“Diabetes is a lousy, lousy disease.”
— Elaine Stritch
My dad has had type 2 diabetes for well over 25 years. In fact, we’re not even sure how long. We lost count after 25 years. It’s been a long time.
I’ve written many times about my dad’s diabetes and the complications he now has as a result, as well as his daily frustrations that come with the disease and our hope for better treatments. Dad now has a newer disease to talk about, too. Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Parkinson’s is a lot younger than my dad’s diabetes. Dad was officially diagnosed with PD two years ago. So, Dad is a walking pharmacy. He takes oral medications for both PD and type 2 diabetes, as well as two types of insulin and don’t even get me started on the homeopathic treatments.
My father works out five times a week at our local physical rehab center, a routine that is vital to his living well with PD (not to mention the diabetes)! Even though he stays active, he does joke a lot about getting old. He says that getting old is not for the weak.
After so long living with diabetes, the goal is to know it so well, you can manage it (not control, but hey, manage!). Well, Dad’s quarter-century-old diabetes hasn’t accepted its age. It hasn’t gotten milder, but instead has become even more erratic. After years and years of Dad battling hyperglycemia, we started battling hypoglycemia. Some of the low blood glucose levels we could pinpoint the cause and even be proactive, but some had no known cause. It could be this, or that…or this AND that, plus a possible other thing. Or not. Diabetes, unlike Dad, doesn’t get old. It throws new punches and acts as young and rebellious as ever!
Dad has a not so fun complication from both diabetes and getting older called atherosclerosis – a narrowing and hardening of the arteries. This led to a small stroke, then a major heart attack. After the major heart attack, we cracked down even harder on what Dad was eating. The strict low cholesterol diet waned after time, but Dad was still healthy. His cardiologist was happy. But, diabetes has less flexibility than Dad’s team of doctors.
Two weeks ago – BOOM – second major (and I mean, MAJOR) heart attack. It was a vicious attack. One of the main arteries in the front of his heart was 100% blocked. I exaggerate not. The cardiologist said that time was on our side. Dad now has seven stents and is still alive, although with his heart recovering….he feels older than ever.
Being in the hospital is getting old. It smells like fish and medication burps. We’re so exhausted of being scared and worried and sleep deprived. The constant struggle to keep Dad’s organs, arteries and nerves working properly is getting old. And yet, diabetes stays very active.
I like to think of diabetes as a spider, that you can catch and control by placing a cup over it. Ha! Gotcha Diabetes Spider! A week of normal…ish blood glucose levels! I win! Then, the Diabetes Spider takes out an AK-47 and blasts through the cup. Then it’s running amok with an assault rifle! That’s what the heart attack is like. It’s as scary as a Diabetes Spider with an AK-47. If not, scarier.
Dad confesses daily that he’s getting old, but he doesn’t have the luxury of just getting old. He has to stay on top of the cup with the spider in it. We have to find better cups, because, as old as we all get….that spider is always going to be there, young and armed, and we have no clear way yet to kill it.