old bike. old guy.

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My giant purple butt.

When I finished up with my Army-sponsored field trip of Bavaria and was getting ready to return to Athens, I got myself a present: a new mountain bike for riding between my apartment at West State and Shaffer and OU’s campus.

I’ve never done much actual mountain biking, but my 26-year-old purple Giant Butte (known at my local bike shop at the Giant Purple Butt) continues to be reliable. It’s mostly for recreation these days, but I appreciate the fact that the creaky old guy and his creaky old bike still have many miles left.

Both of us creaky oldsters are riding on Sunday, but not strictly for pleasure. We’re participating in the 16-mile portion of the Tour De Cure Pittsburgh, a ride to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. The ride takes place outside of Butler, on the hilly roads between the Big Butler Fairgrounds and Lake Arthur Country Club.

You guys know already that I have type 2 diabetes; that’s not really why I’m A) riding or B) asking you for a donation. I’m riding because this year is different. None of us has any idea what health insurance policy will look like by the end of this year, but there’s an excellent chance that me and my fellow diabetics could be facing the restoration of coverage limits, of premiums that jump because of our preexisting condition … or maybe being denied coverage altogether. And the potential scope of the problem — 30 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes and another 86 million have been identified as pre-diabetic — is horrifying.

What’s the solution? A better option than waiting on the 2018 midterm elections is to find better treatment options right now. To better educate people about the disease, its causes and how the risk can be mitigated right now. To find a cure … right now.

I don’t want to leave these problems in the hands of people to whom they are abstract policy bullet points. So I’m asking you to donate — right now. Click here to get to my donor page; you’ll need just a couple minutes and a couple bucks to help solve this problem for ourselves.

And me and my creaky, old Giant Purple Butt will be honored to ride on Sunday on your behalf. Thanks.

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take the ride.

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You guys will recall that I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes two summers ago.

You may also recall that I wasn’t especially happy about it.

Since then, it’s been kind of a struggle. I did really well early on, but recently I’ve been a bit lazy, especially about running … even though it was a big reason why my A1C dropped a bunch from my initial test to my second one.

Recently, though, I’ve discovered a new motivation for getting back to the things I was doing well in the first year after my diagnosis. And that motivation is coming from Congress.

Yes. Really. Let me explain.

I am fortunate. I have pretty good health insurance. The deductibles are higher than I would like, but overall, the coverage has been excellent, particularly for someone with a chronic condition like mine. Prescription coverage in particular has been helpful. I pick up a mess of pills, insulin, needles and other fun stuff every month; if not for my insurance, I would have quickly gone broke trying to keep up.

This isn’t the case for everyone. My coverage is a luxury, and those who have a more bare bones insurance policy might struggle to keep up. And depending on what happens in Washington this summer, that problem might become even bigger. If health insurance “reform” is adopted in its current form, 22 million people who are currently covered would lose their insurance. And if any of those folks are paying for the same Lantus, the same Metformin, the same Farxiga and the same testing supplies I’m paying for, they’re going to be in trouble.

Potentially, it gets worse. The House version of the bill would end requirements that those with preexisting conditions must be covered without penalty. That means an insurance company could, for example, double or triple my premiums because I have diabetes; it also means they could just flat out drop me.

And that’s just me. The American Diabetes Association estimates that there are nearly 30 million people — adults and kids — in this country who have diabetes. Another 86 million have been identified as pre-diabetic. If a good share of those people see their premiums skyrocket — or if they lose their coverage altogether — we’ll have a full-blown crisis on our hands.

Obviously, there is a political discussion to be had here, but I’m more concerned with what I can do now, outside of whatever happens with the various health-care bills in Washington. And what I can do now is raise a little money. I can contribute to efforts that will educate people about what diabetes is and how it can be prevented. I can help ensure that treatment methods are effective and efficient.

And I can help fund research that eventually will find a cure.

On July 23, I’m going on a bike ride with Tour de Cure Pittsburgh, on a course just a bit north of Butler. I’m taking the short ride, the 15-miler, mostly because I used to live there and I know exactly how hilly that part of Butler County is:

cure ride
Check out the elevation graph. Ouch.
Not a super long ride. But trust me, I’ll earn whatever money you decide to throw my way.

