Today’s post, in which I win the genetic lottery, or why you haven’t seen me on my bike — or anywhere else — lately

These numbers now run my life, not the ones found on my bike computer.

Well that sucks.

I’ve ridden a bike for most of my adult life, in part, to avoid the heart disease that killed my father, and the diabetes my mother suffered from for over 40 years.

My heart is fine.

My mother developed Type 2 diabetes in her 40s, after struggling with her weight most of her adult life. And my grandmother on my dad’s side of the family suffered from Type 1 her entire life, even though she was so skinny she’d disappear if she turned sideways.

Despite that, I’d been assured by countless doctors over the years that my high fitness level, combined with a bout with hypoglycemia — basically, the opposite of diabetes — in my 20s meant I had little risk of developing the disease.

So much for that.

In retrospect, the first clue something was wrong came when my weight dropped from a muscular 185 to a still fit 160. Something I put off to the stress of dealing with the dramatic decline in income as my copywriting clients cut back on advertising, and the contacts I’ve built over my career were laid off or moved on to other jobs.

I also had trouble building and maintaining muscle, having to ride longer and harder just to stay at the same level, which I assumed was just part of getting older.

Then last summer, I started having difficulty sleeping at night and staying awake during the day, something I once again put off to stress.

I often found myself feeling too tired to ride, my mileage dropping from over a hundred miles a week to maybe 50 to 60 on a good month.

In fact, I was tired all the time. I would get up in the morning, walk the dog, then go back to sleep for another couple hours. And sometimes sleep again in the afternoon, and doze off with my computer on my lap while writing at night.

I sometimes found myself dressed and ready to ride, only to put my bike back up and go back for a nap. Even driving wasn’t an option, too tired to feel safe behind the wheel.

Note to motorists: If you’re not alert behind the wheel, you don’t belong there. Period.

Then after the past holiday season, things took a nose dive.

My weight dropped again, until I weighed just 150 pounds — something I hadn’t seen since I was a 5’2” defensive tackle in junior high school. And whatever muscle I had left melted away, taking my energy with it.

In other words, I lost my ass. Literally.

As well as every other muscle in my body, including those legs I’d proudly honed for over 30 years, until I looked more like my grandmother than I ever wanted.

I cancelled meetings, even ones I was supposed to lead. And stayed home planning to write or work on this site instead, only to accomplish little or nothing. After all, it’s hard to get any work done when you’re sleeping or too tired to think.

A trip to the doctor, followed by a blood test, only confirmed what, by then, I already knew.

I had inherited my mother’s illness, to go along with the devilish good looks and rapier wit I got from my dad.

I’m diabetic.

Type 2, to be exact. Although my doctor is reluctant to call it that because I’m so far out of the norm for that disease, dramatically underweight instead of over.

In the last 10 days, since I got the diagnosis, my life has changed dramatically.

I’ve gone from eating as much as I want because I knew I’d burn it off riding, to carefully structured meals with limited portions. From a diet rich in whole grains to one in which I have to count every carb.

I’ve gotten used to being hungry most of the time. As well as testing my blood multiple times a day to determine what effect what I last ate had on my blood sugar levels.

Meanwhile, I’d kill for a decent beer. Or a crappy one, for that matter.

And a cinnamon roll, please.

My already low energy levels have crashed; even walking the few blocks to the corner drugstore can be exhausting. Which means my bike sits in my office where it’s been since CicLAvia, waiting for the day I feel strong enough to get back on it.

And how I’m going to pay for it, I have no idea. Even with my wife’s insurance, I’ve added over $100 a month in prescription costs alone. Not to mention countless co-pays for all those doctor visits.

On the plus side, I’m not on insulin. Yet.

Between diet and medication, I’ve got my blood sugar down from a resting count north of 400 —over four times what it should be — to 250. Still dangerously high, but moving in the right direction. And I’ll be meeting with a dietician this week to try and work out a meal plan that will allow me to put weight back on and get back into shape without causing my levels to spike.

And maybe I won’t be so hungry all the time.

On the other hand, I’m feeling, if not good, at least better than I have in months, and back to doing most of my sleeping at night and in bed. And I’m hoping to be back on my bike in time for Bike Week next month.

