Education the key to living with "the silent disease"

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Life is good for Waterdown's Linda Higginson.

She's proud of her family, including her husband, Ken, and her son, Michael, who has recently started university. She has also recently launched her own small business that assists seniors who wish to remain independent in their own homes.

And about half a dozen times a day she tests her blood; four times a day, she injects her body with the insulin it needs to live.

Higginson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 15 years old, some 30 years ago. And while she marvels at the advances made over that time, she feels a certain level of frustration with public perception of the illness that has been dubbed "the silent disease."

"When I was diagnosed, there were no glucometres; I was doing urine tests for my sugar levels," she recalled. "Also, insulins have changed for Type Ones. They work a lot faster, and more like a pancreas works."

Long-acting insulins keep the levels steady, she explained, and new technologies, such as the insulin pump, are also options for managing the disease (although Higginson doesn't feel that's something she would be comfortable doing).

"Its pretty neat to see all the advancements they've made," she added, stressing that there is still no cure for those living with diabetes.

While advances in medications have meant that she enjoys a better quality of life, she still must test herself continually, adjust her insulin intake and monitor "everything that goes in my mouth."

Unlike those who develop Type 2 diabetes and may experience disguised symptoms for years before being diagnosed, victims of Type 1 experience immediate and dramatic symptoms. In Higginson's case, she dropped 15 pounds in a matter of weeks.

"And I couldn't stop drinking, and I couldn't stop going to the bathroom," she recalled.

After being diagnosed, Higginson adjusted quickly to the routine tests and injections that were to become her daily life. But, she admits, she "rebelled for a while," when she was in her early 20's. That didn't last long, as she started feeling the effects.

The key, she points out now, is going beyond the mechanics of the disease, and educating oneself about how to live with diabetes.

"This is such a silent disease; it's not totally obvious because it's a cardiovascular disease," she said. "It wreaks havoc on the eyes, heart, kidney, the feet, the circulatory system, the nerves."

Complicating things further, she notes, is the fact that diabetes is so closely related to food.

"Let's face it, nobody likes to be told what they can and can't eat, or when," she said. "The toughest thing is that it's tied with the food that we eat; food is so emotional. But the more you know about diabetes, the more you know about food."

In addition, diabetes patients are constantly flooded with new information, technology and developments.

"There is so much on us," Higginson said of the role of diabetes patients. "Doctors can only do so much; the way we do things affects so much of what our health will be. And family can be a help or a hindrance, if they don't know how to help. That's where education comes in."

To deal with her own situation, Higginson became involved with the Toronto Women's College's TRIDAC program, as well as the Halton Diabetes Program. She points out that while each is designed to assist newly diagnosed diabetics, longtime patients, such as herself, occasionally refer back to the agencies. She also recommends the Canadian Diabetes Association's web site as a valuable resource.

On a more direct level, Higginson received a high level of support from her family doctor in Waterdown. Also, she runs support groups in Burlington and Waterdown that help diabetics navigate life with the disease.

The Waterdown group, which welcomes those with both Type 1 and Type 2, offers a relaxed setting ("like meeting in someone's living room") and features speakers on a range of topics. These include pharmacists, nurses and representatives from the Canadian Diabetes Association.

"Or sometimes we just sit and talk and share," said Higginson, stressing that the group's atmosphere is non-judgmental. "We've learned a lot from each other. That's the core thing, to share. When someone understands, it makes a big difference. We talk about everything from emotions to dealing with health professionals.

"What works for one person might not work for another," she added. "And that's okay."

Aside from the myriad physical issues involved with diabetes, patients also face constant mental and emotional demands those around them might not be sensitive to, said Higginson.

"You're constantly thinking, and always figuring things out," she said. "For example, what you're doing physically, or if you're ordering off a menu. You're always thinking of it. It can be daunting for newly-diagnosed people.

"This has taken years for me to learn and adjust - it didn't just happen overnight," she added.

The Waterdown Diabetes Support Group was launched in February 1996, thanks to support from the Canadian Diabetes Association and the Rotary Club of Waterdown. Meetings are held the third Thursday of the month at the Kitching, Steepe & Ludwig Family Centre. In addition to support and guest speakers, the group also offers a lending library of books and videos. Diabetics and their families are welcome. For more information Linda Higginson can be contacted at 905-689-5865.

DIABETES FAST FACTS

In 2000, the World Health Organization estimated that more than 177 million people have diabetes; by 2025, this figure will top 300 million.

Diabetes is a contributing factor in the deaths of approximately 41,500 Canadians each year.

Life expectancy for people with Type 1 diabetes may be shortened by as much as 15 years; life expectancy for people with Type 2 diabetes may be shortened by 5 to 10 years.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes include unusual thirst, frequent urination, weight change (gain or loss), extreme fatigue or lack of energy, blurred vision, frequent or recurring infections, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, tingling numbness in the hands or feet and trouble getting or maintaining an erection. It is important to realize, however, that many people who have Type 2 diabetes may display no symptoms.

