Sunday, December 04, 2005

First Post

Wow, I never thought I would be doing this, but I have read several different blogs and thought what a great idea to keep everyone up-to-date with what is happening with me. I don't know how often I will post, but I think it will be fairly often initially to catch everyone up with my story.

I was diagnosed with CLL/SLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma) in March/April of this year, 2005. Very strange because in May of 2004, I thought I might get this diagnosis. My father died from complications of CLL and heart disease in November of 2003, after a very long (perhaps 15-20 years), heroic battle with this dragon and multiple other cancers -- skin, throat, thyroid and perhaps others. In January of 2004, my oldest brother brought my mother from upstate New York to Texas to stay with us for a few months. Because of medications I have taken for years to combat high cholesterol, my doctor does blood tests every six months to keep track of liver function and track the cholesterol levels. I was due for the blood test again in April. So, in April, I went in for my six month routine test. A week or so later, I was called to come back in and repeat the test. I never gave it a thought as I figured the lab messed up. So, a day or so before I drove my mother to visit another brother in Ohio, I had the second blood test. While I was gone, the doctor left two messages on my answering machine to come in and see him about my blood test. He also sent a card to my home stating the same thing. I got back from taking my Mom that first week in May, on a Wednesday, and saw the card and thought, "Wow, two calls and a card, this must be serious." I called and made an appointment for the next morning.

That night, I dreamed that the doctor told me I had Leukemia! I know I was thinking about Dad. I was a little nervous when I went to his office that morning. The doctor finally came into the exam room and said there was a problem noted with the blood and they had checked it twice. I waited for the pronouncement of doom. He said, "You have Type II diabetes." Diabetes??? That hadn't even entered my mind! I was relieved! I don't remember much of what he said other than he was going to set me up with a special nutrition class, gave me a bunch of material to read, and gave me a bunch of prescriptions to fill. I walked out of his office happy!! I didn't have leukemia!

Since I was still off work with this last vacation day, I drove to Fort Hood, in Killeen, TX, to have the prescriptions filled. (I retired as a Chief Master Sergeant, E9, from the Air Force 1/1/91.) On the drive to Killeen from Round Rock, where I live, I wondered what the diabetes thing was all about. I didn't know much about it except when I was in high school I had a friend that was diabetic and he gave himself insulin shots all the time. I know the doctor said I wouldn't need insulin for a long time, and maybe never. I was still OK with it all, until...

I turned in the prescriptions and then was called to the window when they were ready. A whole small cardboard box of STUFF! I think they explained what most of it was then, but I wasn't hearing much other than sticking my finger with a plunger thingy with those sharp thingies that there were three boxes of a hundred each and then putting my blood on some strip thingy, of which there were three hundred, into a little meter thingy and then sometimes calibrating the meter with two vials of stuff and then logging what the meter thingy said and a prescription of pills to add to those I already take (refilled my other stuff at the same time, so there were six other prescriptions in the box too!) and then someone hit me in the forehead with a bat! At least I thought they did. Depression hit that fast! What to do? Well, I did what any overweight, old guy in depression would do. I headed for McDonald's for a Big Mac, fries and a shake! Hmmm, never said I was very bright.

I got home, put all the stuff on the kitchen counter (my wife doesn't like it when I use the kitchen counter as my own repository for stuff) and there it stayed for days. I would stare at it sometimes and sometimes throw glances that way as I sat in my chair in the family room and brooded. I even closed my door at work so I wouldn't have to talk much to anyone. Yes sir, nothing like a full blown depression episode. First thing I finally did was read the pamphlets the doctor gave me. Oh yea, that cheered me up. Written so upbeat, what did they know? Like it was going to be fun to count carbs and not eat my favorite stuff anymore? Right! So I glared at the stuff on the counter some more. Finally the next Monday, before going to work, I stuck my finger for the first time...OUCH! I guess I should have started with a lower number on that plunger thingy. I think I hit bone. Bled like a stuffed pig. Got a reading over 200. Hmm, supposed to be under 110 in the morning after fasting all night. Oh well, I did it, didn't I?

After a few days I decided this depression stuff wasn't any fun and as long as I had this beast called diabetes, I might as well try to tame it. I read all the pamphlets again and decided how many carbs and calories I needed to eat each meal. I had a goal of losing 30 lbs. I was up to 230 lbs and 200 sounded like a nice round number to get to and maybe my tummy wouldn't be as round. (I was 180 something when I got out of the Air Force.)

I began to drive my wife crazy. I read every label of every food, kept charts, calculated total carbs and calories and started eating rabbit food, er salad, to try to feel full. Also began to eat a lot of grilled and baked skinless chicken breasts -- so much I thought I would start laying eggs. My wife, bless her heart, was really VERY supportive, as always, and started eating well right along with me. The pamphlets said I needed to get some exercise too. What? I exercised my thumb changing TV channels all the time. Fastest, strongest thumb in Central Texas! OK, so now what? I hated running and besides, the temperature was now fast approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit, too hot for outside. So, I bought a stationary exercise bike and put it in the family room, right under the ceiling fan and in front of the TV. Oh, and I put it between my recliner and the TV so I couldn't ignore it. The pamphlet said I should get 30 minutes of exercise a day. Hmm, that didn't sound too bad, I could ride my stationary bike during the news, no problem. The first day, I turned on the fan, turned on the TV and started peddling. I THINK I made it through the first news story, but I'm not sure. Thirty minutes?? I would never make it. wasn't 90 seconds good enough? The bike told me I burned 5 calories, that was good, wasn't it? I climbed off the bike and staggered to my recliner gasping for breath. Hmm, must be diabetes makes you out of shape!

Well, to make a very long story shorter (why do people always say that and then keep blabbing away?), I kept at the bike, made it to 30 minutes after about a week and kept going most every day until....

I will post that tomorrow as I need to get to bed so I can get up for work in the morning. Just to let you know, after a year I lost 75 pounds and went from a size 41 pants to a size 32! I know I haven't gotten to telling you about my CLL/SLL diagnosis, but I will, I promise.


Spider Girl said...

Well, welcome to blogging. :)

And that's an amazing fitness accomplishment.

My dad has Type II diabetes and as it runs in our family on both sides, I'm doing all I can to avoid it.

John Wagner said...

Thanks spider girl, and don't give up! Eat healthy and stay fit. You may not be able to avoid it totally, but it could be a lot less serious if you are predisposed to it. Best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

John--You have a wonderful way with words. Every time I read someone's journey, I feel so connected to them. Tom and I went through all the emotions you and your wife did. It's nice to know that you are in RR. We are in Austin. Also go to MDAnderson and Southwest Caner--I still look at the name everytime we go there. It's like a different world we joined. Thanks and I look forward to reading the rest.

Jenny Lou Park

Anonymous said...

Isn't it, 'bled like a stuck pig'? As in, stuck with a knife (hopefully to kill it for dinner).

John Wagner said...

The normal phrase is stuck pig, but remember, I was very overweight, so "stuffed" pig was much more appropriate.

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