Although all most of my bikewear now falls off my overly skinny ass. So if any bike shops or manufacturers want to trade some smaller kits for an ad on here, let me know.

As for the long-term, my doctor says my chances of overcoming this are somewhere south of zero. Which means, at best, a lifetime of glucose monitoring and watching what I eat; at worst, the same insulin dependency my mother lived with until the day she died.

But it is a manageable condition. And something I can live it.

Which is good, since I may not have any choice.

One thing bicycling has taught me, though, is that I can do anything I set my mind to. Whether it’s getting up that hill or somehow pedaling back home when I’m too exhausted to turn the crank another time.

So I will be back on my bike. If not now, then soon. And riding at the same level I always have. If not better.

And if this can be beaten, I will.

If not, it sure as hell isn’t going to beat me.

 

34 comments

  1. Richard says:

    Well, to paraphrase you, that does indeed suck. I know a thing or two about genetics myself; I inherited high cholesterol from my father. Despite diet and exercise, it consistently hovers around the 200 mark.
    Best of luck to you in coping with diabetes, hopefully you’ll be back on the bike sooner rather than later.

  2. Ed Rubinstein says:

    If you have not been in contact with Phil Southerland at Team Type 1 Team Novoondrdisk you ought to immediately.

    One of the fastest guys in my cycling club rides a single speed and has an infusion pump. He woops my butt on my 30 spd Merlin.

    Good luck to you

  3. Calla Wiemer says:

    Take care, Ted. We need you.
    Calla

  4. Moore says:

    You’re such an outlier, I have confidence you’ll find a way to get on top of this thing. As someone who was born with a “chronic manageable condition” I concur that it sucks to have to deal with it every day, all day long. BUT even I have moments (after 43 years) where it occupies none of my thoughts. Good luck on your path (and reuniting with your missing derrière).

  5. Take care of yourself Ted. You are needed more than you know right now. And I question that diagnosis if only for the fact that your sugars are high while your energy levels are low. That says some other metabolic disorder rather than diabetes IOW your cells are not processing the sugars you make. But I’m just a witch posting on a web site, IANAD.

  6. Janice in GA says:

    Life is such a crap-shoot sometimes. But know what’s going on is the first step to getting a handle on it, and taking care of yourself.

    Best wishes for the best possible outcome!

  7. Frank Peters says:

    Sorry to hear this, Ted.

  8. Constance says:

    Sorry Ted, it is quite an adjustment to make. Even a grieving period for our lost, careless youth. Now we must pay attention, and it sucks. Metformin may do the job for you, along with a careful diet. Exercise, especially walking fast, actually acts as medicine, burning sugar off after meals. Short bike rides until you get good at this…

    I got diagnosed 3 years ago. The high sugar and low energy is common because the cells can’t use the sugar.

  9. John says:

    Like a number of comments, I too share a condition my mother had. It did not trigger until my early 50’s. That’s why it’s important to do the things we love. Sometime our hands are fully dealt at birth and sometimes, like stud poker, father time deals us our hand over the years. We’re still in the game. I don’t plan to fold and I know you don’t.

  10. John Lloyd says:

    Hang in there, Ted.

  11. Oh my, Ted. Yes, you are indeed an outlier. I never would suspect you would fall victim to T2. Is it what some people call T1.5?

    Good luck, man. I’ve got your back on this.

  12. Best to you, Ted. Tough breaks, but you seem to be hardly daunted. Hope you can get back on the bicycle soon.

  13. […] this unfortunate news from Ted. Today’s post, in which I win the genetic lottery, or why you haven’t seen me on my bike — or a… I don’t like the symptoms Ted is reporting, low energy and high blood sugar are tripping my […]

  14. Michael says:

    You have a good attitude about it all Ted. I am sure it will serve you well as you work through how best to deal with the disease. Hope to see you back on the bike soon.

  15. Mariah says:

    I’m a type 1 [insulin dependent] and I find the ups and downs really take it out of me. If you can get a continuous glucose monitor like the Dexcom G4, do it. The level of blood sugar control you can obtain with one is ridiculous. I used one for several months but was unable to keep up with the cost of yet another monthly Rx copay. With a CGM you can really track what affects your levels. A CGM will also allow you to ride with confidence that you’re not going to bottom out or spike high on a ride. After a while you’ll know when you’ll be feeling great for a good 30 mile ride.

