This week I am going to catch you up on the last three surprising weeks I have had. To start, we will go back in time to Monday, a few weeks ago.
As a person with diabetes, I need to see specialists from time to time to properly manage the disease and to take care of myself. Three weeks ago, I had an appointment with the ophthalmologist. It happens every three to six months, and it is to make sure there are no signs of diabetes progression in my eyes. I have been going to these appointments for a few years, now.
When I went into the room this time, there was a change.
I needed laser surgery in my right eye. It is to treat a protein leak in the back of the eye. A few flashes of green light and I was on my way. My husband was scheduled to pick me up after the appointment. When he arrived, I was on a bench near the door. I had my sunglasses on, and my hood pulled down over my eyes. I kept peeking up to look for him. He told me I looked pale after I got into the car.
After I told him that I had the treatment for the first time, he understood my reaction. This concerned me because my eye felt like there was sand in it. I was in mild shock because it happened so fast and without a lot of information.
I did not ask enough questions at the appointment. That was my fault. The doctor didn’t ask me if I had any, which was their bad. When something catches me off guard, it scares me. I acted like I was fine, but I wasn’t.
The next day I called the office.
The ophthalmologist called me back and answered all of my questions. I felt much better after we spoke on the phone. The following day they called again and asked if I could go back to the hospital, where the clinic is, to get a second look at my, to make sure everything was okay.
In the meantime, the doctor prescribed an ointment for my eye, as a precaution. It is fine, and the issue only lasted for about two days. I also have another hydrating gel to use when my eyes get dry, now. Although I feel like the doctor was taking very good care of my eyes, and did the follow up after I asked, I did not feel like they took good care of me on the day of the appointment. However, they are not the only ones to blame, as I am my own best advocate, and I should have asked more questions before leaving the clinic that day.
On Wednesday, in that same week, I was back at the treadmill for the medical study I signed up for. It started with another surprise. I was really not feeling it, but I had to do it to keep participating. They hooked me up to the machine that measures my oxygen, for a reassessment. It was only for the first five minutes of the walk, so it wasn’t too bad, but it caught me off guard. The good news is that the reassessment told them I was using oxygen better, and that I was going to have a lower threshold for my heart rate when on the treadmill. The next morning, I was told to bump it up. I almost called the person working with me a liar.
In week 6, I had my lung test.
It took about an hour. It was determined that I do not have asthma. I was previously diagnosed with environmental asthma. I do wheeze sometimes when I am exercising. When I asked if I should continue taking the Ventolin puffer during the study, I was advised to try without it, and use it if I need to.
The very next day, I had a milder attack. I didn’t use the inhaler before the treadmill, but I needed to after I was done, like the other time. Thankfully, it was not as bad of an attack, and I recovered much quicker. The next day, I woke up feeling ill. I was experiencing a blood sugar low. The exercise was finally making my body need less insulin, again. This is not a pleasant feeling, but it is good news. My body is responding to the increase in my activity.
I took that day off.
When someone misses a day, the minutes need to be made up. The last surprise I was given in week 6 was on the scale. I am finally losing weight. It thrilled me to see the change on the scale.
When we got to this week, week seven, things changed, but not just for me. For the whole world. I was on the treadmill on Monday, and then the study was postponed. They had increased the cleaning, and we were to wash our hands before and after the workouts, but it wasn’t enough. As I write, the world is holding its breath as we try to navigate through the most stressful staycation we have ever experienced.
I was really having a hard time on Monday after the news came out about the study being postponed. You see, I am willing to walk on the treadmill for science, and to help other people, but I was not convinced I would be willing to do it for my own health. I reached out to a friend through a chat.
I am so glad I did.
We have decided to become activity accountability buddies for each other, and I have walked 3 days this week. I share pics after my walks on the days since the study was postponed. I have not walked much yesterday or today, but I know I need to, and I know someone is counting on me to do it.
In accordance with the current guidelines, I am able to go out for fresh air and go for a walk. I am walking outside, around my mini home park. It is about 2km/lap, and I am walking for 2 laps right now. I was walking for 30 minutes on the treadmill. It takes me an hour a lap outside. As I turn on the treadmill tunes in my Spotify account, which is downloaded to work with no wi-fi, I go. I am not pushing myself, but I am using my tricks to get my heart rate up. I guess you will have to wait until next week to read all about what that means. For now, I am grateful for the support of my friend, and for those who are encouraging me on social media.
