Anxiety and the pandemic: How diabetics cope

My last blog I discussed how as a diabetic I struggled a bit with my diet and how my meal schedule was altered during this pandemic. Today I want to talk more about anxiety you may feel during this difficult time. There are so many facets of of lives that are uncertain now. I’d like to break them down one by one.

Number one would be job security. I work for a small business and the fear of losing my job and permanent closure can give you many sleepless nights. You worry about paying your bills, especially your health insurance premium. Good insurance is essential to a diabetic. Hospital stays, medication, and normal doctors visits are crucial to keeping you healthy. The way I cope with this is my guitar playing and music. Both of these outlets relieve stress. Find an outlet that will take your mind off your troubles. There are no guarantees that you won’t lose your job, so another good thing to do would be open to other employment opportunities if you do lose your job. I’d like to find a job someday helping diabetics and amputees. I always try to think ahead as of late. After what I went through I would like to live a full life of happiness and success.

The second fear I always have in the back of my mind is losing a foot or limb. It’s unpleasant, but I always have to prepare myself . I’m not trying to bring anyone down with this subject, but to try to keep in mind how important it is to stick to your diet and to take care of your feet. The world is so different now with this pandemic and you have to ask yourself what you would do if you lost a limb or foot. How would this change your life? Where would you live? Could you afford a heath assistant to live with you? These questions I ask myself more often lately due to the pandemic. I always remember what my foot doctor told me when I was in the hospital waiting for my first operation. He told me if I went back to my bad eating habits and lifestyle I’d be dead in a few months. It scared me, but in a good way. I’ve kept my A1C low and have taken care of my feet. When I think about the alternatives , it’s like a nightmare. The extra time off I’ve had during this pandemic left me thinking about the good and the bad. I guess I try to look for the positives as much as I can. Basically what I’m saying is to not dwell on a bad outcome and just do the best you can.

The final fear I have would be losing my site. I ask myself the same three questions as above How would your life change, where would I live and could I afford a live in health assistant. I’ve seen so many people of all ages at my eye doctors who have lost vision in one eye or both eyes due to diabetes. That’s why it’s important to keep your A1C low and don’t cheat too often with your diet. I’ll admit I’ve checked out assistant living for the blind online, just in case. It’s not something I think about everyday, but every once in a while. I’ve done well so far, and I just keep doing the best I can.

In closing I hope that I didn’t sound like a downer or anything. I just wanted to share some emotions and fears I have sometimes. I see life these days very black and white. I hope I have a long healthy life and I wish the same for you.

My next blog I will discuss how certain foods affect my sugar numbers and what types of foods are good for your numbers. Stay healthy and safe.

Dealing with Diabetes during this pandemic

Covid 19 has affected all of our lives one way or another. The isolation, the uncertainty of job security, and if you’re a diabetic the challenge of exercising and sticking to your diet. All these factors equal stress. The shock of staying home and not going to work everyday is not something you look forward to. I am lucky that I’m a guitar teacher and can teach online. During the pandemic I was teaching and going to work once a week to do paperwork, so I wasn’t that affected as others may have been. The days home are long, and you look for things to keep you occupied. Cleaning your apartment, practicing guitar, taking a walk when possible, and unfortunately eating more than usual. I know I gained some weight, mostly because I would go to a local orchard that just happened to have hot meals and took advantage.

My weekly meal prep during normal circumstances consisted of packing my lunch and dinner for work. I don’t eat out for lunch anymore. During this pandemic I continued to put my dinners in containers, but lunches were made day to day. I guess it was something to look forward to getting take out for lunch. I didn’t revert back to bad habits like fried foods or sweets, but I would eat more potatoes as a side. I made more sandwiches a week than ever before. I still used wheat bread for them, but anything in excess isn’t a good thing. Three months at home mostly isn’t the best for anybody. That’s no excuse to eat more, but I did.

My situation has returned to some normalcy. I am back to work with shorter hours, and I still teach online. My meal prep has also returned to normal. The lesson I learned is to keep your meal routine the same. This is better for your health and piece of mind.

