Last week, my husband, who has been experiencing some puzzling neuropathy in his feet and shins over the past year, had his yearly physical. Although his A1c was only 5.6, it was a jump from the 5.5 of the year before. His internist – operating perhaps with an excess of caution – informed my husband that he might be experiencing prediabetes. And that he might want to consider taking metformin.
So with a sudden jolt, my husband joined the diabetes train.
Over the course of our 36-year marriage, I’ve been the resident person with type 2 diabetes, the one who needs to monitor her blood sugars, her calories, and her exercise. My husband has served as my helpmate, fetching orange juice for my occasional lows, accompanying me on aerobic walks to burn off an occasional high.
My husband’s prediabetes wasn’t entirely unexpected. His father, always skinny, always energetic, had developed type 2 diabetes in his later years. As a former chemical engineer, my father-in-law’s note-taking and number crunching on his newly diagnosed condition was impeccable. He carried a food scale to every meal along with a tiny notebook where he recorded his blood sugar numbers, his daily activities and his Victoza shots. As a retiree, his diabetes joined his other hobbies, like photography and painting. He read up on everything he could and peppered me – and his extremely patient doctor at Penn Medicine – with questions.
Like his father, my husband is slender and active, biking indoors three or four times a week. He eats moderately, but he does like his sweets. Since our children moved on, one of my hobbies has been to bake him his favorites: Jewish apple cakes, peanut butter cookies, plum tortes. It’s been a vicarious pleasure: I can delight him with homemade baked goods while I get to enjoy the scent of dark chocolate and cinnamon that fills the house (along with the occasional nibble).
The good news is that his doctor is on top of the situation. While the internist knows that taking metformin will probably not reverse neuropathy, it may slow down its progression. The other positive note is that I have been on metformin for more years than I can count, and know that it is an older, safe drug that can help with blood sugars while taking off a few pounds. I also know that the occasional early side effects – cramping, nausea, maybe diarrhea – will pass.
As everyone reading this knows, life with any kind of diabetes isn’t easy. My husband, who has watched me deal with it for all of these years, probably knows this better than most. Left uncontrolled, it can cause top to toe complications, affecting everything from the retina to the heart to the soles of the feet.
Neither of us are pleased with this new diagnosis. Yet, as we embark on yet another medical journey, we are pretty well prepared. For the moment, my baking pans have been shoved to the back of the pantry, to be replaced by fresh pairs of his and her hiking boots. In the morning, over coffee, I envision us companionably reaching for our pill boxes to swallow our daily doses of metformin.
Together, we have managed my diabetes, and together we will manage his.