My New Bellybutton, Losing (Almost) Forty Pounds, and How Diabetes May have Saved my Life.

Have you ever had an umbilical hernia before? Ever seen one? They can be hideous things when your insides decide they want to be on the outside with all the “cool” organs. Mine was not hideous. I mean, it wasn’t cute, but it was definitely not vomit inducing, or even cringe worthy. Just a little bump on the top of my belly button. When I weighed less, it would pop back in and then it would jump out again when I stood up or used my abs or ate that second helping. As I got larger, he was always there. My kids would occasionally poke it like it was the easiest game of Whack-A-Mole ever, and lord that would hurt.

Finally, after years of my constant companion, he decided to do something rash and make more room for himself while I was moving stuff in my basement. He became a little bigger and he hurt a whole lot more. It was time to put him back in his place. I made an appointment for a medical consult and me and my annoying new friend had a few days to come to grips with the fact that I was trying to push him out (in). He wasn’t having any of that, so while I was distracted, he conspired with my immune system to try and kill me.

[Sidebar: A thing that you should know from me is that in general I am pretty laizefair about my health, but when things start happening to me, I go from “I’ll have that looked at in a few months,” to “According to WebMD I’m going to die in the next week due to a brain eating nematode. I might just have a headache though.” I’ve been bitten hard because I ignored things growing up and I don’t need a repeat of that, so I go pretty hard on hypochondria at times. My poor wife].

So, to make a long story short, I ended up in the ER because my classroom was spinning, I got very nauseous, and my blood pressure was in the red. Unfortunately this was all during one of my classes and the students were pretty sure I was going to die. As a bitter twist of irony, one of my former students was my medic. He had. even dressed like me for twin day, but apparently it was funny because he was so fit and athletic. Ha. Ha. Ha. After some time in the ER though, they discovered two things: One, my blood sugar was through the roof and the other was my hernia really wasn’t that bad. The hernia was easy to fix; the blood sugar, not so much.

Here was the gut punch though (pun intended), I had already started to lose weight! As mentioned in an earlier post, Dear Lord, Not the Sugar, I was diagnosed with having mild diabetes. Not that any diabetes is really mild, you either are or you aren’t diabetic, but before I was just over the line that separated them. It was like a warning from the fatty police: “You got a little out of control there, sir. I’m going to need you to take it easy and slow down. Try a salad.” But now, everything was out of whack. I had sort of slipped from my diet and had a week of almost normal eating just before this, I still really wasn’t exercising, and yet the pounds were melting off. After a week of this I started to get worried. I tested my blood sugar and it was over 400, and not by a little. A few months ago my A1C was below the diabetic line again and everything was fine, but one little surgery and all of a sudden it seems like 40+ years of bad decisions were coming back to haunt me. Scary words like Ketoacidosis and diabetic coma were floating around. I was missing days at school, I missed my last prom, and my kids and wife were getting worried. Honestly, I was scared shitless. You think I’d be thrilled to lose so much weight, but every pound lost frightened the hell out of me. It was like that scene in Stephen King’s Thinner, where the main character, Billy, was cursed by a gypsy woman to lose weight and he was standing on a scale and he watched helplessly as the numbers started to go down.

Well, here I am now after two months of constant stress, for several reason, but my diabetes is finally under control. While I’m no longer losing weight, I’m making healthier choices for myself. While I was going through the worst of it, someone said to me, “You know, if you had taken care of yourself all this time, you wouldn’t have gone all through this.” And while they were being a grade A douche, they were right, I really enjoyed myself without real fear of consequences, but I don’t regret the years of fun, frolicking, and scoffing at the recommended portion sizes of most foods, just like I don’t regret having to do what I need to now. I enjoyed life to the fullest I could. Before, I never let my size stop me from doing things, but now that my size is keeping me from living my best life (gag), it’s time to change. To adapt. I can set a good example for my kids and my students by doing what I need to do. I enjoyed breaking preconceptions of what I could do and should be, and now I want to do the same by bouncing back by being healthier than I’ve ever been. I feel like I’ve completed the Hero’s Journey where I’ve walked deep into the abyss and now I’m returning with mystical knowledge to share with my country. Except my abyss wasn’t the endless black of death, but a lot of dark chocolate and cookies. Now I have a better appreciation of what matters. Oh, and diabetes.

To date, I’ve almost lost 40 pounds, I’m the lightest I’ve been in years and I’m on track to lose 60 by the end of the year, and I’m thrilled. I had a few scary months, but in a weird way Diabetes may have been one of the better things that has happened to my health. I’m taking a hard look at what I am, what I eat and how I live and I’ve found myself wanting. But not for long. I’m a more active parent, I mean not more involved, I’m pretty awesome as a dad, but we’re going for bike rides and hikes and just moving more. I’m a more active spouse. And in general, I feel better, all thanks to my diabetes and my bellybutton. Hell, even doing stairs feels like a novelty and almost enjoyable. Almost.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not thrilled to have to constantly monitor myself, and I know if I slip into old habits, things will go south, quick. It’s like having the Grim Reaper stop by for tea or a quick chess match. You suspect he’s there for you, but so far he’s put down his scythe and made himself comfortable, still you just can’t relax. And I don’t want to, I have a few good reasons not to.

So, I’m bike riding again, going to the gym, and occasionally helping myself to some delicious, delicious carbs, and I’m loving every minute of it. Hell, if I keep this up, maybe I’ll get that old bellybutton pierced, to teach him, and my teenage daughter, a lesson.

Stay tuned for the next installment: 50 lbs(?), Bike Shorts, and Why is All Yoga Hot Yoga.

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