Trying to Remember What Happened Leading Up to the Day I was Diagnosed Type 2 Diabetic (Originally Posted Aug. 27, 2019)

(Oct. 23, 2020 – I’m looking back over some old posts, fleshing them out, and reposting. I hope this story helps someone.)

Leading up to diagnosis of my diabetes, I felt like hell. I’m going to try and reconstruct what I was doing and thinking back in March when things led up to going to the hospital. These are from some web history logs that gave me a clue about the timeline.

March 5, 2019 – diet log says 240lbs. I started using PoundAWeek, again, to lose weight. I think had used PoundAWeek a couple years before to undertake a reduced-calorie diet. I wasn’t aware it was a “keto” app, with macros, so I was just ignoring that. Prior to that, I’d used the SparkPeople website and purchased their app in 2013. At that time, I was around 235 pounds, and tried a reduced calorie diet. I believe that I had a pre-diabetes diagnosis at the time, and didn’t really understand what that meant, but I did try to stop gaining weight. In that, I actually succeeded, and I think I did reduce my weight into the 220 pound range.

March 15 – likely day that I ate box of croutons from Mr. Baguette on Atlantic. I recall this caused me to be thirsty the next day. By this time, I was feeling a little weird. I was feeling hungry from the diet, and my carbs were going up and down. I was also using the Poundaweek food diary app to record intake, and was cutting calories down to around 1400 a day.

My strategy was simple: cut fat and starches. They have the most energy with the least protein, so reducing those would reduce calories quickly. My calorie budget still had some slack in it, so I ate the croutons. They were delicious!

March 20 – search for Dark Twix on FB marketplace. Rosa was selling these, so I searched for them. I also bought some from her and ate them but not sure when. I think I ate them on a Sunday, possibly the 17th, or the 24th. 17th is more likely.

March 20 – search for sweet urine diabetes – I had tasted my urine and it was sweet. Search for symptom of diabetes in men, for diabetes kidney damage

March 22, 2019 – search for diabetes black spots in toilet – I saw some of these and wondered. I also did a bunch of other searches related to diabetes and ketosis. Searched for causes of sweet smelling urine – I had this symptom. Searched for exercises to burn glucose.

For several months in the mid 2000s, I think 2008, I had lived with my friend Matt, who was a type 2 diabetic. He had this nasty mold problem in his bathroom. Mildew was growing on top of soap scum. One day, I offered to clean it in exchange for some money. I know, you’re not supposed to charge friends for this kind of thing, but it was serious: spots were on the ceiling, toilet seat, in the bowl, and all over the tub and on the glass door.

It was nasty, and I recall that I had to use a credit card to scrape the gunk off, and then scoop it into the trash. I also recall that I had bought a bunch of cleaning supplies: bleach, a spray bottle, a sponge, a bucket, a brush, gloves, goggles, detergent, CLR, Scrubbing Bubbles, etc. (I still have some of this.) The dude had almost nothing to clean the bathroom.

The project didn’t take that long, maybe four hours in total, but it was a real job, ceiling to floor, with breaks to wait for chlorine bleach to dissipate. When it was done, it was sparkling, and even the glass was pretty clean. Most of the mildew on the caulking strips was also cleaned.

People had told me, before, that the black mold was due to sugars that diabetic people leak out. I tried to figure out how that worked, and never did, but it was one of those things you just remember.

March 22, 2019 – search for symptoms of ketosis – I was feeling crappy at this time, and thinking I might be in ketosis.

March 23, 2019 – I went to the Chinatown tenant rights demonstration. I went there by train, and got off at Chinatown station, which now opened up into a fancy condo or apartment comples. I remember feeling sick, drinking a lot of water, and having my “emergency banana” because I feared DKA. I got across C-Town, to Yale St. and turned left. I recall feeling better as I walked and ate the banana. I was trying to dilute the ketones, and circulate my blood, and also trying to end the ketosis. I was also, by eating the banana, unwittingly taking in potassium to relieve my pain.

I walked down Yale, past the temple, then the library, and up the hill to Cesar Chavez (aka Macy St.). I was kind of spaced out, and someone else headed to the demo said “hi” from their car, but I don’t recall what they asked, or if I asked for directions.

I also recall one other behavior: I was trying to hyperventilate. I’d read that one of the treatments for DKA was sodium bicarbonate, and that the body naturally tried to hyperventilate during DKA, because that will cause production of bicarbonate.

I hung a right onto CC to walk toward the demo, which I thought was on CC, but turned out to be up on Hill, at Hillside Villa, a big complex. By this time, I was feeling a lot better, but still not “good”. Being lost was extra baffling.

At the demo, I ran in to a few people I knew, but basically felt tired, sick, and not very social. Here’s a photo from the march after the demonstration. I also remember tweeting about this, trying to get some hearts from the people at the Bernie Sanders rally happening over the hill at the park across from City Hall.

March 23, 2019 – searched for back pain at sides. I had some back pain happening. Searched for symptoms of kidney inflammation.

Months later, in December 2019, I would learn that I had fatty liver and some cysts in my kidneys. That was probably the cause of the pain, but I had no idea, and the doctors said it was probably a muscular pain. According to some websites I read, the liver has no nerves, but the tissue around it might feel something due to stretching. Kidney cysts can also cause pain. (Thankfully, as of October 2020, the pain has mostly abated.)

