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.

a1c-levels1

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.

shoes

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.

canday

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.