Looking back over my life (which I now have clarity to do), there were several things related to diabetes that contributed to the development of dementia in my brain. My lack of knowledge, insight, and motivation certainly played a key role, which leads me to share all that I know with you, now.
Had I truly understood what all was going to happen throughout the course of my life, and how one ugly consequence would feed into another, I know now that I would have done some things differently, and had a better outcome.
Perhaps I’d still be here to talk with you in person. Yet even in my current energy state, I can still get some things across to you. Maybe help you avoid the deepest pitfalls. That is my hope.
I felt traumatized the day I found out I had diabetes.
My path toward physical and mental destruction began the day I got a diagnosis of adult onset type II diabetes. I will never forget that day as long as I live, which is now for eternity, of course. I was in my mid forties when the doctor said I could never eat sugar again; and it felt like a switch flipped off in my heart. I loved ice cream and chocolate and cake and cookies – my special bliss after a long hard day at work. He might as well have told me I had terminal cancer. But I was determined to make the best of it. And, at first, I did.
Determined to succeed
I threw out every sugary substance from my fridge, freezer, and pantry, then marched through the aisles of the grocery store like a soldier, filling my cart with everything I could find that was not sweet. Instead of Coca Cola, I got Diet Rite. Instead of ice cream, I got cantaloupe. Instead of cookies, I got potato chips, and so forth. I was sort of on a right track, but not completely. I didn’t realize potato chips and diet soda were just as bad as cookies and sugary soda. But I was trying. To the best of my knowledge at the time, I was trying.
Then I went to a nutritionist, and learned that potato chips was probably not the best choice. However, diet soda was on the list, surprisingly. The more nutritious foods I ate, the better I felt. And the better I felt, the more energy I had – so decided to join my husband on the golf course, and felt even better. I was truly on to something, and life felt good.
Ten years of success
I did very well for the next ten years, or so. Managed my diabetes with diet and exercise, and even improved my marriage since we spent more fun time together. Some husbands might not like their wives joining their golf game, but mine loved it – in fact he is the one who talked me into it. I could see no fun in chasing a little white ball around, but quickly changed my mind when I started playing. We played every weekend, and a couple times through the week.
Life was grand . . . and then my husband died.
I was not prepared to lose him, and it hit me harder than anyone realized. Even though I put on a face of strength, I was devastated on the inside. And each time I walked through the bakery section at the store, I looked more and more in the direction of the cakes. Why do grocery stores set it up that way – forcing you to go through the bakery section at the start of you’re trip? Seems like an unnecessary temptation for people like me. Yet for ten years I managed to escape the urge that was starting to build in me, now.
Give up. Try again. Repeat.
I gave in one day, and that was all it took to recreate my old craving for sugar. Time after time, my glucose reading tipped off my doctor to the fact that I was cheating. And time after time, I vowed to stop eating sugar, and was successful in short bursts. The doctor warned me repeatedly that I would have to start taking oral diabetic medication if I could not adhere to a sugar free diet.
The next few years were like a roller coaster ride of glucose readings, and by the time I was in my early sixties, I finally agreed to start taking diabetic pills. Even with the pills, I would need to minimize my sugar intake, but at least I could have a few things like angel food cake and vanilla wafer cookies. A compromise I could live with. Or not.
Spinning out of Control
My glucose levels were severely high from ice cream binges. As a result, I ended up in the hospital a couple of times.
By this time, I was in my late 60s. After each episode, I swore off sugar for an extended period of time – yet returned to eating ice cream at some point. Although I never again got sick enough to be hospitalized for diabetes, my doctor changed and increased my diabetic medication dosages to the point where I was one bowl of ice cream away from requiring insulin.
It is never too late to start again.
I was in my early 70s in this photo. I was working toward eating healthy, again.
But at some point I gave up the fight.
By the time I was 85, my doctor told me I had to start taking insulin shots. The pills were no longer effective for the amount of sugar I was eating, and it was either insulin injections or death. I reluctantly agreed, as I was given no other choice by the doctor.
My kidneys were taking a hit.
One thing I didn’t know throughout those years was that diabetic medication was taking a huge toll on my kidneys. I was always under the impression that diabetes destroys the kidneys, but now I know the biggest killer was the medication. Several diabetic medication manufacturers are under the gun now of class action suits for the damage their drugs have done to peoples’ kidneys. So my kidneys were receiving double doses of trouble from the diabetes and the medication.
Enter the kidney doctor and stage III kidney disease
Within a year of starting insulin injections, my blood work was showing kidney damage. I was referred on several occasions to a nephrologist (kidney doctor), but never actually went to one until my daughter Janet dragged me there when I was 88. When the nephrologist entered the exam room, he said to me,
“Well, Hello, Mrs. Snow! I’ve been waiting two years to make your acquaintance!”
By the time I got to him, I was in stage three kidney disease, pushing stage four. He asked me why I waited so long to come. I told him I didn’t want to end up with a renal bag attached to my side. He assured me that would not happen, and said I didn’t need any medication or treatment at this point since I was in pretty good shape, otherwise – and simply wanted to keep an eye on me. Thus started my monthly visits to the nephrologist.
Reduced kidney function
Just for the record, neither diabetes nor kidney disease killed me – but both factors, especially the kidney disease, were not helpful when it came to medications I was taking for other conditions – heart and blood pressure. Everything that goes into your body (food, drink, and medications) relies on your kidneys for processing. When you’ve got reduction of kidney function, everything gets processed at a much slower rate – allowing medications to stack up in your system, which increases and prolongs the effects, including side effects, of drugs.
I successfully used diet and exercise to eliminate diabetes from my life for the first ten years.
Then the death of my beloved re-triggered my old addiction to sugar. I dealt with my grief the only way I knew how – the comfort of sugar against my tastebuds. Perhaps if I had gotten counseling for grief and addiction, my life might have taken a different turn. It just never occurred to me – and was never suggested to me by my doctor, whose recommendations were limited to diet and/or pills.
So even though diabetes and kidney disease did not directly kill me, they were perhaps the wide open gateway for the things that would – which I want to tell you about next.
Click the link above to read my post on what led to my death. It was NOT Dementia or diabetes or kidney disease. It was the deadly side effects from an oral antibiotic, Macrobid, used to treat urinary tract infection.