If you won’t do what you need to do for yourself, do it for someone else until you feel like you want to do it for yourself. Ask for help. Get the people who want to see you do well involved.
One last thing. I am changing the words in my head. Instead of saying:
In Trust Your Gut: Tish’s Story; Part 79 | Medical Study Progress Report I am going to review how the first month of the medical study went. If you missed it, you can find it here. I did the testing for the study in January. The study started 4 weeks ago. I have had some things happen which I will write about, but please understand, I am also participating with the blessings of my doctor. It wasn’t required, but my doctor is aware of it, and yesterday, she told me how proud she was of me for taking this step. She also said that she wished more people would do more to be proactive in their own health care.
Yes, you read that correctly. I saw my doctor yesterday.
When you start any new physical activity, it is always the right thing to do. I saw her before I started, and I saw her again yesterday to discuss something that happened this past week. Before I get into this, I want to review my thoughts on the whole month. I will get back to the reason for the doctor’s appointment and the result of it in a bit.
I agree with her statements. It is a lot for me to just show up. Let’s explore this in more detail.
To understand how hard this is for me, you need to know that I weigh over 300 lbs. 318.9 as of this morning if you want to get specific. I have not seen a huge weight loss in one month of the study. This is not the most encouraging thing to think about at the moment, but I KNOW I NEED TO DO THIS. If I keep showing up, I might just save my own life.
There is no payment for this study.
It is completely voluntary. They are measuring the effects on people with type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes (which if we are being honest, doesn’t exist) who exercise. They are checking my body muscle and fat density, taking oxygen measurements, and my blood sugars. The study will compare the H1AC (the 3-month average) blood sugar levels while it is happening. I signed up for 7 months. What was I thinking?
I know it will help me with my own health issues. However, if you have been reading these blogs all along, you know that I have issues with showing up for myself and have been wavering since I stopped going to Zumba class twice a week. It is a decision I made for my own reasons, and I love Zumba. I have tried it at home a bit this year, and I will continue whenever that mythical energy is here to stay. I have seen improvements in my energy levels, but they aren’t consistent, yet.
No, really, what was I thinking?
I was thinking that I need to move on purpose this year. I needed a reason to do something. Some days I feel strong, and others I can barely manage to keep the heart rate up to where they need it to be for the study.
They make us wear heart monitors every day. It can pinpoint if something happens, and most of the time they tell me I need to pick it up a bit. Which sucks. I did sign up for it, and I am doing my best to show up and do what they need me to do. It is not a leisurely stroll on the treadmill I am taking.
In the first week, I had to walk for 80 minutes.
We broke it down to 20 minutes a day for 4 days. I got to have Wednesday off, as a rest day. Did I ever need that rest day! I was so happy to be able to sleep in. Being unemployed for over a year has affected my sleeping habits, I had been in the pattern of staying up too late and sleeping in every morning. I am not excited about being on a treadmill at 8 am 4 or 5 days a week, but I am still showing up.
The schedule is flexible, so if I should happen to get a job, they will accommodate a different schedule if I need it. I picked 8 am so that I would be able to drive my husband to work, and then hit the treadmill, on weeks when he needs the car. He shares driving with a co-worker, so every 2 weeks he drives, and if I want the car, I have to be in the car to take it from his work and pick them up after work.
The one issue I had in the first week was sore calves. Did they ever express their unhappiness out loud to me in that first week. The first day was the worst for the calves. I wear compression stockings, and they help improve circulation in my calves. They did not like the change in my routine, at all. I kept going, and I got through the first week okay.
Setting My Own Goals
In week 2, I walked for 100 minutes, so the daily minutes increased to 25 minutes a day. I still had Wednesday off, and I started testing my body to see what worked to get my heart rate up. I also took the time to create a list on Spotify, called Treadmill Tunes. It is great on shuffle, and today I almost laughed out loud when this played in my ears…Mustard! There are 311 songs on that list… I have a hard time narrowing it down, okay? I haven’t heard all of the songs in a month. Variety helps me to stay motivated and change my pace to, “Bump it up!” as they keep telling me when my heart rate is too low for their study.
