Obesity and diabetes: "Let's take control of our illness!"
Published Mar 16, 2019 • Updated Mar 31, 2021 • By Léa Blaszczynski
Gisèle, a member of Carenity France and a type 2 diabetic, has not had an easy life.
Discover here her emotional testimonial below!
Hello Gisèle, could you introduce yourself in a few lines?
My name is Gisèle, I am 67 years old and I am retired. I had a professional life that I loved: I was a nurse who served others, a profession based on relationships. And when I retired, I admit that my life became rather empty. When you work you are alive, I didn't prepare myself enough, but you have to think about it. I was very depressed at that time. Losing my social status, my colleagues, this hectic life, it took me a long time to find my bearings and to rebuild my social network.
How did you find out that you have type 2 diabetes?
When I was born, I weighed 5 kilos, I was a big baby who was already overweight. My mother fed me too much and poorly: a lot of starchy foods at every meal, pancakes, Far Bretons (a traditional cake from the Brittany region of France)... My parents were not rich, they settled down after the Second World War, and Dad set up as a carpenter, so we didn't eat a balanced diet, and my mother didn't know anything about nutrition. She hadn't learned from her parents either.
When I was 12 years old I weighed 82 kilos and my mother didn't react, she told me: "when you get to puberty you'll lose weight". I didn't lose weight, I suffered from the way others looked at me, they called me an elephant or a mammoth. The lack of food education follows you all your life, bad eating habits too.
When I was 16, my mother put me on a diet with a doctor who gave me diuretics and thyroid hormones. I lost a lot of weight and I was a nervous wreck. I almost died and left my parents to go to Paris to study nursing. I started my professional life at the age of 20, at night (which reversed my internal clock), which was not good for the diet and little by little I started to gain weight again, alone in Paris. I filled this void with food.
Then I got married and had a son. My husband died at 34, it was a a nightmare, a period of intense stress and fear. At that time I was in a pre-diabetic state. Diabetes set in little by little. In 1997, I had repeated abscesses and bronchitis and a full check-up confirmed the diagnosis. I was put on metformin and a diet. Five years later on insulin, I felt very guilty, I was taking care of the patients so much that I didn't take care of myself anymore, I was angry with myself. It was a shock, but I pulled myself together and finally stood up to my new partner who always called me to order.
Diabetes isolated me from others, I couldn't go to restaurants, people don't understand, saying "a little dessert won't hurt you"... it's truly a torment, the parties and their meals.
How did you and your family react? Did you suspect that you were diabetic?
When faced with a chronic illness, you have to mourn your former life, you go through many stages: shock, guilt, denial, depression and acceptance. My relatives didn't and don't understand, they still give me chocolates at Christmas...
I had a feeling that we would reach this diagnosis one day because there are also diabetics in my family.
As a nurse, you are familiar with the medical field. Did this have an impact on your diabetes management?
I made an appointment with a diabetes specialist who monitored me: a full check-up, cardio exam, eye exam, renal panel, nutrition, medical treatment... I became a patient myself, on the other side of the fence. I got support from the dietician on my ward, nothing more. I managed almost by myself, I asked for training on diabetes education which was refused but I learned a lot through the internet.
Do you think that your obesity has made it difficult to manage your diabetes?
Of course obesity has complicated my diabetes, because none of the diets have helped me. Dieting kills dieting: the yo-yo effect exhausts the pancreas. Now I have a balanced diet: I don't like to use the word "diet", it's more of a "rebalancing" of my plate.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced along your journey with diabetes?
The worst difficulty I've encountered is being put on insulin from one day to the next. I was told "you're a nurse, you don't need hospitalisation, you can handle it". It's wrong to say that, I needed answers to my questions, after 6 months I asked for a week's inpatient treatment where I learned to manage it better. I had 4 doses of insulin (3 fast and 1 slow at bedtime); you have to know how to dose your insulin to raise or lower your blood sugar, now it's fine.
Do you have any advice or tips to share with other members living with type 2 diabetes?
I'd say: Follow the doctors' instructions, avoid hypoglycaemia, avoid stress, walk, swim, do gentle sport, have a balanced diet, live a healthy life, sleep well, , relax, always carry sugar packets in case of hypoglycaemia, be aware of the signs of complications so that you can react, live as calmly as possible and have hobbies and activities. I've taken up painting and walking every morning.
Let's move forward and become an actor in our illness to better manage it!
You've been a Carenity member since 2014, what does Carenity bring to your daily life?
Carenity is a site for sharing and exchanging with other patients. It is an asset to us, I have answers to my questions. We also help others. Life is worth living, let's respect it, and accept our illness as part of ourselves.
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