The other different thing you go through is your doctors appointments. You have to wait in you car before entering the hospital or office. The anxiety of waiting to go into your doctors office can be nerve racking. You’re already worried about catching the virus, and you also worry how the lack of activity can affect your health. With my foot and eye issues I always hoped for the best, and was lucky everything was stable.

The best thing I have taken away from this pandemic is the blogs I’m writing. They’re therapeutic and if can help others that’s a good thing. In closing wear your mask for the safety of yourself and others. Avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing. If you feel alone or depressed call a friend or family member to cheer you up. Find an outlet to keep your sanity. Music is mine. Don’t cling to the TV and the news constantly. Take a walk or facetime or skype a friend. Remember, keep yourself healthy and help those who need it like family or friends.

My next blog will further deal with the anxiety of being a diabetic. Stay safe and healthy! Happy 4th!

Eye issues that can be a setback

Diabetes attacks many parts of your body. The most vulnerable being your eyes. Your eyes grow extra blood vessels which left unchecked can release fluid that could blur or cause vision loss. When I was first diagnosed my eye doctor explained in a very blunt way about vision loss among diabetics. He explained controlling your A1C and keeping your numbers well would give you a fighting chance.

I have talked about my laser treatments and shots to my eyes. The lasers are more painful, but they keep your vision steady. During the first year after surgeries and my diagnosis I was adjusting to my new diet and at times blurred vision if my sugar went too low. I would see the eye doctor every three to six weeks due to the severity of the fluid in my eyes. I was told also by my cardiologist that my high blood pressure could also contribute to vision loss despite my good efforts.

It’s frustrating when your numbers are good and your eyes still need constant attention. I was receiving lasers or shots almost every visit. The fear that a diabetic faces everyday is the possibility of losing their vision. You have to consider what your life would be like blind and how you would adjust. This puts your whole positive outlook on hold.

I’ve been very fortunate in that all my doctors are blunt. Some things in life are black and white. Loss of vision, or other health problems are things you work hard to avoid. My eyes have been stable as of late and I am grateful. This is just another example of what a diabetic must face everyday. The key is to keep fighting and the will to live a long healthy life. I always do my best everyday and am proud of my results so far. The best advice I can give is to follow your diet. If you do cheat one day, get right back on your diet the next day. Look for positive outlets . Mine is music and spending time with friends and family. Stay healthy and happy!

Next week I will talk about being a diabetic during this pandemic.

Small setbacks and anxiety with your feet

Keeping your diabetes in check is an everyday struggle. In my case I have stuck to my diet and kept my A1C between 5.0-5-3 in the last three years. This goes a long way to keep my foot issues to a minimum. Diabetes has it’s own agenda though.

Neuropathy in your feet is a common permanent side effect after all the operations I’ve had. The amputations of a few toes on each foot has done permanent nerve damage. You can bang your foot sleeping or at work and not even feel it. I’ve had a few days like that . One day I came home and my right foot was severely swollen. My toes were huge and I panicked. I called my foot doctor and was able to see him. I arrived to his office and he looked at the foot and told me to get an x-ray. He said it could be gout. Fortunately it wasn’t. I was put on a antibiotic as a precaution. A week later, all was well. The thought of possibly having gout is nerve racking. It would be another diet change with other medical concerns. I have little feeling in my right foot, but if gout worsens it can cause a constant pain. I dodged a bullet.

My other setback was more severe. My right foot was swollen and red. It was an infection and also required antibiotics. I was told by my foot doctor that my middle toe may have to be amputated . After the four operations and amputations I had I wasn’t looking forward to a possible operation and more rehab. There is the slight twinge from the stitches, and the changing of the dressing a few times a day. The antibiotics helped, and propping your foot up on two pillows helps take the swelling down. These are two examples of what can happen to you . Be very careful and also call your doctor if you see something or have any pain.

My next blog will deal with anxiety from setbacks with my eye issues. Stay healthy and safe!