Sometimes I skip through a few songs to find the beat I need for that moment, but shuffle usually does a good job.
By the start of week 3, my calves weren’t the issue I had on my mind. My nerve pain in my right thigh sometimes kicks in. It is related to my hip flexors, and I have had this issue for years. All I can do is stretch it and work through the pain. I know it won’t last forever, and I have to push through it. By the end of week 2, I was using my Zumba stretches after walking on the treadmill, to make sure I didn’t get sore after going home.
My goals are to increase the intensity when I can, and keep the heart rate up high enough so I am not having to bump it up every day. I am working on this; I have good days and bad days.
There was a new concern in week 3.
I performed a very entertaining Bambi on Ice routine, where I slipped but managed to recover and stay on my feet. My hip flexor muscles on the left side were pulled as a result, and I was very concerned about how it would affect my time on the treadmill. I take painkillers when it is sore, and try to rest. It is worse after sitting in my computer chair for long amounts of time. It doesn’t hurt on the treadmill, which I was a relief.
Week 3 time increased to 120 minutes. I was walking for 30 minutes, four days a week. Dealing with the issues above, and starting to challenge myself with increasing the incline for longer times every day. I play with the speed, as I move with my whole body for some songs, and for parts of songs on a lower speed so I can get my groove on without face-planting.
It hasn’t happened yet but on a treadmill, the fear is real.
On Friday, last week, I noticed that my left knee was trying to bend the wrong way. I pay attention to my body because I need to know how to manage all the curveballs it throws at me. I checked with a friend who works in the fitness industry, and she advised me to take things easy on the weekend, which I was already planning to do; and to pay attention to what was happening. Later that day I felt like my hip was going to go out, and my knee did its funky thing shortly after this. I was cautious all weekend and rested as much as I could.
As the weekend progressed, week 4 was approaching.
I worried about week 4. This past week added 30 minutes to my walk time, which means I am now walking for 30 minutes, 5 days a week, for a total of 150 minutes a week. The good news is, there are no more time increases for me to worry about. The difficulty comes when I am needing to bump it up.
On Monday, I paid close attention to my knee, and my hip, both on the left side. The right side has eased off, and I don’t have the nerve pain every day, or for very long when it happens, now. I realized that my left knee is over-compensating for the hip muscles. This means I was able to correct it before things got worse, and I am feeling stronger by the end of week 4.
I started wearing my knee brace to walk, to support the knee, and it is helping. I only wear it on the treadmill, and I think just even knowing I have it on helps a lot. Monday and Tuesday were tough.
For me, it is all a head game.
I need to talk myself through it every day. Getting up, showing up, pushing through and relaxing when they tell me I can cool down. It’s my favourite part, actually, because I am done for the day. Whatever gets me through it.
I watch the timer. I watch the heart rate. It can be affected by the other people in the room, so I can’t trust the heart rate, but it gives me a general idea if I am working hard enough or not, most of the time. I tell myself, only so many more minutes to cool down, or I had the incline to 3.0 for a whole minute longer than I did yesterday. Woo-hoo! I have to be my own cheerleader, constantly.
On Wednesday, I fell apart.
I pushed real hard on Wednesday. Keeping the incline at 3.0 as long as I could and held it at 2.5 for another record-beating time. I was feeling like I was going to be able to keep pushing for week 4.
And then, it happened. My left hip made a twinge. This one little smidge of pain unravelled me.
I started to panic. I thought I would have to quit the study. My biggest fear is injuring myself and having to quit. If this happens, I would be letting myself down. I faltered and was told to bump it up.
When I bump it up, I can also bump it down when I arrive at the correct heart rate, as long as it doesn’t drop. I play with the speed and the incline while I am working out, as needed. I bumped it way down after I got to where I needed, and the panic running through my veins kept the heart rate high enough to not have to increase it any further at that moment.
Exercise-Induced Asthma is something I have been diagnosed with.
