Community News
November 27, 2017 By Shaun MacDonald
I really had to pee…a lot

It was February 2015, and I found myself drinking lots of water every day, about 500 mL [2 cups] an hour. Normally, I didn’t drink a lot of water, but [suddenly] I was always parched (I’m getting thirsty writing this). And I was peeing a lot, too. I’d go five or six times at work. I’m a teacher, so when transitioning from class to class, I’d make a mad dash to the staff room. During the night, I woke up at midnight, 2 a.m., 3 a.m. and 4:30 a.m., to pee. It was exhausting and tiring.

My mother-in-law noticed my constant grogginess. I explained that I was urinating about a dozen times a day. She immediately said, “Oh, it’s diabetes.”

My first instinct was ‘Be quiet, mother-in-law,’ but a second voice said, ‘She’s been a nurse for 30-plus years. She might know what she’s talking about.’

We called up the family doctor to get some tests done. After my blood work was done on a Wednesday morning, he told me he’d get back to me in a week or two. With him, that usually meant call him in a week or two, then he’d probably call back. He called less than 48 hours later.

“I have your results. Can you please come in as soon as possible?”

I was nervous because I wasn’t expecting such a quick reply, or any reply at all. I thought the frequent urination would pass, and I’d be fine. But he sat me down with me and my wife, and said that I had type 2 diabetes.

I didn’t know how to react, so I said the first thing that came into my head: "What do I win?" He didn’t like that. He said that my blood glucose [sugar] levels were supposed to be between 4 and 10 [mmol/L]. Mine were between 18 and 22.

And, he mentioned that I had high cholesterol, too. I thought, ‘Great.  I’m 36, married with three kids. My life’s over.’

But as I thought this, he said, “This isn’t a death sentence.” He put me on metformin three times daily and linagliptin once a day for my diabetes, and another med for the cholesterol. He said I needed to change my diet and to exercise frequently. He said I could get it under control.

Five months later, I was at the gym three to five times per week. I cut out a significant amount of sugar and salt. I’ve eaten more salads in the last half year than I have in the previous decade. White bread and white rice are special treats, just like pie and cake...and pop...and chocolate...and gummy candy. I meet with two separate nutritionists and a diabetes expert at my local hospital. I lost close to 30 pounds and am down a shirt size and almost two pant sizes. I’m also off the metformin.

On my first follow-up visit to my doctor, he was astonished at my results. My blood sugar is consistently between 5.2 and 7.2 [mmol/L]. My LDL cholesterol levels dropped dramatically. He commented on my appearance, too.

The biggest shock to my doctor was the fact that he told me to make all these changes, and I did. He said that’s rare. Many take the pills and don’t make [any] changes at all. Is that you? Yeah, the changes I’ve made have been tough. I get sore from the gym. Green smoothies sometimes make me turn green. Every time I open my lunch at work, I think of that episode from The Simpsons where Lisa becomes a vegetarian, and Bart and Homer sing, “You don’t win friends with salad!” I have no feeling in the tip of my index finger on my left hand, thanks to all the pricking. But it’s been worth it. My wife’s proud of me. My kids have seen the positive changes, and they’re starting to eat healthier, too. I’m in the best shape of my life. And I feel good. I don’t feel great, but that’s life with type 2 diabetes. Feeling good is...good.

Shaun MacDonald is a 38-year-old French teacher in Woodstock, Ont. He and his wife, Stephanie, have three children – Maire, Alasdair and Brynn. He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in March 2015. He has donated clothes that no longer fit him to Diabetes Canada’s reusable goods program.       

One in three Canadians has diabetes or prediabetes and many do not know it. Take control of your health the way Shaun MacDonald did and find out your risk. Visit and take a short online test to find out your risk of type 2 diabetes. For every test completed, Sun Life Financial will donate $3 to breakthrough diabetes research.

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