March 24, 2019 – searched for CVS glucose test strips. I wanted to get them to test BG. However, I never found them. I got the keto test strips instead. (Matt had suggested getting urine test strips.) CVS receipt from 24th shows I bought a 100 pack at Garvey CVS.

This is the same Matt with the mold problem. I’d been driving Matt to his dialysis appointments since around October 2018. He called me out of the blue to ask if I could do it.

I’d been dealing with my mom’s health issues, making some money selling things on Ebay, and just trying to gig from home, so I was available. He was willing to pay, so I became his “Uber” or “Lyft”, and he paid me. (It wasn’t that much money, because it was a split shift, and it was hard to find a place to work between them.)

We went way back, and had been friends since high school, and knew each other from intermediate school. It was fun to hang out, even if the situation wasn’t the best. He’d been on dialysis for five years, having damaged his kidneys from a lot of things, but mainly uncontrolled diabetes.

As I went through this crappy feeling, he said it might be diabetes, and I should get tested. He didn’t have test strips, because the dialysis had fixed his blood sugar; he’d also been on a restrictive diet because his mother was cooking his food.

Matt suggested getting glucose test strips for urine. After one of his dialysis sessions, probably days before this, we went to the CVS on Las Tunas and San Gabriel, to look for them. Unfortunately, they didn’t sell these anywhere, anymore, because everyone’s got the meters.

He was asking the pharmacist about getting a CGM, because his insurance wouldn’t cover that. I was thinking of getting ketone strips, but did not.

A few years before that night, I think in 2015, I had purchased ketone test strips, because I was working on a tracking web app, and needed some experience with self-metering. Ketone strips were the only thing available that didn’t involve poking myself with a needle, something I had a fear of back then.

So I got them, and learned about ketones, and ketosis, and all that. I tried to induce ketosis, and pretty much failed, because I didn’t really understand the process. This was a couple years before “keto” became well known, though my boss/partner was checking out the Bulletproof Diet.

So, I figured if this was diabetes, and I was on a diet, I might go into ketosis. That might or might not be a bad thing, but it would be a thing. If it happened, I wouldn’t want the ketones to go too high.

March 25, 2019 – went to DPSS to apply for Medi-Cal. I did this between the morning and evening drives, so it was on a Monday. Because I hadn’t been working, I didn’t have insurance.

It’s actually not that simple: I had ACA, but got kicked off for lack of income, and shunted to Medi-Cal. Then I made more money, and got put in line to get ACA. So I got bounced around automatically a couple times, and never completed it, and just gave up. I’d hoarded a lot of pills, so, was set for a while. I also figured on using pay as you go urgent care, and Mexican pharmacies to get prescriptions.

This time, though, I decided I’d push through with Medi-Cal, and then if I had to pay out of pocket due to excessive income, I’d just pay it.

March 26 or 27, 2019 – got blood tested on my friend Claudia’s machine. Probably the 26th. 230 mg/dL. Weight was 236 lbs. So I had lost a few pounds in a few weeks. After this, weight loss would be pretty fast.

Prior to this, I remember feeling like hell. I was driving over, I think, to do some errand. I’d been staying at my mom’s a lot more because we suffered a flood, and my room and restroom had gotten wet with dirty water from upstairs. I was driving and feeling queasy.

I figured my carbs were low, and I was in ketosis. By this time, I’d been using the strips and saw my ketones rise. Eating carbs would stop ketosis, so, I went to the drive-through taco stand, Sam’s, to get a taco. The Carnitas Michoacan #3 24 Hour Tacos had closed up, because the landlord wanted a Panda Express there, and this was it’s sister operation. The taco was good. It was my first taco from there, because previously, the only reason to go there was for hot dogs.

March 27, 2019 – diagnosis day. Went to urgent care at General Hospital, and my reading was over 230 mg/dl. That satisfies one of the criteria for type 2: a reading above 200 mg/dl or above. My urine test had glucose 100mg/dl, and ketones 15mg/dl. They gave me a meter and strips, and a prescription for metformin 500mg 2x a day.

Being an experienced type 2 diabetic, Matt reassured me that I shouldn’t get depressed. The disease progresses slowly. He had been diagnosed at 20 years old, and basically didn’t take care of himself. He got tired of shooting insulin, so he stopped. He wanted to party and drink, so he did that. The disease progressed for thirty years. Along the way, he got all kinds of conditions related to type 2 diabetes.

Every once in a while, I’d get a call from him, asking for help of some kind. One time, it was to buy special shoes in Whittier, because he’d gotten Charcot foot, a condition were you crack your foot bones, because you cannot feel your feet.

You can’t feel your feet because of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, which is a common condition among diabetics. The circulation to the fingers and toes gets worse, and the nerves get damaged.

He’d been wearing cheap shoes, and they were too tight. Those shoes ended up breaking his foot bones. The fix was to wear a big boot for a month while it healed up.

Yet another time, he needed a ride, because he couldn’t see well. I think his retina had detached a little bit. Again, this was caused by high blood sugar.

So, I drove him. I found myself doing this whenever he needed a long ride, at night, because his night vision was really bad. I guess that’s how we kept in touch for a while, driving around.