I have carried a Ventolin puffer around with me for years. I have wheezed when I push myself, and to allow me to complete the walks every day without needing to stop, I decided to take 2 puffs, preventatively before getting on the treadmill in the first week. It is helping me to breathe better while working out.
Wednesday was no different, I took 2 puffs before getting on the treadmill. Due to scheduling conflicts, it was a 4 pm walk that afternoon. I had coffee in my system when normally I just have water and my protein shake before the workout. My protein shake is made by mixing a scoop of chocolate protein powder into my unsweetened cashew with vanilla milk. I drink it before I leave the house if I am just driving myself, or in the car if Roy is driving himself to work.
The time of day was off, and my mental game was off. I had a complete panic attack by the time I stepped off the treadmill. What made it worse was I COULD NOT BREATHE! I went to the chair to rest, like I always do, and found my puffer.
Usually, I will sit after the walk and drink my water, do my stretches and head home.
On Wednesday, I had to get into my head and play hardball. It was very hard to talk myself down from the panic attack. It was so scary; I thought they would need to call 911 and rush me to the hospital. Not for the panic attack, but because I could not catch my breath.
When I took the puffer, it was just like you see others do with bad asthma. Inhaling the puff was loud, and it was hard to hold my breath while holding the medicine in my lungs. Breathe it in, count for 10, exhale. I had to do this twice, and all the while, I could not breathe.
Once I got the puffer into me, I worked on calming myself down. It took about 45 minutes before I felt good enough to go home. I did not stretch, and I forgot my hoodie. I was not feeling like myself at all, and when I change a routine, I am more likely to forget things.
Thursday morning, I talked about what happened with the students who are recording the data from the study. I was a little upset, still, and it helped to talk about it. I made an appointment to see my doctor as soon as I got home.
One good thing about a blizzard is that you can get a cancellation appointment easily.
The doctor’s office is not far from where I live, so I went to see her. She is sending me for tests on my lungs but agrees with me that the main issue was the panic attack. Fast forward to Friday.
I did it for a month, successfully! I am proud of myself. Today, I realized at about 8 minutes in that I forgot to take the puffer. It was okay, although it was a little harder for me to keep my heart rate up today. It does make a difference, and it does help, but I can do it without the puffer. I will have to skip it on the day of the appointment, and now I know what to expect.
I have done something new in the past week. It is time for me to be stepping it up when it comes to my health. I was sent information from a friend in an email, about a medical study at the local university. As a person with type 2 diabetes, I was able to apply. I made a call, and I am glad I did.
When I connected with the person working on the study, I was asked some questions on the phone. They needed to know when I was diagnosed, and what medications I was taking. I went through them all and made an appointment for the first session. When I did, the person I was speaking to asked me when I would like to do the second part of the qualifying session. I chose Wednesday and Thursday this past week.
Next, I was given a brief overview of what would happen. The first session was to fill out the paperwork and to get my measurements recorded. They needed my weight, height, waist and hip circumference. Two blood samples were taken, one by a nurse, and the other by the person I would be working with. The nurse used a needle to get a blood sample, similar to when the doctor sends you for bloodwork. They needed to establish some baselines for my sugars and lipids. The second blood test was just a finger prick, similar to what I do to test my blood sugars myself. It is for a 3 month average of my blood sugars, called an A1C test. We went over the numbers, but I do not remember them all. I was assigned a number for the study.
The Bod Pod
I was told on the phone that in the first session, I would need to go into something called the Bod Pod. It was described as an oval machine, shaped like a spaceship. Of course, I asked for the details of what it was used for. It uses changes in air pressure to get an estimate of the fat and muscle percentage in your body. It sounded neat, and then I asked one more question. With the description of the Bod Pod, I asked if they played any Lady Gaga music while the test was running. I made my contact person laugh, and he surprisingly admitted nobody had ever asked him that question before.
Since I am a blogger, and I have this category, I wanted to document the interesting parts here. We will start with some pictures of the Bod Pod.
As you can see, it has a seat inside. I was asked to wear something similar to a bathing suit for the test. My Zumba clothes worked for this purpose. There are magnets to hold the door secure during the test, and there is an emergency release button if for any reason a person would want to stop the test. It has never been used, and I did ask if the person who I was working with for the assessment wanted to test it after my test was done. My offer was declined, as it was uncertain if it would affect the calibration of the expensive machine. I did not test the emergency button.