The self destruction of my health which led to diabetes

Diabetes is hereditary. It runs in my family. My father was borderline. My Uncle was type 1 and so is my cousin. There is no guarantee you’ll get it based on family history. If you have a healthy diet and exercise you can prevent diabetes. I didn’t. I’d have to say looking back on my life I never was a health expert. Yes I ate three meals a day. My parents fed me well with veggies, potatoes, rice, meat chicken and pork . I found like most people I knew grew with up fast food. Instead of naming every fast food, deli, or cheese steak joint I ever ate at I will say they all contributed to my decline in health. If I would have eaten this type of food occasionally instead of weekly maybe I wouldn’t be fighting diabetes today. I struggled with weight mostly from my teen years to three years ago. Eating poorly was a norm for me.

I think the biggest jump in weight for me was after I left college. When I was in school I ran and went to the gym regularly. I had ran out of money and could no longer afford college. I went back to familiar lines of work. I worked at lumber yards and department stores. I did this out of high school and now I was back to these kind of jobs again. I really didn’t want to leave college, but I had to make a living and pay the bills. My confidence was at a all time low. I really wanted to become a music teacher and my dream was turning into a nightmare. I wasn’t much fun to be around and was very sensitive to losing out on school. Some people in this situation turn to alcohol or drugs. I did drink a lot of beer, but food was like a drug for me. It comforted me and made me better. Little did I know it would later change my life.

Addiction is addiction. I don’t care if it’s drugs, alcohol, or food. They’re all bad, and one might kill you slower, but it can kill you if you don’t take control and beat it. Your friends try to help you with encouragement, but in the end it’s up to you. I missed out on at least two personal relationships by lacking confidence and not being aware of my problem. To this day I regret pushing these people away. This is what addiction does to you. It can alter your life for the worse. If there’s people around you that care, don’t push them away by letting your addiction win. You can’t undo the past.

I lived near college for a few years afterwards and decided to move back to an area I was fond of when I was growing up. I moved from the West Chester area to Bucks county Pa. I soon found a job at a music store and was able to pick up a few private students. I also worked at a department store. Working two jobs is no excuse not to eat right, but I made it one. My daily menu would be frozen breakfast sandwiches or sugar sweetened oatmeal for breakfast. Lunch would consist of burgers, cheese steaks, or whatever else I could shove down my throat. My dinner was pretty much the same as lunch, or sometimes I would cook something.

I then got a job at a music store that I still work. I was teaching more there, but still I ate too much. I run a rock band program at this store and you have to put in extra hours to make it work, so I of course used this as an excuse to eat poorly. My average menu was a lot of processed foods and some cooked food. Dinner was the worst. I would have two cheese steaks, cheese fries and soda and then have a half of a half gallon of ice cream and half of a cake to complete my dinner. I was pushing about 330 lbs at this time. I was never this big in my life. My cardiologist to this day is amazed I didn’t have a stroke and die.

All these poor habits led me to diabetes. The best advice I can give is if you have an eating disorder, high stress and low self esteem seek help now. Embrace positive people and never push them away. My A1C was 9.0 when I entered the hospital and now it’s 5.3. It can get better, if you want it to! I’ve lost weight, still need to lose more, but I will keep fighting to live a better life. So can you!!!

My next blog I will talk about how a setback can be a good wake up call!!!

How diabetes has affected my eyes

One of the many unfortunate side effects of diabetes is how it can cause blurred vision or even loss of vision. I am very lucky I still have my vision. I frequent my eye doctor every 4 to 6 weeks. As a diabetic you grow extra blood vessels in your eyes that will need to be treated. If they rupture, fluid can blur your vision or worse cause vision loss. The treatments I receive have been laser bursts in my eyes to stop the fluid from the extra blood vessels and an occasional injection into the eye to achieve the same result, but with a more potent medicine to control the fluid in your eyes.

The laser treatment is a series of ultraviolet bursts of light that help seal the vessels. The average time of this treatment is about fifteen minutes. It’s a long fifteen minutes, with a slight irritation or soreness during the process. The after effects are headaches, and soreness. You’ll take drops afterwards to help with the pain and the healing after the treatment. You can drive home after the treatment, but you’ll have to wear sunglasses because the sunlight will irritate your eyes. The average amount of treatments depends on the severity of your condition. I average about seven treatments per year.

The injections in your eye is basically painless.You lay down, they numb your eye, you look the other way, you feel a slight pinch, and it’s over. You will have some soreness for about a week, which will also be treated by drops.

