Saturday, September 16, 2006

STOP THAT-Or You'll Go Blind-My Fight With Diabetes

This nightmare started with one fatal phrase... "If I don't know I have it, then I won't have it."
Writing this article has been totally distasteful, personally embarrassing, and probably ill-advised, but if I save one person from the fate I’ve suffered so far, it’ll be worth it.

WARNING: What follows is a frank, open, no-holds-barred, nothing-left-out description. I’m going to tell you things no one should tell a relative or friend, much less a total stranger. If you can’t take a point-blank non-clinical street-level discussion about a personal problem, stop reading now.
Now stay with me here, the next paragraph is important.

I kept telling my friends, “Someone needs to write an article that a common guy would understand,” and the response was always, “Well, why don’t you?” I've stopped reading many an article on diabetes because the long medical terms were too confusing. Honestly, the descriptions were scaring me to the point of not wanting to know — you fear what you don’t understand — and therefore, you will intentionally find no medical terms here. But I plan to educate you with a narrative in hopes of saving you from my fate. I know all those terms, but since they were what made me avoid researching this subject, I won’t use them on you.

Around five years ago, an odd thing started happening. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it and that’s the danger I’m warning you of now — you don’t know you have it, until it has you — and then it’s too late.

I started having night sweats. The fact is, I didn’t even know that’s what they were, because they were localized to one part of my body -- in my case, the neck and shoulders.

I’d wake up and my pillow would be soaking wet and I just assumed I’d begun falling asleep with my mouth open and slobbered all over it. It wouldn’t happen every night, but often enough that I began wrapping bath towels around the pillows and having a spare for mid-night swaps for a dry one.

After about a month, they stopped. Male menopause?

Within the next year or so I gradually came to realize I was continuously thirsty. Driving all around the country and spending a lot of time in the gym, I just figured I was getting dry from all of the running around I was doing and wrote it off.

Two years ago, the night sweats returned, only now they came randomly from an arm or a leg, sometimes my stomach or back. I’d wake up to find the bed soaked and resorted to sleeping on body-sized bath towels. The unimaginable volume of liquid was so great at times, I began buying rubber sheets to protect the mattress and slept with a box fan turned on me! I began suspecting maybe I had contracted AIDS from unprotected sex. If I did, I didn’t want to know, so I was stupid and didn’t go to a doctor and get tested.

Soon after came the sugar cravings and sugar avoidances. I had to have a piece of Pepperidge Farm three-layer German Chocolate cake — no, not a piece — the whole cake. An entire small can of pineapple tidbits for dessert or those (sigh) chocolate-covered custard-filled doughnuts. I began stocking up on two-liter bottles of Dr. Pepper and a Snickers bar was never far from my hand. Then there would be the days when I couldn’t stand the sight of anything sweet and it was Crystal Light iced tea or a salad for dinner, or (ugh) cottage cheese, which actually began tasting good.

I began realizing the night sweats came on the nights I’d pig out on sweets. Diabetes began entering my mind, but was overridden by the fear of similar AIDS symptoms… so still, I didn’t see a doctor. Denial and fear would be my downfall because, at this stage, I might have avoided what I’m going through now.

At the time I thought it was fear, but now I know better. Now that I look back at it with clear eyes. I found myself easily frustrated-(yes that is a symptom), short-tempered, and could blow up at the tiniest provocation; then later I’d wonder why — one of the classic signs of the disease you’d never attribute to diabetes!

Now here's one I hear from nearly every diabetic I know, but you'd never think to mention it... I started detesting the taste of tap water.

About three years ago, I stopped being able to get a full erection. No way was I going to a doctor about that. Shortly after, I’d experience the muscle spasms and pleasure but no ejaculation. I started waking up in the middle of the night having to take a piss, then twice a night, and then three times a night. I figured it was from drinking water and pop continuously all day. In actual fact, if your body can’t absorb and use the sugar you take in, it has to put it out as urine, or sweat — remember that.

I figured I could treat myself if it was diabetes. I began reading sugar contents on foods I’d buy and was shocked to find things like hot dogs were loaded with it, bread, nearly all the things l loved to cook and eat.

No. If I didn’t know I had it, then I magically didn’t have it.

I started writing off being tired all the time to getting old, or worse, getting lazy.

