Can I be candid with you? I’m rubbish at deadlines. Truly appalling. Just ask the ever-patient editor of this esteemed publication how many times he has to remind me to submit my piece and he’ll smile through gritted teeth and possibly mutter something unpublishable, despite him being a truly lovely human being…

But, a few weeks ago I was given a deadline I couldn’t ignore or procrastinate over, when entirely out of the blue I was told I had severe diabetes. Not a pre-diabetes warning with accompanying “it might be an idea to think about changing your lifestyle” comments, it was “this is really worrying, you have a massive blood sugar count and we need to start you on medication today” diabetes.

“Ah…” I replied to my GP (although if I’m honest with you my initial thought started with the letter ‘F’, followed by a plethora of ‘U’s and… well, I’m sure you can work out the rest yourself)!

I’d been getting tired for a long time – I know I’ve mentioned here a few times before that I’d figured my increasing fatigue was due to being a 58-year old single parent of a lively 8-year old daughter. Plus maybe it was long covid, depression, comfort eating, drinking too much, ongoing grief, lockdown, laziness and gluttony – or a heady combination of all of them – plus very little or no exercise that had me permanently knackered, feeling far too fat, bulky and lethargic.

But eventually I’d reached the point where I was getting up in the morning, getting Scarlett fed and ready for school and then getting home to collapse on my bed for pretty much the rest of the day before picking her up again, and that just wasn’t right.

So I booked myself a check-up ‘well man’ type visit just to make sure it wasn’t anything serious – and I’m really glad I did. Before I’d even got back to the car I had a phone call telling me my glucose levels were startlingly high, leading to that early morning confirmation call from my GP.

Apparently my blood sugar levels needed to be brought down straight away as they were over twice the normal and there could be any number of unfortunate side-effects, even discounting the best-known ‘horror stories’. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t know much about diabetes but ordered a few books and cookery books online (which I really should get round to reading at some point) and decided there and then I had to get myself sorted.

The advice was to cut down on alcohol, sugar, processed foods and ‘white’ carbs (white bread, pasta, potatoes and rice – all the good stuff), limit my daily intake of calories and do more (or in my case ‘some’) exercise. I decided walking would be good as I could listen to my audiobooks and I signed up for one of those ‘walking challenges’ that give you a medal after you complete the course, so instead of doing a slog around Chilwell, Bramcote and Beeston I’m now walking through Middle-Earth, heading to Mount Doom to destroy the one ring, but with the added bonus of being able to pop into Lidl on the way home!

Luckily, I have a few good friends who’ve been through the same experience and are managing it well, or in some cases have controlled it so well it’s effectively gone. With their help, support and advice I was pretty sure I could do it – and I decided if it was worth doing I might as well do it properly. So (with my GPs approval) I decided to walk every day and limit myself to just 800 calories a day with no carbs or booze at all. And I figured it would be hard – but no-one was more surprised than me to find it wasn’t. I like salad and chicken, oily fish and beef and after only a couple of days I could see and feel a difference.

The worst part was telling Scarlett – she was terrified that my having a medical issue might be the same as Sal’s cancer diagnosis, with the possibility of the same terrible outcome. Thankfully she understood very quickly that although it was serious, it wasn’t life-threatening. In fact, once assured I’d be OK but just had to avoid certain types of food, she became very enthusiastic, offering to eat all of the chocolate in the house herself because I couldn’t – “and that’ll be healthy for you and fun for me, Daddy, it’s a win-win”! You couldn’t ask for a more selfless offer, right?!

So now, five weeks after my diagnosis I’ve lost over a stone and a half, I’m fitter, eating well, feel so much better and actually have more energy – and my blood sugar levels are back to ‘normal human’ too, thankfully.

And it wasn’t hard and I’m enjoying it – which is truly astounding.

All I needed was a deadline.

TP