Back to the Beginning

“The problem is my diet. I know it is.” The thought repeated in my head over and over the morning of August 15. Something was wrong. I could not put my finger on it. But something was definitely wrong. My head started to feel numb. I was having difficulty typing an email. My thinking was clear. I just could not make my fingers type the words I wanted.

“You need to call Leslie. Call Leslie now. Dial her number. Dial her number. What is her number? 239. Dial 239.” Slowly My fingers worked to hit those three buttons on my telephone. I heard Leslie’s friendly voice. “Tell her you need her to come help. Talk to her!” I could not get the words out. I could not tell her what I wanted to tell her. The only thing that finally came out was “Please come to my office.“

In less than 20 seconds I heard Leslie’s footsteps approaching my office as she called out, “Am I in trouble?”

What an absurd question. I was not her boss. Was she joking? I could not tell. Nor could I answer. The only thing that came out of my mouth was a mumble.

“Ken?“ “Ken!?“ “Ken, what’s wrong?“

“I… Can’t… Work…“ The words coming out of my mouth did not represent the thoughts in my head. I was scared and I’m sure the fear showed on my face.

“Your blood sugar is low, isn’t it.”

I could not reply.

“I knew it was my diet. This crazy diet. That’s what people keep telling me. I knew I could not do this. This was all a big mistake. I will never be able to live a healthy life as a thin person.“ The typical, frustrating thoughts filled my head as they always did. I have the worst conversations with myself and and I was proving that today. I was scared. I knew it had to be my fault. How embarrassing. This whole thing is just a big joke.

I did not think to pray.

What were my daughters going to say? My eldest, Gabrielle was moving into to her new home at Oklahoma State University that morning. I had plans to have dinner with five-year-old Rhaylee that night. What was I going to tell her?

Soon my office filled up with five, loving, caring coworkers. Soon after that someone handed me a bottle of orange-pineapple juice. I have not had juice in over four months. I have been so careful to make sure that I never had anything with too much sugar to mess up this new battle with diabetes. Should I drink this? Of course I should! But part of me was reluctant because it was not on my diet. “Are you nuts? This diet is what got you into this mess.“

In March of this year I started a new diet.

A new study was published documenting participants who reduced the calories in their diets by 25%. The participants were required to maintain a journal of everything they ate over the course of two years. Two years. That seems like a long time to have to write down everything you eat. Results were mixed on how much weight was lost by the participants. But I found it remarkable that they kept their food diaries for two years. The study was being discussed during an NPR interview. One of the experts being interviewed said that the reason the study’s results were mixed was because even though the participants reduced their calories by 25% at the beginning of the study, they did not fluctuate their caloric intake over the two-year period.

He went on to explain that you need to have days of partial fasting, at least five days per month, where you reduce your calories at least another 25%. This will prevent our very efficient bodies from hitting weight loss plateaus.

Hmm. That made a lot of sense to me. I had a physician tell me years ago that dieting was simple, you had to burn more calories than you consume. Okay, but maybe it is a bit more complex than that.

But my idea for a diet did not really take shape until I saw a show on Prime about a man called Bear who put himself in extreme survival situations. On his show he repeated an expression about eating for survival. “Eat small, often.”

At that time, “eating small” for me meant only eating half of a pizza. Bear was eating a few seeds or even leaves and then moving on.

I had to do something. especially after the doctors appointment I just had in which he said he was going to test me for diabetes. I did not know what he was going to find, but diabetes was likely considering the painful sores on my body that would not heal. The same sores that kept me away from work for the last week.

The next day I started my diet.

145 days later I was 153 pounds lighter. I was also surrounded by five coworkers trying to hand me a bottle of orange-pineapple juice. And I could not get my hands to lift the juice to my mouth without Leslie’s help.

Shortly after I consumed the juice, my functioning was beginning to return. But not fast enough. I raised my right hand for the first time since the episode started. I started to feel like my old self and was able to get the words out that I was doing fine along with thank you‘s and apologies. Then Leslie asked me to move my left arm. Nothing happened.

Leslie picked up the phone and dialed 911. My office soon filled with paramedics from the nearby fire station. Shortly after that I was carted away in an ambulance.

On the way to the hospital I was arguing with the paramedic who is trying to start an IV. I kept telling him I was fine. He did not believe me. He asked me to raise my left hand to touch my nose. I did just as he asked me. This was repeated with my right hand. For some reason I felt pain in my nose. I asked him why that was. His explanation confused me. Apparently when I was trying to touch my nose I ended up striking my nose with my right hand. I tried to repeat the test with the same results.

I listened to him as he talked on the radio to the hospital. “Possible stroke victim.”

I was scared out of my mind. “Breathe!“ “How could this be happening to me?” “How can a stroke affect both sides of my body?”

I finally began to pray. In my conversation with God, I first screamed. Then I listened.

“Be still and know. Be still and know.”

We arrived at the hospital. The physician immediately began a screening for possible stroke. He had me repeat the same tests. This time all of the results were negative. Blood work was run, x-rays and CAT scans were performed. All tests were negative.

“Did I do this to myself? Was this because of my diet?” I timidly asked the nurse.

“What have you been eating?”

“Whole grain cereal, almonds, roasted chicken, sugar-free bread, tuna, veggies, Greek yogurt, bananas… What?” I stopped when I saw the nurse’s quizzical brow.

“I don’t understand. Do you think eating healthy caused this?”

“Could this be the Metformin or the Farxiga? What about the Atenolol or the Buspirone?” I asked the doctor.

“Hard to say. Your blood sugar apparently dropped and you experienced syncope but you have been fine since you have been here and your blood work looks great. Your bilirubin is slightly elevated along with your AST but I am going to release you and send you home. Follow-up with your physician within three days.”

The next week I met with my dietician and doctor.

August 15 was the last day I took my heart, diabetes, sleep, anxiety or GERD prescriptions.

I did do this to myself. But my problem was delaying my follow-up with my physician far too long. I was losing weight too quickly for three-months between visits. I was too stubborn to schedule my follow-up sooner. I was still taking meds based on 100 pounds ago.

I did this to myself. And it was a blessing in disguise. My diabetes was going into remission.

The problem was definitely not my diet.

Photo of a woman’s hands and a blood glucose meter. She is pricking her fingertip, photo courtesy of NIDDK