I have Type 2 diabetes. That is a fact. I was diagnosed in 2000. After reading that the press and public has been harassing a celebrity because she hadn’t released the fact that she’d been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, I was incensed.

Being told that you have Type II diabetes, or any disease, when to your knowledge there is no record of the disease in family, can be quite a shock.

My doctor had been doing some tests for another medical condition and phoned me on a Friday in 2000 to tell me about the diagnosis of Type II diabetes. I was stunned. I knew nothing about diabetes. I’d always heard of “sugar diabetes.” I didn’t know if it was a death sentence, or what I should eat, or what to do.

I recall that Bob and I went to a Grange public supper the next evening. I said to Bob, “I don’t even know what I can eat!” I scanned the food tables of casseroles, baked beans, biscuits, pies, etc. Not knowing what a diabetic diet contained, I decided that eating just bread couldn’t hurt me. Little did I know at the time.

I went to a hospital dietician and was totally dismayed at how little I was allowed to eat. I attended diabetes sessions, and it was explained to me about good and bad cholesterol, which my mind did not retain. I followed, to the tiniest bit, instructions about the amount of food that I was allowed to eat.

It was Christmastime, when it was custom to cook extra delicious treats for family meals and to share with others. We’d raised a family of seven children, and on top of that, there were spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to come for dinner.

I cooked the usual turkey dinner, complete with gravy, various vegetables, mashed potatoes, our traditional Angel Delight (a pineapple treat, made with thickening and marshmallows), and also many, many pies and cookies. It made me angry to have so much food in the house and feel that I wasn’t allowed eat it.

I visited the diabetes clinic put on by the hospital. I shared my family history, including the fact that I had delivered three healthy premature babies, who did not survive, and also had an early miscarriage, plus the seven babies who grew to adulthood. I was told that I probably had gestational diabetes, something that was not checked way back then.

In my opinion, some of the worst critics are those who have had diabetes for many years. They have somehow gotten stuck in a groove that they have “sugar diabetes,” and are stuck on the word “sugar.” I was often told by some of these people what I could and could not eat. I recall one saying, “You’ll never be able to eat ice cream again!” No one had told me that I couldn’t eat sugar, or ice cream. I got even angrier.

When I told a dietician that I was told not to ever eat ice cream, she told me that she’d be angry also if she could never ever eat ice cream again.

I truly ate what was allowed on the diet lists, and I did not lose weight. The day that I was diagnosed, I weighed 200 pounds. I was told that I should be exercising. If I felt that I wasn’t able to do exercise, that I should at least walk, if even around the fields. I started a daily walk around what I called the “triangle” — down one road, up another, and back home on another road, a total of nearly two miles.

I started slowly, and worked up to the total distance, which I faithfully walked nearly every day, in most kinds of weather — hot and cold — and the weight began to drop off. I walked that route for 10 years, step after step after step. I felt that I had walked around the world and back. The dieticians were amazed at my loss of weight.

No one told me about “diabetic itch.” My legs itched almost unbearably. I met an older diabetic whose legs were raw from scratching. My mother had had leg ulcers, and I didn’t want to scratch, fearing the ulcers. I went online to find out about diabetic itch. There were several articles, one of which was a sales pitch for an brand-name lotion, complete with exfoliate and after-lotion. I took the last of our monthly money and spent about $80 for the products.

They did work, but after a period of time, I learned that it doesn’t matter much what brand of lotion is used as long as the legs are kept softened with lotions. No one told me this; I learned it on my own. The itch will sometimes still come through, but after-bite, or some such type of anti-itch product will help, and then more lotion. Probably this will not set well with some care-givers, but WD-40 is great to stop the itch.

I still don’t know the answers of dealing with diabetes. I’ve had the ups and downs, and have learned that perhaps a dizzy spell could be attributed to diabetes. I am not quite so exacting in my eating as I was in the beginning. I learned that sugar has nothing to do with diabetes, though carbohydrates do. I still read labels. Bob told me that he was tired of hearing about carbs.

I’ve learned that if I eat too much in the evening that my blood sugar count shows it. I’ve even suffered at least one event of having a very low blood sugar count. None of this was told to me by an expert or by a doctor. Perhaps most of us have a friend or relative with long-term diabetes who can give assistance and advice.

In my opinion, doctors — unless they are diabetic themselves — kind of shrug off diabetes. I had a colonoscopy, and during the latter hours of the clean-out, had an extreme dizzy spell, and what was probably dehydration. I spent some time in the ER during the night before the colonoscopy. When I awoke after having the procedure, I was offered the traditional muffin. When I told the attending nurse that I was a Type 2 diabetic, she said that it wasn’t even on my chart.

I’ve learned that one can eat anything that they want to, as long as it is eaten in moderation. Most of us know that it’s not normal to eat a whole box of donuts or a half-gallon of ice cream. I’ve learned that some of those who have dealt with diabetes for years do not even know that it is not sugar, but carbohydrates that is the culprit. They don’t want to hear about it.

We, as patients, know what is going on in our bodies, though we may not know what to call what is going on. It is my belief that doctors don’t listen to us. I read in AARP magazine that when we go to a doctor with our symptoms, many times the doctor makes up his mind what is wrong with us, even before any tests.

This happened to me, when a sonogram was ordered and my right side was examined. I said, “But it is my left side where the problems are!”, and was told, “We can’t look at your left side, we were ordered to check your right side.” There was no problem with my right side, and even I knew that.

I know that I still have a lot to learn about diabetes, but one thing that I do know is that it is not anyone’s business how a person learns to deal with being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes or any other medical condition. It takes awhile for our mind to adjust to something in our bodies that may have been going on for some time, but it is all new to us.

Isabel Morse Maresh is a resident of Belmont.