Another symptom I ignored, because I didn’t know the signs, were odd scratches and bruises on my legs below the knees that seemed to appear from nowhere and take forever to heal. They’d stay scabbed, seemingly forever, and eventually turn into scars rather than heal with new skin.

I’d come home from a night of being out in the winter snow only to discover my feet were cold to the touch, even though they didn’t feel cold.

I started reading and was alarmed by articles on type 2 diabetes. It couldn’t be cured, you had to puncture your finger several times a day and stick some machine on it to see what your sugar level was. There was storing insulin in the fridge and the… the… needles. I can’t stand needles. I learned diabetes can only be controlled and never gets better. I was told once you started insulin, you could never get off it again.

Then came the night I was attacked and nearly beaten to death, and the resulting stays in the hospital over and over again.

Are you a diabetic?


I.V.s were prepared with the medications dissolved in a sugar solution (glucose). Suddenly, my sugar levels went through the ceiling and I was being given intravenous insulin to counter it.

Still I denied it.

The nurses got me a free blood tester and equipment to take home with me. The doctor prescribed pills I took daily. I had to start learning what level of blood sugar was safe.

I wrote it off to all that glucose I.V. solution the medications came in. I didn’t really have diabetes, or I was a “borderline” diabetic. Diabetes is like being pregnant — you are or you aren’t.

There are no in-between or borderline diabetics.

My broken foot became infected inside the cast and it wasn’t discovered until weeks later. My body couldn’t fight off the infection because of diabetes. I was forced to inject myself several times daily with massive doses of antibiotics through a plastic line inserted into a vein in my arm (PICC line) that traveled through a vein to my heart. This line had to be pulled out of my body once a week and replaced with another for two months. Unless you’ve actually experienced a doctor you trust repeatedly telling you that you only have a 40 percent chance of avoiding having your foot cut off, you have no idea of the trauma. Diabetes does that and more, and is one of the leading causes of amputations.

One night in the hospital, a student nurse accidentally pricked herself with a needle she’d used on me. I knew I had to have AIDS. I’d had all the symptoms, hadn’t I? Was I actually more afraid of diabetes than AIDS? Emotional stress and personal traumas raise your blood sugars; the more you worry, the more diabetes becomes a problem. Most of my regular readers already know what I’m going through personally, so you can imagine the fight I have to go through to keep control of the condition.

The tests came back after what seemed like months, but were actually days.


At the same instant, I was so relieved and happy, and then resigned that it had to be diabetes.

Last May, around my birthday, I started going blind. Not gradually, but all at once. Diabetes affects the tiny blood vessels in your eyes and your kidneys first, clogging them with sugar. My brain thought my eyes were starving for nutrients and began growing more capillaries, some blocking where the light passes through, dimming my vision. Other blood vessels became clogged and pressure began painfully building up inside my eyes. Fluid and solids from my bloodstream began leaking into the center of my eyes, blurring and blocking my vision. Clogged blood vessels burst from clogs, the shreds hang down in front of my optic nerve, and only surgery can remove them.

If you’ve experienced any of what I’ve described, don’t make the same mistake I have. See a doctor NOW.


The fear of the unknown can destroy you completely. I never thought I’d ever get used to pricking my finger to get a drop of blood; the thought ran shivers down my spine. I never thought I could get used to injecting myself with a needle three or four times a day.

The leading cause of blindness in adults is type 2 diabetes. The result of my ignorance is eight surgeries on my eyes so far, with three more planned, and no health insurance to cover them. Placing my head in a brace with no painkillers. Having to hold my eyes still while a laser burns in the back of my eyes — each feeling like a sewing needle prick, sometimes 2000 in a sitting lasting around three hours.

As a laser cauterizes the unwanted blood vessels, the scar tissue makes your sight dimmer. You begin to lose your peripheral vision and also your night vision. It’s the trade-off to keep from going completely blind. Also a blood vessel will rupture days later, squirting a tiny amount of blood inside of your eye, squirming and undulating before your eyes like a stoned snake in water, taking days to dissolve.

Fear and denial is what brought me to where I am today.

For God’s sake, don’t follow in my footsteps.

If you liked this article please click this icon >
Please explore these diabetic products and books from Amazon!

WARNING: Reproduction of the FIRST PARAGRAPH of this article is permitted as long as a link back to it is provided.
Reproduction of any part this article past the first paragraph is forbidden without the author's permission
©-2006 by Jet Gardner/

No comments: