Friday, February 24, 2012
From stories that I've read and from my own personal experience, when many people are first diagnosed with diabetes, their doctor usually hands them a prescription for metformin and tells them good luck. For anyone who remembers the old TV show The Greatest American Hero, it ain't so much the supersuit that's important as it is the instruction manual. Unfortunately, doctors don't seem to have diabetes instructional manuals on hand at diagnosis.
While waiting at the pharmacy to have the aforementioned metformin prescription filled, I happened upon the Diabetes Health Journal for sale and decided to see what information I might glean from it. It wasn't too bad of a jumping-off point. The book featured a wide variety of topics of interest to diabetics, as well as recipes (which I've included the results of here in previous blog posts) and a handy way to monitor glucose results. I read it from cover to cover to try to learn as much about this disease I now had as possible. While not specifically tailored to Type 2 diabetics, it had enough information about diabetes in general that I felt somewhat better prepared to deal with any issues that might arise than I did when I left the doctor's office.
Much of my continued learning was achieved online -- whether looking up answers for specific issues through a search engine or finding advice and comment in an online forum. On the discussion boards of the American Diabetes Association, I found a number of people advocating a book called The First Year -- Type 2 Diabetes: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed by Gretchen Becker. I saw that it was available at one of my local libraries and recently checked it out to read.
The book is sort of that missing instruction manual that I wished might have been given to me when I was first diagnosed. Chapters are broken down for each of the first 7 days of diagnosis followed by ones detailing the first weeks through the first month and then monthly through the advertised first year. Each chapter features a "Living Section," which highlights a particular issue that a newly diagnosed diabetic might be experiencing (or feeling) at that particular moment followed by a "Learning Section" that goes into more details about the science of the disease.
What I like most about the book is that it is authored by a "patient-expert," which means that Ms. Becker has walked in my footsteps and understands well how the disease affects people personally rather than just being a clinical study of tests that have been conducted or of outside observations made of diabetics. I hate to suggest that someone couldn't write an equally good book without having experienced the disease first-hand but I think it helps that she has walked in our moccasins, so to speak. Becker's tone, even when dealing with the more in-depth "Learning Section," tends to be somewhat conversational and relatable. It is not a heavy book, thankfully.
Perhaps the hardest thing to in evaluating this book is that I read it over the course of a couple of weeks just after my ninth month of diagnosis. It was not a step-by-step guide for me in the sense that I wasn't reading a chapter a day for the first week and then picking it up at various intervals afterward. But the stuff I knew was great to have as a refresher course and the stuff I didn't know is important to know at any stage of the disease.
There is also somewhat of a chicken-or-the-egg issue going on with the book. Becker had found a lot of support and information from the online diabetes community (even sharing some of their stories throughout) and there are lots of references to things that I've read on the various discussion boards these past 10 months. I'm not sure whether stuff like YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) came from Becker and has been used by participants of the boards or whether that term and advice were taken from the boards and included in the book. Not that it really matters that much in the grand scheme of things but there are a number of references that can be found in both sources. So much of what I read in the book, I had already read online. Although, that said, there are enough universal thoughts about the disease that I found things that I've alluded to in the book as well and I know Becker didn't get them from me, nor I from her.
I have a much better understanding of diabetes as it relates to me after reading the book. There are a number of things that made me go, "I get it now" or "That makes sense to me." After reading this book and looking at some of my labs, I have a clearer picture of what's going on in my body, with the food that I eat, exercise that I take and how it all relates to one another. For anyone who is looking to take a proactive approach to their diabetes management, this is a good book to read.
I noticed that there is a second, updated version of The First Year available. I'm thinking about buying it and seeing how much has changed. New drugs have been introduced. New ideas and thoughts have emerged from the medical community. And Internet resources that were referenced have grown and changed. Not only am I interested in seeing the updated version for the sake of updates but I also feel like the book is a good one to keep around for reference. If something new pops up or how I approach my diabetes management has to change, it would be good to have this book readily available to see what it might all mean.