My eye doctor and my cardiologist have said the extra vessels aren’t directly related to your diet. Don’t get me wrong, keeping your A1C low will give you a fighting chance. The way it was explained to me by my eye doctor is that eyes are the weakest parts of your body, and you get the least amount of nutrient there. Diabetes attacks your eyes the hardest.

I also have high blood pressure. Another wonderful side effect of diabetes.My cardiologist said that low pressure can do more damage than high. In the end try to control your blood sugar and don’t cheat!!!! Your sight is precious, so with the combination of a proper diet and treatments you have a fighting chance. Be smart and take care of yourself!!

My next blog will be a blast from the past. I will discuss my poor eating habits and lack of exercise that led me to this predicament…Stay healthy!!!

Self foot care past and present

Today I would like to talk about how to take care of your feet after an operation and daily care. I’ve had four operations on my feet. The most severe was my left foot. I had a large hole on the bottom of my foot. The open wound was treated with a wound vac in the hospital and rehab. This device helps remove bacteria from the open wound. When I was taken home after rehab it was a scary day. I still had the cast on my foot and had to learn to walk around my apartment and up and down the stairs. After months of wearing this it was removed and a nurse would come to my house to perform wound care. My foot had to be wrapped and sealed with bandages to keep the leaking to a minimum. I remember how she would measure the wound every week to see if was shrinking, and eventually it did.The nurse showed me how to take care of my wound myself.

My daily routine was to take a shower, then walk back to my living room in my post op shoes to a chair with a towel beneath it. This is the area where I perform the wound care. I would always have two small towels ready, one with soap and water and one dry. You wash your feet, and then get ready to wrap up your left foot. You start with a large band aid, then a thick pad over the wound, and finally the gauze wrap. You can always measure the wound too before this process. Try to have the wrap tight but not too tight. Stock up on gauze, band aids, pads and tape. You’ll need plenty. The idea is too safely secure the wound. Sometimes I would over wrap just out of the fear of the wound never healing. The nurses at my foot doctors office would joke and call me the mummy. You’ll learn and with practice you’ll get better everyday. Eventually you’ll only have to put a small bandage of the wound until it finally closes! That was a great day! Sticking to your diet really helps!! Don’t cheat!

You’re ready now to wear socks again and to find a good pair of shower shoes. One of the wonderful side effects of diabetes and permanent damage is neuropathy. This is when you’ll have very little feeling in your feet due to nerve damage. Buy diabetic socks to help your circulation and a good fitting pair of shower shoes. The days of walking barefoot on the beach or in the shower are over. Don’t forget you now have to wear diabetic shoes with the inserts. You should also invest in a good pair of orthopedic bedroom slippers for around the house. You can get them online for about 40.00. Deerstag is a good brand.

The last thing I want to share is my daily feet cleaning and moisturizing routine. You now have the proper shoes, now it’s time have a solid daily foot care plan . After I shower, I grab my one towel with soap and water, and one dry towel. I get dressed, check my sugar, and then work on my feet. I take off my shower shoes, dry the feet and with my long shaft diabetic mirror I inspect my feet for blisters, wounds, large red marks or swelling. When every looks good on the first foot I wash the foot and then apply the moisturizer on the top and bottom of my foot. My doctor recommended Aquaphor. It’s all natural and keeps your feet smooth and free of cracked skin. Repeat the process for your other foot. Remember stick to your diet, and be careful of your feet. If something doesn’t look or feel right call your doctor. If you have swelling in your legs or feet, elevate them with two pillows. This must be done everyday!!

The next blog I will discuss my eye issues and what to expect as a diabetic.

Daily and weekly routines to help with your A1c

Tonight I will discuss how presently I’ve kept my A1c between 5.0-5.3 in the last two years. First thing, I generally don’t cheat. Don’t get me wrong, around the holidays I might eat a piece of cake, or snacks I shouldn’t have. It’s the amount of days and portions that matter. If you partake at a family gathering, then the next day go back to your set meal plan and schedule.