For a few moments, I could pretend I was Lady Gaga arriving at a music award show.
The person who was assessing me to see if I would qualify for the study did agree to help me with pictures for the blog. They use the equipment for their job, so they are used to it, but for someone like me, it was worth documenting the whole experience.
Since the machine uses air pressure to record the measurements, I was advised of this. I was also warned that just like my ears, the machine may pop while the test was running. Thankfully, although I felt the pressure changes when it was running, it was not a huge difference, and my ears were not affected. For statistical reasons, they run duplicate tests for certain qualifying factors. This test was run twice and will be necessary again once or twice while the medical study is being conducted.
I had to wear a swim cap also, to help with the test. It was okay for me to wear my stockings in the Bod Pod. At the same time the blood tests were run, my feet were also checked. One side effect of diabetes is neuropathy, which affects the nerves, especially in feet. I have had this test before, and I usually feel the apparatus on my feet when it is lightly pressed on the sole of my feet. After completing these tests, I was able to go home, with a pedometer to wear for 7 days, to get a baseline average of my current activity level.
The fitness test.
Day two had a new test to run. First, I was given an explanation of what to expect. I would be fitted with a heart monitor to start with. I do not have a picture of this because it was put right under my sports bra (which I am SO glad I wore that day!)
Next, I was set up for the apparatus to measure my oxygen levels. If you thought the Bod Pod was glamorous, you haven’t seen the best parts yet. I had to wear this frame over my head, which would be attached to a tube that was placed in my mouth. The air goes in on one side, and out the other, to be measured in another machine. I was advised to drink a bit of water before it was in my mouth because my mouth would get dry during this test. The paper towel was there for me to use for saliva. There was a part of the tube made to catch any drool dripping around the mouthpiece. So attractive, I know.
There were goals to beat in the fitness test to qualify for the study. A speed was selected, and the incline was increased at several intervals. I was shown a clipboard with numbers on it. They ranged from 6 to 20, and since I would not be able to talk during the fitness test, I would point at the number which corresponded to the level of exertion I was feeling when asked. I was also advised to give a thumbs up or down as answers to questions and to move my hand back and forth by my neck if I needed to stop for any reason.
To get the most accurate measurement of the air I was breathing, I also had to wear a nose plug. I walked on the treadmill, and if you know me, and you caught the musical reference above, you probably guessed that I had a song in my head while I was walking my way through this test. I will reveal it soon. First, I want to assure you that my breathing was fine once I got settled into the test. I did feel short of breath near the end, but with increasing intensity for the duration, it was to be expected. When my heart rate was checked as okay, and the machine to measure the oxygen I was using as I breathed was full, the test began.
There was a short warm-up period, to adapt to the treadmill and the breathing apparatus. Once I found my groove, the incline was increased. It was increased by one increment until it reached 11.0. At this time I was asked if I wanted to keep pushing or stop, and I chose to stop.
I qualified for the study.
The good news is, although I will need to repeat the measurements and tests, it will not be every time. I will have to wear the heart monitor every time I go, but that is not an issue for me. It is the lease intrusive piece of equipment I have to wear. Except for testing and measurement days, I will be working with a trainer to help me work on my treadmill game. I will want to push myself as I get used to walking regularly again. It is going to be a good change for me, and my hope is that I excel while I am participating in the study. I will not be getting paid for my participation, but if I can lose some weight and increase my activity levels, it will be worth it to me.
The study is testing to see what the impact of regular exercise is on the A1C levels in people diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and people like me, with type 2 diabetes. As the study progresses, I hope to have more to share here. At this time, I am glad I Trusted My Gut and applied for the study. I needed a change, and this could be just what the doctor ordered.
The song I had in my head when I was on the treadmill on day 2 was Good As Hell by Lizzo. As I finished the test on day 2, after I was unhooked from all of the apparatus, I told the people in the room, “I would like to thank Lizzo for getting me through this fitness test.” My statement was met with laughter, as it was intended.