Much like the five stages of grief, when your doctor uses the “Diabetes” word for the first time, most people go straight to the first stage: denial.
Why denial? Because being diagnosed with diabetes is not like being diagnosed with cancer or many other diseases. Within days of a cancer diagnosis, specialists are consulted; a course of treatment is agreed upon, whether surgery or chemotherapy, and you rapidly move through a well-planned medical system that gives you little time to deny your condition. Immediate action is taken to treat the cancerous condition.
Although your doctor used the “Diabetes” word, there was no real alarm in his or her voice. Your doctor did mention you should eat fewer carbohydrates and lose a few pounds, but that didn’t alarm you because you can always stand to lose a few pounds.
Now consider the process you went through when you were diagnosed with Type II diabetes.
You went to see your doctor for a routine visit and your doctor examined you. You had the usual lab work done. The lab work indicated your glucose was high and your doctor said you might be a Type II diabetic.
Depending on your results, your doctor either gave you a pill to take, or just advised you to come back in about 3 months for a recheck.
Although your doctor used the Diabetes word, there was no real alarm in his or her voice. Your doctor did mention you should eat fewer carbohydrates and lose a few pounds, but that didn’t alarm you because you can always stand to lose a few pounds. Besides, you didn’t eat a lot of pasta or baked potatoes, so you figure you might reduce the snacks a little, because glucose is sugar, and sweets have lots of sugar.
While you are scared, you don’t really think you have Type II diabetes, your doctor didn’t say for sure you had it. Right?
Three months later you have more lab work done, and your glucose is still high. Your doctor might have suggested you see a nutritionist or a certified diabetes educator to help you understand how to manage your type II diabetes, in addition to the medication she has prescribed.
And finally, your doctor might have told you diabetes is a chronic progressive disease that, if left untreated, could lead to a host of complications, such as heart disease, stroke, amputation and blindness.
Now, at last, you’re really scared.
The worst thing about being scared is that there is no medical system in place (unlike cancer or other major diseases) to immediately schedule visits with a nutritionist, diabetes educator, podiatrist, ophthalmologist, dentist, and all the other professionals you will have to now see.
Your Doctor may have given you a glucose meter and strips, taught you about checking your blood, or how to begin managing your Type II diabetes. You may be scared, but it seems the only person who is going to be in charge of managing your disease is you.
As you learn more about Type II diabetes, you discover that you may have to limit your favorites foods, you have to keep journals on what you eat, and check your blood several times a day (they didn’t give you enough strips), and the dietary information is so darn confusing.
This is a lot of work and it becomes easy to deny that all of the hard work on your part is even doing any good. You do understand that the longer you delay managing your Type II diabetes the more irreparable harm you are doing to yourself, but this feels impossible to achieve on your own.
Until the medical community puts a system in place to deal with Type 2, as they have done with other major illness, we carry the burden of our own control and must be proactive in our own care and education, because YOU are the one that has to control this 95% of the time.
Educate yourself, become a very proactive patient, join a support group to get the encouragement you need to manage your Type II diabetes, whatever it takes to break free of your denial and move into self-care and good control!
As Dr. William H. Polonsky of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute, puts it quite nicely:
“Well managed diabetes is the leading cause of … nothing”
Choose control, your quality of life, and your life depends on it.