Every week I prepare my meals on Sunday for the week. I make my meals for every day I’m at work. My boss has been very understanding and allows me to eat twice a day when the schedule demands it. The process of preparing your meals takes about one and a half hours. That’s not too much time to eat healthy. It also a good way to control your portions. I usually rotate between chicken and pork with the occasional fish . Never fried! You spread out the main course for seven days. Once you get used to a routine, you’ll find what works best for you. I eat a small portion of chicken for example ,a vegetable and a vegetable pasta or brown rice. Go to the dollar store and get some small microwave dishes that you can easily stack in your fridge. This will prevent you from eating more if you prepare the meals everyday. On the days you’re able to eat dinner at home you could have some diabetic ice cream. Halo top is great!

I prepare breakfast everyday. I alternate between eggs and oatmeal. With the eggs you can have some low fat cheese for an omelet and some turkey sausage which is low in fat. Watch and follow the portions. I also have some peanuts with my breakfast and fresh fruit. Blueberries and Strawberries are good choices because they help control your blood sugar.When preparing your oatmeal you can put the fruit in with it. Make sure it’s whole grain oats or steel cut oats. A few low sugar animal crackers are a good add on. I also recommend using Stevia sweetener since it is natural and from a plant. Avoid artificial sweeteners because they will affect your sugar numbers. My diabetes doctor said it better to eat foods with low sugar instead of artificially sweeteners. Read the labels when you buy any food. If it’s a paragraph long of ingredients, forget it.

The last meal of the day can be your midnight snack. Have a low fat string mozzarella stick, almonds and maybe a small potion of diabetic candy. Russell Stovers makes great chocolate candies that you can have two of. You should eat four times a day, every three to four hours. This how I keep my numbers so good. A little exercise also helps!

Next post I’ll talk about self foot care you’ll learn from your podiatrist….

Operations, rehab, now what?

My last post dealt with rehab after my operations on my feet. Today I will discuss the mental stress caused by diabetes and how you must learn to adjust your way of living. This involves your diet, purchasing diabetic shoes and accepting the fact that you must lose your bad habits or face dire consequences. After I left the rehab facility and was taken home and it was a scary day. I remember getting home and thinking to myself what now? I’m a guitar teacher who wasn’t going to be teaching anytime soon. I missed that part of my life. My students were assigned to other teachers and I had to accept it. No matter what your profession, be prepared to take time off from it. The feeling you have of just sitting home and worrying about your future can be troublesome. You have to rely on friends and family more than ever to help you.They have to take you to doctors appointments, grocery shopping and many other things you take for granted. If you’re independent, this is very difficult. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very helpful having people look out for you, but you feel a bit ashamed and embarrassed. Then you realize how much your family and friends really care about you. My sister took me to all my doctors appointments and took me to supermarket when needed. My best friends came to visit me often. You don’t how much company means to you when you’re alone you feel afraid about your future. Your finances for example. I didn’t get unemployment right away and rent was due and all other bills as well. I was very fortunate to have a friend loan me money. The people I worked with raised money for me with a comedy night. I was beyond grateful. These things helped me through a difficult time.

I told you all when I was at rehab how I had to wear a cast on my left foot to help my wound to heal. The doctor told me to take short walks to get used to walking again. I’m on the third floor so it’s wasn’t that easy, but I was determined to get better. Once you learn to accept your situation, you push yourself to get well. This means sticking to your a diet that can be bland at first, but you’ll soon learn of all the foods available to you portion controlled of course. What you eat goes hand in hand with your wound healing and you’ll feel much better. I used to walk around the neighborhood with my cast on and was just happy to be out. So stick to your diet, keep your A1c low. My A1c was between 5.7 and 5.0 after all my operations and rehab.I am very grateful to my doctors, family and friends for all their support.

Once you’ve healed you have to be fitted for diabetic shoes. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Your insurance will only let you go to certain places. You may have to pay some of the expense out of your own pocket. My shoes average about $1300. The first time I got them my insurance covered them, the last two times I had to pay about $500 out of pocket expense. The shoes look like sneakers, but it’s the inserts that cost the most. I have no big right toe anymore, so they put a toe insert in the shoe. The insoles have to be changed every 4 months. So beware of the expense.

