and pretending to exercise, I now exercise with a friend who encourages me and who I encourage.  

Now instead of 10 or 15 minutes of struggle step aerobics, I now do upwards of 2.5K of power walking.  I burn on average 250-300 calories per day.  On Saturdays when we do not see each other, I put on my exercise gear and I walk to the Farmers Market where I pick up my week's supply of really good carbs, vegetables and fruits for the coming week and walk back home.  The first time I did that walk it took me 45 minutes.  This last weekend I did it in 30 minutes.  The Farmer's Market is quite a good distance from where I live but it is one of the highlights of my week. 

My next post will be about food choices and the really horrible blood glucose testing.

Saturday, August 27, 2016


by Karen

Every year round about January/February ever since I turned 40 or 45 (I forget now), I have always tried to get my annual check up.  I usually turn up at my OB/GYN and I do my blood fasting test, urine test, pap smear and get my annual references to go see folks to get mammograms.  I go over my previous year with my doctor.  Remind him that I no longer smoke. Talk about my menopausal issues and get my many prescriptions refilled.

As the years passed my boss (Laura) encouraged me to go see a female doctor as she felt that I was not getting proper care.  As an aside I recommend this to anyone who will be reading this blog.  And so for the last 2-3 years I have been going to see a really nice female doctor.  At first I saw one of her colleagues but I was not impressed and so I went to see her colleague and let me tell you I cannot recommend her enough.

The first thing this great doctor did was take out her tape measure.  Yes, you heard right. She took out her tape measure and placed it on her desk and then she started talking to me.  And we talked, and we talked and we talked.  I felt like I was in a therapy session.  Then she started her examination.  It was thorough and she asked questions as she went along.  That was 2015.  At that time I had just turned 50 and so my annual visit was comprehensive to say the least.  Apart from taking a thorough medical history, my new doctor gave me referrals to every doctor whose specialty ended with IST.  Opthalmologist, Endocrinologist, Cardiologist, etc.  You get the drift.  I got, for the first time, a comprehensive health check.

Last year and the year before and the year before I was told that I was pre diabetic.  I read up on it, tried to eat healthy foods, exercised a bit more, but this year it all came crashing down.

From March of this year I have been feeling tired.  I thought it was because I was working so hard, but apart from that I was hungry all the time. Very hungry.  I would be at home and just be eating and eating and eating.  I started to get ear infections, a lot and what prompted me to finally go to the doctor was the pain in my chest and shortness of breath that I started to experience.  I became very afraid.  And so I took myself to my doctor.

Unfortunately for me my regular doctor was not in and so I saw the next best thing.  She diagnosed me with asthma and had me do a fasting blood test.  2 days later the results of the blood test came back and I was called.  I was told that I had a high A1C and that it was nothing to worry about but I would be placed on metfornin.  I had no idea what that meant and getting this news over the phone did not help.

As most folks do these days I turned to the internet and researched this medication. Saw that it was prescribed for folks with diabetes and thought to myself, well I don't have diabetes I just have a high A1C and so I kept searching for what this diagnosis meant and all I saw was news items relating to diabetes.  I was understandably confused.

I discussed all of this with my boss and she encouraged me to have all my medical records from all my doctors transferred to this fantastic doctor and so I did and made an appointment to go see her.  The rest as they say is history.

Not only did Dr. Richens (yes I am naming her) provide a comprehensive consultation with me, but she told me that this is not the end of the world. She asked me if I had pen and paper and because I have a notebook that I take to doctors appointments (please folks, if you are over 50 do this.  You will never remember the questions you need to ask your docotrs and you will always forget what your doctors say by the time you leave the office).  She started talking and I started writing.

Diet:  Low carb, high protein, vegetable diet.
Fasting blood glucose - 100-130
2 hours after main meal blood glucose - less than 200
30-45 minutes of exercise every day
Referral to a diabetic educator
Referral to a podiatrist (with an explanation about proper foot care)
Always have neosporin/polysporin at all times
Examine my feet on a daily/nightly basis for cuts
Referral to my opthmalogist for a diabetic eye examination

It may not seem like a lot but for someone who had always previously maintained what I thought was a healthy lifestyle, this diagnosis was a shock to my system.

I now had to go out and purchase a blood glucose testing kit.  I had to record what I ate and when.  I now had to make better food choices.  It was a daunting task.

I reached out to a family member of mine who is a health practitioner.  I started to tell her about the diagnosis.  She was encouraging.  I worried about proper food choices.  She said to me.  Why are you worried about that. That is the easiest part of this whole thing. Eat like you did when you were in Jamaica.

As I continue to go through this journey, I will start providing recipes and information to Caribbean people who are no longer living in the Caribbean and who are battling illnesses due mostly to the fact that they are no longer eating like when they lived in the Caribbean.  I can tell you that since I started eating in the way I was raised.