By Savitre “Rapture” Schaefferkoetter, Copy Editor
According to the World Health Organization, in 2014, a staggering 422 million people in the world had diabetes mellitus, also known informally as diabetes. World Diabetes Day is recognized on Nov. 14 to raise awareness of the disease. Yet, for someone who lives with the condition, everyday is a diabetes day.
I interviewed my husband, Justin Schaefferkoetter, to gain a better understanding of diabetes. He is a 41-year-old, white male living with type 1 diabetes. Ten years ago, he felt he was coming down with an infection that led him to urinate frequently. Upon seeing a doctor, he was given the diabetic diagnosis. This astounded him, as his age of diagnosis defied the assumption that type 1 is onset during childhood. Moreover, he exercised regularly, had a healthy diet that rarely included sweets, and he did not have any known indicative family history.
He attended diabetes education classes, where he learned how high blood sugar can be detrimental to his pancreas. When he experiences high blood sugar levels, his body would overload and he would quickly feel tired, needing to take breaks.
“It’s like when you have Thanksgiving dinner, your body can’t handle all that food,” he explained.
In the case of being diabetic, a much smaller amount of the wrong kind of food can trigger this same kind of tiredness.
When my husband experiences low blood sugar, it can jolt him awake from his sleep, and he must ingest glucose to raise his blood sugar levels. If he consumes too much, he will end up with blood sugar levels higher than desired, then he will go into nap mode. This can be jarring on a workday morning. There are days where he does not recover in time for work, either from being tired or an upset stomach from eating too many sugary foods. Therefore, he must set aside paid time off preemptively in case of these swings. This can be the same for even spending time with family or friends as well: a diabetic episode can interfere with the best laid plans.
Disease management can be a time-consuming game, whether it is controlled by diet or medication. He follows a routine diet plan and eats three times a day, usually prepared at home, and yet his blood sugar levels are still not under complete control. He still includes carbohydrates in his diet per a doctor’s recommendation. He has considered some supplements and diets that have been advertised to treat diabetes. His best results have come from a diet including “cinnamon, capsaicin, tamarind and white seafood,” he said. He has been on several medications before such as metformin, but now, he takes the Actos pill and insulin shots before his meals and one slow-release shot every morning. This regimen has helped him enjoy eating foods he was told to avoid previously.
“It gives me more freedom.” he commented positively.
“Most people don’t realize that I have to go to the doctor for three month checkups, get blood work done every three months, and on top of that, I have to pay for my insulin, my needles, [and] my pills that I take,” he said. “I have the best insurance that I can get but the rough estimate is $200.00 a month.”
He has considered getting an insulin pump that would attach to his body, but the price for that is simply not affordable.
He is not alone in his problems. On the website Diabetic Self Management, blogger Scott Coulter has written an article, “Diabetes and the Affordable Care Act (ACA): Tired of Being Shut Out.” The article defends the ACA’s good intentions, but realized that insurance companies force diabetics to “pay the price as we downgrade the level of our own care to make ends meet.”
Since meeting my husband on our first date, I knew he was a diabetic. Having dated men in the past who had chronic illnesses that they neglected, I admired him for his mature approach to his condition. Then, I started speaking with others who live with this disease, obtaining advice on how they handle their everyday lives. For example, I found out how to dispose of a sharps container and obtain new ones for free: luckily, in the county we live in, such a program exists. Otherwise, the purchase and removal of sharps containers can be very expensive.
I do what I can to keep his life as normal as possible, but I wish that more can be done. Education and contributions to research organizations can help millions of people who live everyday with diabetes; with spreading insight on the effects of this disease, I can help him and others understand the difficulties that come with waiting for a cure to develop so that one day, diabetes may be a disease of the past.
Featured image: Diabetes General Testing Supplies. www.pixabay.com/en/diabetes-blood-sugar-diabetic-528678/, via Pixabay.
Article image: Diabetes Word Art. www.pixabay.com/en/diabetes-diabetic-awareness-blood-1326964/, via Pixabay.
Coulter, Scott. Diabetes and the Affordable Care Act (ACA): Tired of Being Shut Out. Diabetic Self Management. Published Nov. 10, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/diabetes-affordable-care-act-tired-shut/.