What I’m about to write is not a smug boast whereby I claim to be anything other than the ‘old fool’ I know I am. I am aware I am no paragon of virtue – nor would I ever wish to be. Today I shall drop the satire and write of illness hopefully in a positive way. You see it is almost 11 years to the day since a ‘got’ Type 2 Diabetes. A milestone that maybe any person reading this may see a glint of light at the end of the tunnel if they ever find themselves in the position I was in a back then.
I keep reading, or hearing in the media that the UK is sitting on a diabetes ‘Type 2’ time bomb. Apparently there are millions of people out there who don’t yet know they’ve got it (because the symptoms haven’t yet kicked in) on top of those already diagnosed. Ten years ago my symptoms unveiled themselves in their full glory – I can say from experiencing them that those symptoms are not pleasant at all. After a few years of eating like a pig and drinking like a fish whilst sat in a chair all day trying to earn a decent crust my weight shot up to 19 stone 9 pounds and lo it happened! Being fat and middle-aged puts one in the frame when it comes to diabetes. The thing is getting ‘Type 2’ was probably the best thing that has happened to me simply because it has made me change my ways.
Right now, I am what Shirley, my wife, refers to as an FFB – an abbreviation for ‘Former Fat Bastard’. We tend to abbreviate many things – I have been known to leave a note on her pillow saying that I fancy a JGS, but I will let you work that one out!
Type 2 diabetes is an odious thing to have at the point the full body of its symptoms manifests themselves. I had, in the few years prior to getting actually sick, been feeling really tired all the time – which I put down to overwork. It was only when I started pissing for England and got ‘stop you mid stride’ blinding headaches as my all too sugary blood curdled and thickened giving my veins a tortuous expansion that I got diagnosed. The fact that I was peeing all the time made me, for a good year of my life, something of a recluse – almost agoraphobic. I still am a bit agoraphobic – that scar diminishes but does not fully heal. I remember one time when out and about with Shirley I had to stop a dozen times in quick succession to pee. It was all rather embarrassing really, especially so when trying to purchase a pair of jeans and having to use the staff loo in the store for three particularly urgent visitations. My worst day was when I managed 27 pees – yes, I did count them! Oh yes, the spots and ugly sores about my face – they were a joy I can tell you! Also, my blood pressure and cholesterol levels went through the roof, and although I never once took time off running our business – I was, subjectively at least, very ill. I don’t know how I got through each day back then.
Taking medical advice back in early 2003 I went on a diet and coupled that with exercise to the extent that in just 5 months I lost 7 stone 7 pounds bringing me down to an acceptable 12 stone 2 pounds which I kept stable for the next 10 years. However, as of this very morning I have weighed in at 11 stone 6 pounds – exactly 1 pound lighter than I was at 21 years.
For once common sense prevailed and I took heed of my doctor’s advice. I took the literal view of that sound advice and followed it to the letter. Without taking pills and potions I went on a diet; purchased a cross-trainer and got fit. Getting to the mid nineteen stones was no mean feat. I had, as many ageing juveniles do, given up all forms of sport. I used to play a lot of squash and cricket, but felt time was catching up on me. With the business running successfully, even though it was hard work keeping it thus, I found we had money to spare most of the time. We therefore ate well. Too well in fact. I became a great meat eater. If a steak did not hang over the sides of my plate I thought I had been short-changed. Shirley heralds from Devon yet had moved away years earlier. In 1997, with me very taken with the place we decided to move to the there. I discovered a passion for pasties and anything with clotted cream. Early evening most nights of the week were spent in the pub. It was not unusual for me to come home from the pub, already lashed up with several pints of real ale, and knock back at least one bottle of red (sometimes two) before bedtime.
Then, a year before the diabetes kicked in I gave up smoking. In an attempt to overcome my nicotine addiction I ate and ate – crisps, savoury biscuits, indeed just about anything that would take my mind off fags. Throughout the whole time I was not smoking I wanted a fag so badly. And I do mean, really badly. If offered a night of unbridled exploration of all things carnal in the company of a Polynesian princess or a Marlboro cigarette, I would, without hesitation, have taken the fag anytime. I must be one of the few people who got ill giving up smoking.
That is all history now, and, in most respects, I am glad I became diabetic. The way I chose to rid myself of excess weight was to go onto – for the sake of satisfying the curiosity of any interested reader – a complex carbohydrate, vegetarian whole food diet. I was also told to forego any caffeine. I remain on that diet to this day and could never again look at a piece of meat (or for that matter fish) on my plate and certainly I could never again consider eating it. As Paul McCartney says, “If it’s got a face I don’t eat it,” and that’ll do for me. These days I find that I have swapped a passion for eating food, for a passion for food itself. Also, there is that daily exercise routine. Seven days a week, each and every day (Christmas included) I cross-train – headphones on and invariably listening to the thought inducing music of Leonard Cohen – a minimum of twelve kilometres on a stern setting. Again for any of the curious uninitiated, the pounding away on the cross-trainer serves not just to stabilise my weight but also to burn off any excess sugar in my blood. It really does work. Once you get over the panic of being ill it inevitably gets you thinking clearly about mortality and such like. I became a better person, intellectually, morally and for a devout atheist, spiritually. Insofar as I understand it you never get to lose the diabetes once you have it and that fact alone prompts me to always keep it in check.
It is great buying clothes not having to sneak to the checkout trying to keep out of the sight of others the XXXL sizes I used to have to buy. In short I got a bit of pride back. I still smoke those accursed tabs, yet nowhere near the extent that I used to. I really should find a way of giving the bloody things up. Accepting that I might walk under a bus any time, at least I can say that I’ve felt well since I stopped being an ‘FB’ and therefore remain grateful I got ill in the first place!
The pictures posted are of ‘then’ and ‘now,’ or as Shirley might say, of the time when I was an ‘FB’ to the present time when I am a ‘FFB.’ I find it hard to believe my son ever allowed me to pose with him for the shot at his Metropolitan Police passing out parade in Hendon back then – just a couple of weeks before it all went horribly wrong!