Education the key to living with "the silent disease"

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Life is good for Waterdown's Linda Higginson.

She's proud of her family, including her husband, Ken, and her son, Michael, who has recently started university. She has also recently launched her own small business that assists seniors who wish to remain independent in their own homes.

And about half a dozen times a day she tests her blood; four times a day, she injects her body with the insulin it needs to live.

Higginson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 15 years old, some 30 years ago. And while she marvels at the advances made over that time, she feels a certain level of frustration with public perception of the illness that has been dubbed "the silent disease."

"When I was diagnosed, there were no glucometres; I was doing urine tests for my sugar levels," she recalled. "Also, insulins have changed for Type Ones. They work a lot faster, and more like a pancreas works."

Long-acting insulins keep the levels steady, she explained, and new technologies, such as the insulin pump, are also options for managing the disease (although Higginson doesn't feel that's something she would be comfortable doing).

"Its pretty neat to see all the advancements they've made," she added, stressing that there is still no cure for those living with diabetes.

While advances in medications have meant that she enjoys a better quality of life, she still must test herself continually, adjust her insulin intake and monitor "everything that goes in my mouth."

Unlike those who develop Type 2 diabetes and may experience disguised symptoms for years before being diagnosed, victims of Type 1 experience immediate and dramatic symptoms. In Higginson's case, she dropped 15 pounds in a matter of weeks.

"And I couldn't stop drinking, and I couldn't stop going to the bathroom," she recalled.

After being diagnosed, Higginson adjusted quickly to the routine tests and injections that were to become her daily life. But, she admits, she "rebelled for a while," when she was in her early 20's. That didn't last long, as she started feeling the effects.

The key, she points out now, is going beyond the mechanics of the disease, and educating oneself about how to live with diabetes.

"This is such a silent disease; it's not totally obvious because it's a cardiovascular disease," she said. "It wreaks havoc on the eyes, heart, kidney, the feet, the circulatory system, the nerves."

Complicating things further, she notes, is the fact that diabetes is so closely related to food.

"Let's face it, nobody likes to be told what they can and can't eat, or when," she said. "The toughest thing is that it's tied with the food that we eat; food is so emotional. But the more you know about diabetes, the more you know about food."

In addition, diabetes patients are constantly flooded with new information, technology and developments.

"There is so much on us," Higginson said of the role of diabetes patients. "Doctors can only do so much; the way we do things affects so much of what our health will be. And family can be a help or a hindrance, if they don't know how to help. That's where education comes in."

To deal with her own situation, Higginson became involved with the Toronto Women's College's TRIDAC program, as well as the Halton Diabetes Program. She points out that while each is designed to assist newly diagnosed diabetics, longtime patients, such as herself, occasionally refer back to the agencies. She also recommends the Canadian Diabetes Association's web site as a valuable resource.

On a more direct level, Higginson received a high level of support from her family doctor in Waterdown. Also, she runs support groups in Burlington and Waterdown that help diabetics navigate life with the disease.

The Waterdown group, which welcomes those with both Type 1 and Type 2, offers a relaxed setting ("like meeting in someone's living room") and features speakers on a range of topics. These include pharmacists, nurses and representatives from the Canadian Diabetes Association.

"Or sometimes we just sit and talk and share," said Higginson, stressing that the group's atmosphere is non-judgmental. "We've learned a lot from each other. That's the core thing, to share. When someone understands, it makes a big difference. We talk about everything from emotions to dealing with health professionals.

"What works for one person might not work for another," she added. "And that's okay."

Aside from the myriad physical issues involved with diabetes, patients also face constant mental and emotional demands those around them might not be sensitive to, said Higginson.

"You're constantly thinking, and always figuring things out," she said. "For example, what you're doing physically, or if you're ordering off a menu. You're always thinking of it. It can be daunting for newly-diagnosed people.

"This has taken years for me to learn and adjust - it didn't just happen overnight," she added.

The Waterdown Diabetes Support Group was launched in February 1996, thanks to support from the Canadian Diabetes Association and the Rotary Club of Waterdown. Meetings are held the third Thursday of the month at the Kitching, Steepe & Ludwig Family Centre. In addition to support and guest speakers, the group also offers a lending library of books and videos. Diabetics and their families are welcome. For more information Linda Higginson can be contacted at 905-689-5865.

DIABETES FAST FACTS

In 2000, the World Health Organization estimated that more than 177 million people have diabetes; by 2025, this figure will top 300 million.

Diabetes is a contributing factor in the deaths of approximately 41,500 Canadians each year.

Life expectancy for people with Type 1 diabetes may be shortened by as much as 15 years; life expectancy for people with Type 2 diabetes may be shortened by 5 to 10 years.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes include unusual thirst, frequent urination, weight change (gain or loss), extreme fatigue or lack of energy, blurred vision, frequent or recurring infections, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, tingling numbness in the hands or feet and trouble getting or maintaining an erection. It is important to realize, however, that many people who have Type 2 diabetes may display no symptoms.

