You can never quit managing your diabetes

“Don’t keep quitting—you know what I mean.”
That’s the advice that Sherry passed on to me the other day. Sherry is a gym fanatic who spends many evenings playing squash at the Memorial Sports Centre here and it was her encouragement that spawned this column.
They tell me that controlling your diabetes is a lifelong commitment.
I am a diabetic, though it’s not something that I’ve had all my life. Rather, it is something that came along about a dozen years ago.
At first, the diagnosis allowed me to carry on pretty much a normal life. I watched my diet, I lost weight, and I regularly exercised. I was successful at controlling my diabetes.
Then I fell into some bad habits. I stopped following my diet closely. I would skip exercising. For a while, my blood sugars held constant but eventually, over time, they crept upwards.
But not to worry. I began taking some oral medications to control my diabetes. First one pill, then a second, then a third, and then on to a second medication until the entire daily pill units were filled.
Time and diabetes had caught up with me—and I was faced with a new choice. Begin following the vigilance that I had first employed to control the diabetes (and hope that by doing that, I could bring down my blood sugars) or begin the course of insulin injections.
It was not the choice I wanted to hear about. I detest needles and want no part of piercing my body on a daily basis. That made the choice easy.
So beginning this year, I am back to closely watching my diet and exercising. The exercise is a combination of brisk walks with my wife in the evening and swimming a minimum of three days a week.
The swimming has been the hard part. When I stopped swimming some seven years ago, 2,000 metres in the pool in a 45-minute period felt really good. But during my first swim back in January, I felt like I was going to expire after 400 metres.
A decade of age and reduced activity has made exercising even more difficult.
On Monday, I did 1,200 metres in 30 minutes. It is the farthest I have swam since I took it up again. And the best thing about it was that I did not feel exhausted when I climbed out of the pool.
At the same time, my evening walk with my wife seems to be going farther, though the time spent walking remains constant.
Am I winning? I think so. I feel better every day for the exercise—even though my shoulders are sore after every swim. My blood sugars have dropped, too, though not yet to a level that I can look my doctor squarely in the eye and say “I think we should reduce my pills.”
And, yes, Sherry, you are right—“Don’t keep quitting.”

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