Type 2 diabetes is a sneaky beast, and often has been hiding in the background for far longer than people realize. So for many people, the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes also comes along with diagnosis of a complication.
This is what happened to Mike Durbin. When he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2008, he was also diagnosed with heart disease. He was also only 27 years old! He immediately had to reverse course and majorly change some habits in his life in order to survive the game, as he says.Today, he talks with us about his wild ride:
A Guest Post by Mike Durbin
During a recent DSMA Live radio show which featured Justice and Alexis from the diabetes blog, “Justice’s Misbehaving Pancreas,” I found myself struck by a comment that Justice made about life with diabetes. In comparing life with diabetes to the popular Super Mario Bros. video games, Justice said, “I’m like Mario, Diabetes is Bowser. You just play the game.”
Now, those who follow my posts over at My Diabetic Heart know that I love a good analogy, and probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the wheels in my mind started spinning after hearing that comment. I agree with the notion that life with diabetes is like playing a game; only I think it’s a little more like a totally unscripted version of Survivor.
I began playing Survivor: The Diabetes Edition in late December 2008, after a stubborn yeast infection led to a doctor visit and my eventual diagnosis with type 2 diabetes. And much like the reality TV show, the game that I’ve been playing included extreme challenges from the start: Congestive Heart Failure for example.
My game began with the knowledge that my A1C was 9.6, that my heart was only pumping at 30%-35% of its capacity, and that losing this game meant losing my life. In spite of how high the odds were stacked against me at the outset, I was determined to play to win, and win by any means necessary.
My survival over the last two and a half years can be attributed to several factors, which include the alliances I’ve made with doctors and educators who’ve been all too eager to help me plot and scheme against Diabetes, the access I’ve had to some of the best supplies and medication rations around, and the unyielding support of my fans. And I can’t forget to mention the hard work and determination that I’ve put into achieving my goals.
Attaining multiple A1Cs of 6.0, increasing the pumping capacity of my heart to over 50%, and losing around 40 pounds, did not happen overnight, nor did those successes come to me without some troubling times.
I’ve had two hospital stays in the last two years as a result of heart-attack-related symptoms, which turned out to be caused by acid reflux instead. Given my heart problems, I played it safe each time and went to the hospital to be checked out because medical testing provides the only way to determine what is really happening in that sort of situation. When in doubt, get checked out!
There have been several instances where my survival gear has failed me as well. I’ve had meters die, lancing devices break, and medications that simply stopped working. Oh sure, the testing supplies can be replaced at will, but finding new medications that will work and not interact badly with a dozen other medications isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. And even if you do find something that will work, there’s no guarantee as to how long it will work or that the potential side effects of the medication won’t wreak havoc on your life.
At this stage in the game, the addition of the injectable medication Byetta appears to be what’s best for me, and while it has been a bit of an adjustment to switch from oral medications to injections, the benefits thus far have been worth it. And my need for an injectable medication does not indicate that I’ve failed in any way; it simply means that I’ve had to make adjustments to my strategy for winning Survivor: The Diabetes Edition as time has progressed.
Each person’s diabetes is different and, not surprisingly, each contestant on Survivor: The Diabetes Edition has a different strategy for winning the game. While no two contestants play and experience the game in the same way, each plays with the same overall goal.
There are certainly challenges to be faced each day, and some days with diabetes will be more difficult than others, but if I’ve learned anything from living with diabetes over the last two and a half years, it’s that when difficulties arise, you’ve got to roll with the punches and keep going.
Remember, each and every day that we survive this disease is a win. And in the lifelong game of diabetes, you’ve got to win by any means necessary!
You can also catch Mike gracing the pages of USA Today. Way to go, Mike!