Education the key to living with "the silent disease"

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

Life is good for Waterdown's Linda Higginson.

She's proud of her family, including her husband, Ken, and her son, Michael, who has recently started university. She has also recently launched her own small business that assists seniors who wish to remain independent in their own homes.

And about half a dozen times a day she tests her blood; four times a day, she injects her body with the insulin it needs to live.

Higginson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 15 years old, some 30 years ago. And while she marvels at the advances made over that time, she feels a certain level of frustration with public perception of the illness that has been dubbed "the silent disease."

"When I was diagnosed, there were no glucometres; I was doing urine tests for my sugar levels," she recalled. "Also, insulins have changed for Type Ones. They work a lot faster, and more like a pancreas works."

Long-acting insulins keep the levels steady, she explained, and new technologies, such as the insulin pump, are also options for managing the disease (although Higginson doesn't feel that's something she would be comfortable doing).

"Its pretty neat to see all the advancements they've made," she added, stressing that there is still no cure for those living with diabetes.

While advances in medications have meant that she enjoys a better quality of life, she still must test herself continually, adjust her insulin intake and monitor "everything that goes in my mouth."

Unlike those who develop Type 2 diabetes and may experience disguised symptoms for years before being diagnosed, victims of Type 1 experience immediate and dramatic symptoms. In Higginson's case, she dropped 15 pounds in a matter of weeks.

"And I couldn't stop drinking, and I couldn't stop going to the bathroom," she recalled.

After being diagnosed, Higginson adjusted quickly to the routine tests and injections that were to become her daily life. But, she admits, she "rebelled for a while," when she was in her early 20's. That didn't last long, as she started feeling the effects.

The key, she points out now, is going beyond the mechanics of the disease, and educating oneself about how to live with diabetes.

"This is such a silent disease; it's not totally obvious because it's a cardiovascular disease," she said. "It wreaks havoc on the eyes, heart, kidney, the feet, the circulatory system, the nerves."

Complicating things further, she notes, is the fact that diabetes is so closely related to food.

"Let's face it, nobody likes to be told what they can and can't eat, or when," she said. "The toughest thing is that it's tied with the food that we eat; food is so emotional. But the more you know about diabetes, the more you know about food."

In addition, diabetes patients are constantly flooded with new information, technology and developments.

"There is so much on us," Higginson said of the role of diabetes patients. "Doctors can only do so much; the way we do things affects so much of what our health will be. And family can be a help or a hindrance, if they don't know how to help. That's where education comes in."

To deal with her own situation, Higginson became involved with the Toronto Women's College's TRIDAC program, as well as the Halton Diabetes Program. She points out that while each is designed to assist newly diagnosed diabetics, longtime patients, such as herself, occasionally refer back to the agencies. She also recommends the Canadian Diabetes Association's web site as a valuable resource.

On a more direct level, Higginson received a high level of support from her family doctor in Waterdown. Also, she runs support groups in Burlington and Waterdown that help diabetics navigate life with the disease.

The Waterdown group, which welcomes those with both Type 1 and Type 2, offers a relaxed setting ("like meeting in someone's living room") and features speakers on a range of topics. These include pharmacists, nurses and representatives from the Canadian Diabetes Association.

"Or sometimes we just sit and talk and share," said Higginson, stressing that the group's atmosphere is non-judgmental. "We've learned a lot from each other. That's the core thing, to share. When someone understands, it makes a big difference. We talk about everything from emotions to dealing with health professionals.

"What works for one person might not work for another," she added. "And that's okay."

Aside from the myriad physical issues involved with diabetes, patients also face constant mental and emotional demands those around them might not be sensitive to, said Higginson.

"You're constantly thinking, and always figuring things out," she said. "For example, what you're doing physically, or if you're ordering off a menu. You're always thinking of it. It can be daunting for newly-diagnosed people.

"This has taken years for me to learn and adjust - it didn't just happen overnight," she added.

The Waterdown Diabetes Support Group was launched in February 1996, thanks to support from the Canadian Diabetes Association and the Rotary Club of Waterdown. Meetings are held the third Thursday of the month at the Kitching, Steepe & Ludwig Family Centre. In addition to support and guest speakers, the group also offers a lending library of books and videos. Diabetics and their families are welcome. For more information Linda Higginson can be contacted at 905-689-5865.

DIABETES FAST FACTS

In 2000, the World Health Organization estimated that more than 177 million people have diabetes; by 2025, this figure will top 300 million.

Diabetes is a contributing factor in the deaths of approximately 41,500 Canadians each year.

Life expectancy for people with Type 1 diabetes may be shortened by as much as 15 years; life expectancy for people with Type 2 diabetes may be shortened by 5 to 10 years.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes include unusual thirst, frequent urination, weight change (gain or loss), extreme fatigue or lack of energy, blurred vision, frequent or recurring infections, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, tingling numbness in the hands or feet and trouble getting or maintaining an erection. It is important to realize, however, that many people who have Type 2 diabetes may display no symptoms.