The next thing I’d like to talk about today is my eye issues. When you’re a diabetic your eyes grow extra blood vessels that leak and cause fluid to be present. You will have to get laser treatments and eye injections to help control the fluid and save your vision. Your doctor will tell you to control your A1c to help keep your vision. Seventy percent of my doctors patients are diabetic. Many people lose their sight everyday from this disease, so don’t cheat, or fall off the wagon as a rule, it could mean the loss of your sight.

The last thing I’d like to talk about is the black and white of this disease. I am very fortunate to have doctors who tell me the truth and don’t coddle me like a baby. My foot doctor has said over and over if go back to eating the way I did, I’d be dead in three months. It sounds harsh, but it’s not . You need to be scared so you can stay alive.It’s a thought I have everyday, so trust me when I say I rarely cheat. The holidays are a challenge, but one day is fine but not a week. My eye doctor also has told me I could lose my sight if my sugar is too high. If this sounds scary, it is. Remember it’s your life, and you want to continue to live it as well as you can! Next post I will talk about daily routines and how they can benefit your A1c.

Rehab from Amputations

My last blog I talked about being diagnosed with diabetes and the few amputations and operations I went through. Today I will discuss my rehab after the operations, what to expect, and the importance of following your diet during this time.

When you have recovered from your operations, the hospital will help you pick a rehab facility based on what your insurance allows. Underline allows! It is a process that factors in your diet and situation.I was sent to a facility that was more of a nursing home than a rehab facility. I was only 48 at the time and I lucked out in getting a roommate who was close to my age. The majority of people at the rehab were 65 and older, so of course I felt out of place. I will also tell you that being in this facility for six plus weeks really shows you what nursing home living is like. Sad. There are so many people there who get no visitors and have no one. It will inspire you to stay healthy after the time in there. I was fortunate to have friends and family visit me.

Before I tell about the rehab I received, I want to talk about the diet they put me on. When I was in the hospital you had had to order your meals by phone after looking at the menu. The dietitian on staff kept track of what you ate and how many carbs you could have per day. They showed me how to prepare meals for myself for every week. I follow this plan to this day. I’m grateful I went to a good teaching hospital.The rehab facility was different. Yes I was recognized as a diabetic, but the lack of a strict plan by them challenged me to keep up what I ate everyday. I requested menu changes, and even spoke to the cook. Why? The menu contained many unneeded carbs such as potatoes, cheese steaks, burgers and even desserts like cake. I had to substitute every meal with items that were healthier choices. Fresh fruits, salads, and foods without white bread.Choose a high protein diet to help with your wounds. I learned very quickly what was healthy and how to make my choices with the help of my doctors and friends who also had diabetes. I read articles online and talked with anyone willing to help.It wasn’t the best place for diabetics, but thinking about it now it helped me learn about proper foods for a diabetic. I did lose 70 lbs between the hospital and my rehab.My advice for anyone about to go to rehab is to discuss with your doctors and diabetic friends on what foods are good for you and what to avoid.I would ask to speak to someone at the facility you’re going to. Ask them about the menu, living conditions, age groups, and how the rehab works.

My first day of rehab was fairly basic. Some exercise bike riding and walking through the halls. Each day the challenges were tougher. They would simulate everyday life routines with opstacle courses,walking up and down stairs carrying weights, walking outside and increasing the difficulty and distances everyday. The rehab was first rate. You had rehab two to three days a week. I had a cast on my left foot to help my wound to heal faster, so that was also a challenge. They provided me with the exercises and drive to walk properly again. Since I had lost my right big toe I had to learn balance. I learned to stand on one foot and how to walk normally again.I live on the third floor of my apartment, so all these exercises helped me carry things up and down the stairs with balance and ease. A very practical approach to rehab.

They also offered occupational rehab to show you how to walk around your kitchen and cook.The simple things in life you take for granted are now a challenge. Be prepared to work hard. It is a physical and mental challenge. You have to want to get better.The alternatives are not pleasant. You can lose a foot, your eye sight and develop other medical complications. So for your own safety, pay attention and keep a positive outlook. Keep in touch with friends and family during your rehab. They’re a great ally to have.Next post I will discuss the mental stress and uncertainty of how the amputations, diet and your future with diabetes will affect your life.