It’s been public on social media since last week when we made the announcement, but we’ve been adjusting to a medical diagnosis given on July 31. Hard to believe it’s been less than a week and half, considering how much our lifestyle has already changed.
Fulltime RVers aren’t immune from “normal” challenges, sickness being one of them. But we’ve joined a courageous band of travelers who don’t let conditions or diseases keep them from traveling. There are still unknowns, but we’re determined to protect our life on the road.
In the process, we want to encourage others who are facing unknowns of their own. So here it is–transparent as always–the beginning of our fight against Type II Diabetes.
Something Was Wrong
Eric was not feeling right, or well, for most of July. He could not drink enough water to quench his thirst. He was up multiple times a night using the bathroom, which wrecked havoc on his rest. He had lower back pain. His vision went blurry. So blurry that it wasn’t safe for him to drive, so we got him prescriptions for glasses and contacts.
Last Monday, he was playing a role-playing game with our three older sons–with us for the summer–and one of his best friends, Kolan, and Kolan’s sons. He had been so parched all day that he drank every water bottle for sale in the game store. Then he started in on soda and gatorade because his mouth was so dry.
Towards the end of the night, Eric placed Kolan’s hand on his forehead. He was clammy with cold chills. How fortunate that Kolan is an experienced physician, now medical director at the hospital in Somerset, KY where we were visiting his family. Kolan took Eric into his hospital immediately for bloodwork.
Those of you who are familiar with the disease already know where this is going. Eric’s blood sugar was over 500 (the meter maxed out at 500). Normal blood sugar is 80-130. Prediabetic is 130-250. Eric most definitely had–and has–Type II Diabetes.
What Do We Do With This Medical Diagnosis?
In addition to feeling terrible physically, Eric was in shock. Really, the shock is just now starting to wear off a week and a half later. More than anything, it’s the required dietary changes that are the biggest lifestyle change. Those of you who know Eric, know that he loves his burgers, pizza, and ice cream. He’s been known to scoff at healthy food, and has proclaimed multiple times that he will die with a double bacon cheeseburger in his hand.
In light of all that, I’m amazed by and proud of the way he has chosen to diligently comply with his new reality. He’s carefully monitoring what he eats, has joined a diabetes support group on Facebook, and is constantly researching the disease. As we try to get his blood sugar under 130, his diet is extremely strict. He’s not enjoying it much. But he’s doing it.
My life has changed, too. I’d been cooking meals at home less and less ever since we started traveling, but I almost stopped completely as my pregnancy progressed and I had less energy. We were eating out all the time. Now, we can still eat out, but not what Eric wants, so we eat at home. Since last Monday, I’ve cooked almost every meal at home, and meals I’ve never made before. The planning, shopping, and time commitment were overwhelming at first, but it’s starting to be fun.
Not only that, but Eric never used to eat breakfast before his diagnosis. Now, we gather at the table every morning before we start work. Eric usually feeds Caspian while I make his breakfast, and then we all sit at the table together and take a collective breath before diving into whatever the day holds. It’s so beautiful.
How Does This Diet Work?
Eric is eating five small meals a day at roughly 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. All meals are between 350-400 calories so we don’t deprive his system, or shock it with a huge meal. The reality is that he’s never hungry with the regular meals.
As of right now, Eric is following a ketogenic diet: low carbs and high fat. His diet mostly consists of meat and fish, cheese, eggs, nuts, vegetables, and some berries. He’s avoiding processed foods, carbs, and sugar, even including most fruit and corn that are sweet.
Goals and Results
Kolan said he wanted Eric to be consistently under 160 blood sugar in two weeks. Obviously the ultimate goal is normal blood sugar: 80-130. Nine days ago on July 31, Eric’s sugar was over 500. We don’t actually know what it was. It could’ve been 700 or even higher.
His low was this morning: 156. His low two hours after eating was last night: 170. So we’re getting there, but still have a way to go.
How Do We Get Medical Care?
We’re still figuring out what Eric’s medical care will look on the road. Once his sugar is under control, his liver should just need to be checked twice a year. But right now, he’s only been unofficially checked by Kolan and through a trip to the emergency room (it wasn’t an emergency, just the best way to get care at the time with our insurance).
Eric’s primary care manager is in Austin. We can go to urgent care or an emergency room if necessary, but there’s no way for us to visit a doctor, get a prescription, or get a referral to a specialist without seeing the primary care manager first. That’s the way our insurance works (TriCare Prime, the military retiree insurance program).
Technically, we can change insurance regions, and then change primary care managers. In fact, that may be what we end up doing. Eric’s short-term metaformin prescription will run out soon, so we’ll need to do something. But are we going to need to change primary care managers every few weeks until this thing is under control? I have no clue yet.
So What Do We Know?
We know next to nothing. But we know we’re in this together, and we know it’s going to be okay.
We know Type II Diabetes is serious. On NPR the other day, I heard a chilling fact. If trends continue, by the year 2050, 1 in 3 adults will have diabetes. This is serious stuff, people. So if you haven’t been checked, get checked. If you’re not sure you’re eating right, then you probably aren’t. Wouldn’t you rather choose what you eat, mixing healthy food with fun food every once in a while, rather than being forced into a specific diet?
We’ve truly appreciated the encouragement from our community. Keep the tips coming! We’re drinking from a fire hose, but learning everything we can.