See how I snuck that pitch in there? Heh.

I need your help. I have to raise $200 to be able to participate in the ride. I think I can do that without much trouble, but I’d really like to double that total. And do it before July 23, which is not quite a month away. And if you have a few dollars to spare — and a minute or so as well — you can help me reach that goal by visiting here.

Remember — this isn’t for me. I’m doing OK. This is to make sure that the millions of people who have diabetes have the access to treatments they need. It’s to help others understand what they can do to avoid getting it in the first place. And, at some point soon, it will be to develop a way to fix it once and for all.

Again, please click here to donate. And thank you. <3

15. numbers.

Know what glycated hemoglobin is?

That’s OK. Until the end of August, I didn’t either.

Here’s an explanation that will mean nothing to most of you. It’s a measurement, by percentage, of hemoglobin — a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen — that’s coated by sugar.

A little bit of sugar-coated hemoglobin isn’t a bad thing. It’s expected. But as those levels build, it’s an indication that your body is struggling to produce enough insulin to metabolize sugars produced from carbohydrates … and bang, you have diabetes.

I became aware of A1C levels and tests at about the same time that New Doc did — after she noticed elevated glucose levels in my first blood tests. She initially said that I should expect a diagnosis of prediabetes, which would mean I have to be careful and do some things to bring down my sugar levels.

But the first A1C test revealed something different. It came in at 10.2.

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Check that number on the handy chart above.

OK, it’s not that bad. But it’s pretty bad. And it set off alarms for New Doc right away … and that set me on a path that has changed my diet, my exercise habits and much of everything else in my life.

Here’s the thing about A1C — it’s the best measure of blood sugar levels because it’s not subject to the hourly ups and downs you see, even in you non-diabetic types. The sugars that attach to the hemoglobin tend to cycle through your body completely in three-ish months, so an A1C test every three months or so is a good way to track your progress without the hourly sugar spikes.

I had an appointment with my endocrinologist last night. She was excited about my glucose-level averages and she didn’t want to wait any longer to get a new A1C reading … because she thought it would have improved significantly. So, after talking with her, I walked down to the lab and got a new blood test.

The results? My new A1C level was 7.1 percent.

If you take another look at that chart, you’ll see that I’m not quite ready to start eating ice cream for dinner again. But my medical team — I have a medical team! — is pretty excited about the drop, considering that it took place in just three months. It means I’ve figured out how to eat what my body can properly (sort of) metabolize (with the help of meds and a daily insulin injection).

And it means that if I can continue my progress, I’ll be a candidate to manage my diabeetus with diet and exercise … and without insulin.

And that would make me a happy guy. And it would mean all the label reading — and the associated frustration — has been worth it.

5. run for your life.

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I started running in October 2011. And I got to the point where I craved. it.

It was important back then. I was a 45-year-old fat guy, working a stressful job and hoping against hope that my family’s medical history — heart issues, diabetes, hypertension — wouldn’t catch up with me for a while.

And it worked. I got through the three-month buildup and successfully completed my first 5K, the annual Jingle Bell run on the North Shore. And I lost weight from a peak of something north of 260 the summer before, down to 240 before the end of the year.

I kept going because I was enjoying myself. I had to work on Christmas night that year, and instead of taking a nap I ran my own 5K along the North Shore Trail — and I still count that as the best run I’ve ever had. There were great Saturday morning runs in North Park all through the winter; those were my long runs to get ready for that spring’s Pittsburgh half.

All that work peaked about six weeks prior to the event, with an 8.5-mile run through the North Side and Downtown. Long-time UC readers may recall that one as The Run With The Bloody Nipples (and the reason why I still have a tube of Lansinoh in our bathroom closet); I remember it as the run when I hurt my groin. I didn’t really have time to rest before the race, but — as I learned while running a 10K while we visited my sister in April — running through it didn’t work so well either.

So. No half. I was crushed.

