How did you discover you had diabetes?
It was my heart specialist who got on to it about four years ago. My GP suggested I was a borderline diabetic but my specialist said, ‘A woman is either pregnant or she is not. You’re not borderline – you have diabetes.’ So I went back to my GP and he put me on tablets. There’s no diabetes in my family, so I was surprised. I’ve never been obese and we only eat proper food – no junk food. I might have a bit of a beer tummy but I’ve got that down lately. The medication seemed to make a difference. I got my own blood glucose meter and I use it to jab myself and test my blood sugars every morning before brekkie. I don’t remember how high it was before the medication, but on the tablets it was always around five (normal is between about 4 and 8mmol/L) and my doctor seemed happy with the change.
When did you get told you no longer needed medication?
I had to go to hospital recently because I had a fluid build-up, which was very uncomfortable. They decided to take me off the diabetes tablets then, which surprised me. I thought maybe I didn’t have diabetes anymore but my GP said I still did. I still have to test my blood sugars every morning and they’re still always around five, which is good.
Do you think losing your beer tummy made a difference?
I used to be a shocker at having a few beers. It was nothing to go and have six beers after work. That was many years ago. Now, I walk down to the clubhouse here at the retirement village a couple of nights a week and we play snooker and have a couple of drinks, but I only have three stubbies at the most. I think cutting back has helped.
Did you change anything about your diet?
I have smaller meals now, since the diagnosis. I used to be a big eater but I’m not doing any physical work now, so I don’t need as much food. My wife, Lois, cooks all our meals. We met 60 years ago, which is a long time over the breakfast table. I love a roast leg of mutton with gravy and mint sauce, or cold with hot vegies. Lois cooks us silverbeet, mashed potato, pumpkin, carrot and broccoli. When we have visitors she makes a lemon delicious pudding – that is beautiful – or dumplings. Our main meal is at night, so at lunch we just have a sandwich and for breakfast we have cereal.
Do you have a sweet tooth?
Not really. I avoid sugar as much as I can. I have imitation sugar, which is supposed to be alright for people with diabetes. But I only have it on my cereal, not in my tea.
I was a shocker when I was a kid. I’d run down to the corner store and buy lollies all the time. Now the sweets can sit on the table here and I just look at them – and that’s okay!
How active are you now?
I can’t do anything strenuous anymore. About six years ago I had a major heart attack and I’m now battling on with only 25 per cent of my heart working. They say I’ve got heart failure but my heart has kept going, which is good. I take about 12 tablets
for it, to keep me alive. I do try to get out in the garden at times and dig a hole, but I get half way there and have to give it away. I do exercises. I go to rehab at the hospital and I have an exercise machine at home that gets your limbs moving. I do that twice a day. Doing exercises has made me stronger. At one stage I was finding it hard to walk but now I can walk no worries. If my wife and I go shopping I have to troop along. I walk a bit then. The only time I get to stop is when she is going through the clothes racks!
By Heather Wiseman