    One other note, watch out for depression. I too hit the ground running when I was diagnosed, it wasn’t but 6 months before it hit me hard. Take all the support and help you can get before you really need it.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks for that warning. I have to admit I’ve already struggled with depression over this, as well as a lot of anger that it happened to me after being told so long that it wouldn’t.

      I’ll make a point of keeping on top of my emotional state going forward.

  16. patrick says:

    Ted,
    Those who know you can be confident you will beat this and be back on the road real soon.

  17. BikingBrian says:

    So sorry to hear, but the good news is that the disease can be managed. I have loved ones with diabetes, and I helped with yesterday’s Tour de Cure in Long Beach for the “Red Riders” like them and yourself!

  18. Rick Risemberg says:

    Hang in there, Ted. I’ve know a few folks with type 1, and they’ve led good lives. One is a violinist in a symphony orchestra, whose had diabetes since birth, I believe. Exercise helps, as you well know, of course. Hope to see you on the road soon!

  19. Tom Kohn says:

    Well that really does suck.

    But the knowledge is now a part of your arsenal. Strategies to beat the diabetes will also be strategies to return to the bike. As Lou Grant says, “You have pluck.” I don’t, and I know you don’t, hate pluck.

    Best of pluck,
    Tom

  20. grrlyrida says:

    Good luck, Ted. I know how difficult it can be living with a chronic condition. I hope you come to a balance where you’re managing the condition and it’s not managing you. I hope to see you back on your bike soon.

  21. billdsd says:

    That sucks. Sometimes, even when you do everything right, you still lose.

    Take care of yourself. Do what your doctor tells you. Best wishes.

  22. JD says:

    Welcome to the gang. It hit me similarly around 10 years ago. I lost power and weight, pedaled my a** off also; tried herbs, medicine, you name it. Avoiding shots so far. Keep posting your progress, you can encourage many to hang in there, you are not alone. Praying for your healing, to thwart complications, and for your continued happiness, which is by far the best medicine.

  23. Taffygrrl says:

    I’m really sorry to hear that. You clearly did all the right things. There is literally nothing else you could have done to prevent this. I am sorry that your hard work did not prevent this diagnosis.

    As someone with another chronic-but-manageable condition, I will say that once you lock in on how to manage it, it just becomes part of your routine. I don’t exactly forget I have it (since it is part of my daily routine), but it’s not a focus of my mental energy. My condition is only a tiny part of who I am.

  24. D. D. Syrdal says:

    Wow, so sorry to hear this, but I’m glad you’re getting on top of it and feeling better. Hope you’re back in the saddle soon.

  25. bikinginla says:

    Thank you all for your kind words. I’m totally blown away by the support I’ve received over the past two days, especially from those who struggle with illness of their own; I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate the advice.

    The kindness and caring of the bicycling community, and the people who follow this site, never ceases to amaze me.

    You all rock. Seriously.

  26. Mark Elliot says:

    Just catching up on links, Ted. Sorry to hear about the challenge, but glad you’re facing it head-on. For us middle-age riders, it’s not just a heads-up but a prompt. Decreasing muscle mass? Check. Dearth of energy, especially in the AM, when early rides were once a pleasure? Check. Does a cup of tea sound better some days than a ride? Check. I’m with ya. A few weeks ago I went off wheat. Love the carbs, but yeah, they come back like a boomerang later in life.

    You’ll get the diet in check soon, I’m sure, and like we all will, you’ll live within your limits. And when you’re ready to ride, perhaps off your early-years race pace, you’ll still enjoy the visceral rewards of two-wheeling with Santa Ana winds, early summer sunrises and gentle evenings that stretch into eternity. I’m sure that over time those limits will stretch, as does our perspective on life change.

  27. Yay! Spam, spam is so tasty I could eat it once a day every week. :P

  28. joloje says:

    Your best chance for normalizing your blood sugar is to get on insulin. Research “Lantus”, a once-a-day extended release insulin. I was on it for 6 months and now my levels are in the pre-diabetic range without any meds or insulin at all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

eight − four =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

%d bloggers like this: