Living with diabetes is one of the toughest things that life can throw at you. But well, life did throw it my way, I wanted to take time to share how my journey is. My name is Deus Lupenga, and this is my diabetes journey.
Finding out I had diabetes
On November 12th, 2021, as I was sitting in the Doctor’s Consultation room, I had no idea how those minutes in the morning hours would ultimately alter my life course. To take you back a little bit, I had severe COVID-19 around August to September of 2020. So acute was the infection that I couldn’t speak, eat or walk for more than a week but that is a story for another day.
It was after that bout with COVID-19 that I started experiencing some unique pains in my arm but mainly it was this tingling and numbing sensation. Furthermore, I was mostly tired, frequently urinated especially at night, had frequent and extreme thirst, increased hunger, and constant tiredness and loss of concentration.
I decided to consult a medical specialist and the first diagnosis stated that it was nerve damage and I was put on a multi-vitamin regimen.
The symptoms temporarily subsided for a couple of months only to resurface again around October 2021. I was informed again that it’s probably nerve damage but I felt I had to go for a second opinion which I did. A full blood test was arranged which came back as 10.1%.
I was Type-2 Diabetic! I should say I wasn’t wholly surprised by the diagnosis as my family has a history with diabetes and basically, I have inherited all of their ailments; but it came as a punch to the gut!
The first thought that went through my mind was CHIWAYA and grilled pork! I love(d) this meal package so much that it basically became a tradition on my part. Then I started thinking about all the foods I had been instructed to reduce or completely take off my menu.
Images of some of my favorite foods such as fizzy and energy drinks, cakes and cupcakes, chocolates, biscuits, cereals, flavored yogurts, and honey, flew right before my eyes and I was left deflated. I have had such a unique passion for food since I was a toddler and I’ve always enjoyed cooking and making meals.
Food has always remained a big part of my existence and here comes a condition that directly and heavily impacts my food system.
what is diabetes
For readers not wholly familiar with the condition, Diabetes Mellitus, otherwise known as diabetes, is a chronic condition that comes about when the pancreas is no longer able to make a hormone called insulin or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. It all boils down to food.
The carbohydrates that we eat get broken down into glucose, a type of sugar. This glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream and becomes known as blood glucose. The release of the hormone insulin from the pancreas allows the glucose to pass from your bloodstream into your cells to produce energy for the body.
In people with diabetes, when the body produces too little or no insulin or the body is not able to use its insulin properly. The process of allowing glucose to pass from your bloodstream to your cells for energy doesn’t work as well. As a result, glucose accumulates in the blood, causing blood glucose levels to rise. Too much glucose in the blood can lead to serious health problems such as kidney damage, damage to the body like your blood vessels and nerves which may lead to organ damage, poor eyesight, and an increased risk for heart disease.
There are mainly two types of Diabetes; Type-1 and Type-2. Type-1 diabetes is mostly caused by an auto-immune response where the body’s own immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin. The reason for this condition up to now remains unclear but people with Type-1 diabetes produce very little or no insulin.
Type-1 diabetes may affect people of any age but usually develops in children or young adults. People with Type-1 diabetes need insulin injections every day to control the levels of glucose in their blood. On the other hand, Type-2 Diabetes accounts for the majority of people with diabetes. In this case, the body is resistant to the insulin it produces, and/or the body cannot produce enough insulin. This leads to high blood glucose levels.
Type-2 diabetes is often, but not always, associated with being overweight or obese. Another reason for developing Type-2 diabetes could be a family history of diabetes. People are mostly diagnosed during adulthood, but lately, Type-2 diabetes is even diagnosed in overweight children. Type-2 diabetes may develop gradually over many years as a result of poor lifestyle choices that lead to weight gain. The diagnosis is often made when a person experiences symptoms or complications, like heart disease, or when routine blood or urine glucose test is done.
acceptance and life after
After the news, accepting the situation was never a problem but lifestyle adjustment was challenging. I immediately went about researching everything about this condition especially the dietary implications, what foods to eat and not eat, quantities, and how to manage it. One thing the doctor told me during the consultation is that if the development of Type-2 is detected early, it is manageable, especially with changes in diet and lifestyle.
I was advised to immediately start losing weight as I was (and still am) overweight. I was weighing 96Kg by then with a Body-Mass index of 37.5 (overweight). I was also advised to have regular blood glucose tests just to check the sugar levels in my body. I immediately went on a diet change, got myself a blood glucose meter, and went about cutting down on carbs.
One thing I am proud of is that I managed to completely cut off the fizzy and energy drinks, cakes, and other foods that have processed carbohydrates in them. But bad habits die hard, I would now and again slip up, especially on my favorite rice, some meat (pork), and other foods.
5 months later, I visited the hospital because for a couple of days, I felt unrelenting tiredness and that got me worried. I took another blood test and the results were 5.8% which was amazing and kind of miraculous. My current levels fluctuate between 5.1 to 6.3 which is a huge difference from 6 months ago.
I may not be the poster guy for managing the condition as I still have a long way to go. I am still to lose most of my weight, target is a BMI of 25. I have yet to get into a good rhythm for exercise, diet, and general lifestyle that wholly embraces the condition. However, the future looks promising and these results are encouraging.
In the next set of pieces, I would like to share with my fellow readers 4 Key areas for managing health and Diabetes, namely, Exercise, Healthy Eating, Medication, and Monitoring the Condition. I will share some meal plans that you can adapt and utilize in managing your own Diabetes or for family members and friends.
Deus is a youth worker by profession, and a project management specialist and social scientist by training. He is a father, son, and husband to amazing people. Catholic by faith, Ngoni by tribe massive supporter of Arsenal FC, and Rafa Nadal. And yes, he still loves meat and a neat glass of whiskey.