And I’ve never really come back consistently. I’ve done a few Pittsburgh Marathon 5Ks since then and I half-heartedly trained for the first EQT 10-Miler, which I managed to complete without dying only by the grace of Fred, who pretty much dragged me through the entire course.

But the on-again, off-again thing has been switched back on, thanks to the diabeetus. In other words, one of those things I was kind of worried about when I started back in 2011 had suddenly become very real.

Among the best things I can do to help manage the disease is to lose more weight, and I know from experience that I do that when I run. I’m not sure that I appreciate fear as a motivator this time around, but I’m also painfully aware (literally — the neuropathy is noticable if I sit on my ass too much) what the potential alternatives, one of which is, you know, dying.

But here’s the good part: The fear is diminishing. I’m getting to the point where I enjoy it again. I still have hard mornings, the one where I’m tired or resentful of the reason why I’m getting up at 5:45 a.m.

runrise

I’m going to keep pushing, though. That’s the only way I’m going to see sunrises like this one.

2. the wrong kind of crunch.

Free food. It’s a journalism tradition.

All summer long, stuff from the gardens of colleagues shows up at work. There are likely to be doughnuts on random mornings, just because someone was hungry for them. Fresh-baked cookies? Sure. Leftover stunt food that is to illustrate a cooking story or restaurant review? Yep. And there will be free pizza in the newsroom Tuesday night, for those, like me, who are working election night.

But outside of that special duty, this is generally one of the best weeks of the year, in my office and maybe in yours.

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Because that’s when people bring in their leftover Halloween candy.

Assorted mini Hershey bars. Reese’s Cups. Oh, man — Butterfingers. They’re pretty much everywhere, all week long.

And for the guy who just found out he has diabetes? You smile. And eat another carrot stick.

hi. wilford. nice to meet you.

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Old habits die hard. And I’m still a fan of the network evening news shows, something that have been a staple of my life since I was a kid.

When I was 10 and watching Walter Cronkite, I don’t think I paid much attention to the commercials and what they said about the demographics of the show’s audience (and in those days, when everyone watched, they probably didn’t say much).

These days, though, they’re hard to miss. Who’s watching NBC Nightly News? Old people. Who have diabetes.

Oh, hey. There’s an eye-opener.

As some of you know already, since the previous post, New Doc has confirmed her initial diagnosis of type II diabetes. I take Metformin morning and evening. I give myself insulin injections each night. I constantly think about how many grams of carbohydrates are in pretty much everything I put in my mouth. And I’ve already been told that more meds are likely.

I am one of those old people. Who have diabetes.

It’s not all awful. I’ve lost something like 15 pounds since New Doc and I first talked about this. That’s come from running and not-frequent-enough yoga sessions. Giving up pop. Eating less. Eating vegetarian when I can. And not drinking much at all.

I’ve also let the full beard come back and scheduled a sitting for a second tattoo. Trust me — these things are related.

The dietary restrictions aren’t as bad as I had expected. A discussion with an RN who specializes in treating diabetes was a huge relief; basically, nothing is off limits, as long as I’m mindful about daily intake of carbohydrates. The vegetarian stuff isn’t even necessary, although it will make weight loss easier and that’s the single best thing I can do to keep my sugar levels — and my occasional A1C readings — under control.

It’s the other stuff that’s harder. If I let myself dwell on what I shouldn’t do, it gets depressing. I’m not digging telling our friends what’s going on and seeing them look at me as though I am damaged. I’ve chucked the Chucks, for the most part — I need to take care of my feet, in both the diabetic sense and so I can continue running comfortably — and even though I know it’s a little thing, it feels like a pretty significant concession to age and the disease. And there’s the scary — and very real — possibility that I could do everything right – everything – and still lose a limb, or my sight, or my life.

And finally, there are those fucking Nightly News commercials. Maaaaan, I don’t want that to be me.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always handle this well. But when I’m able to step back for a second – when I can see that this doesn’t have to define who I am – I can accept what’s going on. It doesn’t seem as overwhelming as it did back in August. It might even be that I’m OK. Even for an old guy.