It’s all very well volunteering to write a blog – but sitting in front of a (very slow) computer screen and all of a sudden it’s a pretty daunting task. I suppose the thing to do in this first post is to share my story with you.
I am 56 years old and live in a rural area in Lancashire. I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes around 9 years ago. I didn’t consider myself particularly unfit or overweight (15 stones for a 5′ 10″ frame) and my lifestyle was no different or any more unhealthy than my friends. I’m a keen cook and we eat hardly any processed food and although I like a pint I tended to drink only socially – and to excess only about once a month.
On first diagnosis I was handed the standard NHS diet sheets and told to keep a diary of what I ate. The nurse seemed to think my diet was fairly healthy but my blood sugars stayed high and eventually I was prescribed Metformin and statins which brought my numbers down to a point where the nurse announced she was pleased with my progress. My weight seemed to stay fairly constant between 15 – 16 stones despite all attempts to reduce it.
That was the picture until February of this year when I decided to take charge of my life. I guess that we all need something to give us a wake-up call and get us to look at our situations afresh – in my case it was the statins that gave me the push that I needed.
The first statin that I was prescribed was simvastatin. It certainly worked as advertised and my cholesterol score came down from 6 to just under 3. After 18 months I began to notice that my memory was failing me and it became a bit of a family joke. I mentioned it to the diabetic nurse at my annual review but she seemed to think it was a consequence of growing older and nothing to worry about. Although I was still a little concerned I accepted that and got on with my life. The crunch came at Sainsburys checkout. I was standing there with a trolley full of shopping trying desperately to remember the pin numbers on my bank cards. After trying 3 different cards with a queue full of tutting shoppers behind me I finally had to admit defeat and leave the store without my shopping. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life !
As soon as I got home I made an appointment to see my GP. He was very soothing and told me not to worry about dementia (I wasn’t) and that failing memory at my age (49 then) was probably due to stress. When I mentioned that the little leaflet inside the packet of statins gave memory loss as a possible (though rare) side effect he told me that he’d never heard of that. I was not convinced and the doctor finally agreed to change my prescription to Rosuvastatin to see if that made any difference but also arranged an appointment with a consultant and sent me off for a CT scan of my brain.
Needless to say the scan showed nothing untoward and happily my memory improved and was back to normal after 6 weeks or so on the new medication. All seemed well for a few years – my numbers were in the right area and my weight wasn’t increasing but I noticed a bit of stiffness in the joints. At my reviews I mentioned the joint pain but was told it was a normal part of getting older (where had I heard that before ?) and to take more exercise.
Crunch number two came along in February. I had got to the point were I was in pain most of the time. The pains were at their worst in my shoulder and back and had spread to my kidneys. I was also going bald ! The only way I could get to sleep at night was by propping myself up with pillows. As an ex smoker I convinced myself that I had developed cancer and that my days were numbered. I plucked up the courage to go to the GP again and got an appointment with a locum doctor. He was sympathetic and arranged a chest X-Ray for me and then asked me to undress and hop onto his couch. He started to palpate my abdomen and quizzed me about my diet and asked if I had a problem with indigestion as he suspected I might be experiencing referred pain from digestive problems. When I told him that I very rarely had any problems like that he casually mentioned that it may be a reaction to some of the medication I was taking.
When the chest X-Ray was clear I turned to the internet and googled ‘Statins side effects‘. Ten minutes later I threw the statins into the bin and waited to see what would happen. The pains began to subside almost immediately and after 4 weeks I was feeling much better with only a bit of pain in my shoulder (now almost completely gone) and was having a good nights sleep for the first time in years.
My annual diabetic review came along 4 weeks later – and as you can probably guess it wasn’t good. All my numbers were up with my cholesterol increased and my Hba1c over 7. The nurse also told me that my triglycerides were the highest she had ever seen. As I was already on 2g of Metformin a day she also suggested that I needed to take other medications to control my blood sugar and tried to persuade me to take some form of statin perhaps at a lower dose. After my experience with statins I was extremely reluctant to take any more drugs and asked her to arrange another blood test in a few weeks and that I would try to change my diet to bring my numbers down. She agreed but was obviously sceptical that anything would change much.
Back to the internet ! I looked for ways of changing my diet in order to bring my cholesterol down and found a site that recommended a low carbohydrate diet. The site had a link through to the Low Carb forum on this site and the rest, as they say, is history. Four weeks later I hopped on to the scales and astonished the nurse by being a full stone lighter. My cholesterol and HbA1c had both come down and whats more I felt like a new man.
Now I have been on my low carb diet for over 6 months I can report that I am down to 12 stone in weight and have stopped taking my Metformin. I have also started to exercise and run up to 4 miles a day. I feel better than I have done for many years and my sugar control is very good. My cholesterol is a little on the high side but I’m working on ways to change that with my consultant.
My apologies if this is all a bit long – but if you read this blog in the future (and I hope you will) I think you should know how I got to where I am now and how that has coloured my views on diabetes. I intend in future to mix my own experiences with musings on topics that interest me – in particular turning a sceptical eye on to what we are told and the assumptions that people make.
All comments are welcome but please, as it says in the title, remember that this is my first attempt and be kind.
If you have managed to get as far as this – thanks for reading !