A big wake-up call

6 September 2018

“My story begins in 2000. Previously I had a martial arts accident where I had my knee cap kicked off and I needed an operation. My wife and I sat in the pre-operation waiting room and I will never forget these words “Mr McCoy how long have you been diabetic?” This naturally came as a huge shock. Diabetes was so far removed from my life I didn’t even know a diabetic. I automatically thought of big needles. After the initial shock I took in my diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. What a relief I thought, little did I know how much I would be affected.

“Over the next 15 years I sort of ignored being a diabetic really, probably denial. I had a horrific lifestyle in diabetes terms, drinking at lot, which I don’t mind admitting became a problem in the end and still is today (another battle I face); eating anything, although I inherently knew this was a time bomb. I had read all about the complications, but of course it only happens to other people. I also had occasions where I knew I was sugar high, irritated and angry but didn’t have a monitor at this stage. Not that I would have probably used it anyway because of my denial.

“In 2015 I was on the usual medication Glipzide and eventually Metformin and blood pressure tablets. I struggled to take Metformin, so it was dropped. I had my usual check-ups which were more of an inconvenience – my eyes, my feet, you name it I had it, and still do. I was pretty much testing my sugar levels at this time. It was not good and my lifestyle hadn’t really changed either. Nothing seemed to be bringing my sugar levels down. I guess it’s like people who give up smoking after their first heart attack. It was going to take something big for me to wake up, and in 2017 my big wake-up call arrived.

“In 2017 I was referred to the Regional Diabetic Nurse, who decided to put me on insulin injections (Humalog mixed) twice a day. At my first appointment I was just shown a pen and expected to inject myself there and then, I just couldn’t face it. I think my diabetic nurse had so much experience. However, I don’t say this lightly, she seemed to forget her compassion for the patient. I spent the next three weeks waiting for my next re-arranged appointment having panic attacks. Anyone who’s experienced panic attacks at this level knows how frightening these can be. My wife attended the appointment with me where I took my first injection. I was looking at my wife’s face as if it would be alright.  I’ll never forget the look of horror on her face. We laugh about it today.

“I spent the next six months in free fall, always taking the injections and always waiting for the hypo. I was calling my diabetic nurse regularly and every time I called her the units of insulin went up creating this vicious circle of panic attacks and anxiety. I’m a representative for a living so spend 90 per cent of my time in the car alone and I admit to crying like a baby on some occasions feeling desperate.

“For those who have not got diabetes the constant monitoring of your blood up to four times a day, the high sugar levels, the low sugar levels, the Black Forrest Gateaux which is off the agenda, the highs and lows emotionally is a roller coaster, and worst of all the fear. For those who have diabetes, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

“I think the defining moments for me that this was real and I could no longer deny the reality was tremendous, but all seemed to come together in one period. The look of horror on my wife’s face as I broke all the rules again, the injections, and the numerous conversations of my mother who lost her leg and my aunty who went blind with diabetes. I had woken up and it was reality.

“At this time I had a lot of support from my family –  the late nights, the talks of it’s going to OK, the holding hands when I thought I was having a hypo which turns out to be anxiety, my first low sugar level which was not even in hypo territory, running getting three slices of bread, a biscuit, on my way to the sugar gel (by the way this is not good practice.) To all those who support their loved ones with diabetes I cannot praise you enough, it’s a tough job.

“I finally went on a quest to find out as much as possible about diabetes and to find a source that would give me real information. Having done Dr Google (which made me more confused and fearful than I already was), I came across the Diabetes UK Forum. This was the best source of information: real people, real experience and most of all real compassion. I highly recommend it, I learnt a lot from these people. I’m now less fearful, more knowledgeable and knowledge is power.

“Where am I now? I am now on two types of insulin three times a day. I’m fine and I have learned to live with the injections. Together with talking therapy and other therapies I have made good progress. I would like to thank my wife and daughter for the hell I put them through this year – they have been my rocks.”

Article by Simon McCoy and provided by Diabetes UK