Angela Gaskins-Younger tells how insulin helped change her life for the better.
When her doctor first suggested that Angela Gaskins-Younger of Branford, CT, go on insulin to manage her type 2 diabetes, she balked. A medical/surgical nurse at the time, she worried how it would fit into her already hectic days. Today, she’s grateful for how it’s changed her life. Here, the 48-year-old shares her story:
When my doctor and I talked about insulin back in 1995, it sounded like several shots a day, and I couldn’t figure out how I’d fit that into my unpredictable schedule—working nights, weekends, alternating shifts. Plus, low blood sugar is one of the side effects of taking insulin, and I worried about how I’d take care of my patients or my daughter if my blood sugar dropped too low. So I insisted we start with oral medications.
I worked hard with the oral medications, but every time I went back to my doctor, I still wasn’t at goal, so he’d add another one. By the time we got to three medications, and my blood sugar was still in the low 200 mg/dl range, and my A1C was 8% to 9%, I just couldn’t hear, “Let’s add another pill.”
At last, I was ready to try insulin, but I didn’t want to do several shots a day, so my doctor prescribed a long-acting insulin—just one injection before bedtime. That worked with my schedule, I never worried about low blood sugar and I felt better than when I was just taking the oral medications alone. Next, I added insulin at mealtime—that meant testing my blood sugar, eating, then injecting a fast-acting insulin. While it required a few extra shots, it was worth it. And I got to stop taking some of the oral medications.
With insulin, I finally felt in charge of my diabetes. And that, together with my family history of the disease—I lost my mother and grandmother to diabetes complications—inspired me to become a diabetes educator. I can relate to my patients because I have been where they are; in fact, I continue to motivate myself daily to manage my diabetes. These days, I really feel like I’m managing this disease that’s never been managed well in my family. It’s not controlling my life—I’m controlling it! And I feel absolutely wonderful.
What is insulin and how does it help someone with diabetes?
Insulin is a hormone that helps your body usher glucose (sugar produced from the foods you eat) into cells, where it is used as a primary source of energy. All people with type 1 diabetes need insulin because their pancreas produces either none or far too little of the hormone. People with type 2 diabetes may require insulin when lifestyle changes and oral medications aren’t able to help their body control blood sugar levels.
Why does it have to be injected?
Insulin won’t enter your bloodstream unless it’s injected into the fatty tissue beneath your skin.
What happens if I don’t take it?
Your blood sugar levels will rise, possibly leading to complications such as kidney damage, heart disease, vision disorders and stroke.
My doctor recommended insulin for my type 2 diabetes. Does it mean I failed?
Not at all! Diabetes is a progressive disease, and many people with type 2 need insulin at some point. Consider it a way to take control of diabetes instead of letting it control you! Be sure to go over any concerns with your doctor or diabetes educator.
I don’t want to go on insulin. Why should I?
Take some insight from Angela: “Remember that insulin has been on the market for nearly 90 years; it is safe enough to give to pregnant women, children of all ages and dialysis patients,” she says. “Second it’s a natural hormone you are missing or do not have enough of, so there’s no reason to hesitate!”