Diabetes symptoms and a long battle later, Cynthia reveals why the last 12 months have been so special.
It felt like a stand-off, waiting in my doctor’s surgery for him to say something. I was desperate for a word, a gesture, anything that would give away the results of my most recent tests. Then his face finally cracked and a smile emerged. “It’s hard to believe you’re the same patient,” he grinned and I couldn’t help but agree. I was a new, healthy woman, the diabetes symptoms had gone and that moment, at the end of 2019, was the start of the rest of my life.
I was no stranger to the doctor’s office. Years of health issues, mostly related to my weight, meant endless appointments, tests and advice about my diabetes symptoms, but what was unfamiliar was good news like this.
When I was a little girl, my dad, Eric, suffered from type 2 diabetes and the disease made for a very restricted way of life for us all, as he constantly had to timetable our days around his insulin injections. Despite watching Dad struggle, I made little attempt to eat healthily or watch for diabetes symptoms.
Then, when I was only 32, Dad passed away from complications related to his diabetes and I comfort ate, even more! I’d gorge on chocolate and cakes, while bread was my guilty pleasure and I’d eat as many as four slices of toast smeared with butter and jam in one sitting. Around that time, I also got promoted to IT Manager at work, which meant I was invited to all sorts of corporate events, where we were served rich meals in vast quantities that I found impossible to refuse.
I had three kids and being a busy mum, working full-time made it even harder to lose the weight, although I tried for years. Then, my mum was diagnosed with dementia and when her health began to decline, the stress of nursing her, my job and caring for the boys meant I piled back on all the weight I had managed to lose, plus more! My diet got even worse when Mum died in 2016, I comfort ate to soothe my heartache and paid no heed to diabetes symptoms.
At 5ft 4in, I weighed 15st and in my mind I was a respectable size 14, so when I had to buy a dress for Mum’s funeral in a size 18, I told myself the shop had its sizing wrong and was too caught up in my grief to let it concern me. Yet I could barely walk anywhere without gasping for air and even the smallest of tasks proved to be the biggest of feats for me and yet, I remained blind to my diabetes symptoms.
By April 2018, my health was becoming a real issue and my trips to the doctor’s surgery were all too frequent. I suffered migraines, fatigue, unquenchable thirst, blurred vision and a blood-pressure test had registered high, but I put it all down to stress and the fact that I was getting older and remained blind-sighted about my diabetes symptoms. I expected my GP to sit me down and give me some advice on how to manage my blood pressure, but instead he announced that, like Dad, I had type 2 diabetes and like 90 percent of sufferers, my weight was largely to blame.
I was shocked, but on hindsight I should have known, since all my diabetes symptoms were warning signs. While one of my kids was now an adult, I still had two aged just 13 and 14; I felt so guilty. I can’t put them through the same grief I suffered, I realised. Thankfully, my doctor had some good news. “You have six months to turn this around through diet and lifestyle changes,” he said. My only option was to make healthy long-term changes; or deal with the excessive burden of fitting in medicating myself, between rushing around after the kids and travelling for work. It didn’t seem like a difficult choice and I couldn’t bear for my children to endure a lifestyle governed by diabetes like I had.
To get started, I went on a one-day education course known as the DESMOND programme (Diabetes Education and Self Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed). Then in May 2018, I joined a Slimming World group and was taught a healthy-eating plan. For someone who was constantly eating sugar-loaded meals, I found it easier than expected to switch to the healthier options on the Food Optimising plan. Porridge, omelettes and fresh fruit replaced my guilty pleasures of bread, cakes, chocolates and I found I was snacking much less.
At first, I struggled to go to the gym as my confidence was so low that I convinced myself other gym-goers would stare at me and snigger. At this point I realised that this so-called fear was one which I had concocted so I could stay lazy. This realisation made my life a lot easier. My gym trips went from never, to once a week and then to four times a week.
By November 2018, I’d lost over 2st and the doctor told me the diabetes wasn’t just under control, but in remission. It was a relief but after such a scare, I knew I had to fight to get in even better shape if I was to stay healthy long-term.
When I stepped onto the scales at my Slimming World group in October 2018, I’d hit my target weight of 9st 101b and had lost 5st 41b. Shortly after that, the doctor gave me the good news. I’d completely turned my health around and was in the best shape of my life.
While fitting into a size 10 was a wonderful feeling, I was reserved in celebrating my success as I knew that I’d only won half the battle. As anyone who has struggled with their weight knows, it’s more difficult to keep the weight off than to lose it. It took determination, but knowing my health depended on it helped me.
Then, last summer, my friend and I went on holiday to Cuba and I wore a swimsuit for the first time ever. Sunbathing without trying to hide myself under a towel or a maxi-dress was a moment I never thought I’d experience. Back home, I proudly shared my holiday photos online.
A Fit and Energetic Mum
Now, at 56, I can walk 12 miles at a go and my life isn’t dictated by diabetes. Maintaining my target weight for 12 months rounded off my best year yet and I couldn’t feel more successful. My headaches have gone, my blood pressure and vision are normal and I have endless energy. My kids love having a fit and healthy mum who can go trampolining and swimming with them and best of all, I know I’m going to be here for them for a long time to come. I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings.
E355 – Diabetes Symptoms Won’t Win – www.diabetic.today