Living a long and healthy life with type 2 diabetes
People living with type 2 diabetes often suffer a degree of stigma around the perceived causes of the condition. Uninformed opinion sometimes suggests that people with type 2 diabetes bring their health issues upon themselves through excessive appetites and inappropriate lifestyle choices. However, sometimes a diagnosis can take people completely by surprise, as Jurjen de Lange discovered.
“I will do whatever it takes to have a long, healthy and happy life”
Jurjen is 46 years old and lives in the Netherlands with his wife Denise and two young children.
“I actually grew up in quite a sporty family. I cycled, did windsurfing, jogged, I even ran a marathon!”
Five years ago, his world turned upside down
Jurjen first started to notice something was different when his daughter was born 5 years ago, and his sleep pattern was all over the place. As time went on, he realized that he had more than just the bags under his eyes of a new parent. He felt exhausted and didn’t seem to be losing weight despite being relatively active and eating healthy. If anything, he was gaining even more weight. He started to seriously worry about what was going on and could see that his wife was also worried about him.
“We eat healthy, I don’t snack. There were no obvious reasons why I should put on weight. It gets you thinking.”
“I literally tried everything to get back into shape including dieting, super intensive sports training, even an almost spartan method of losing weight. But I could no longer control it and that made me very sad.”
His wife suggested he talk to a doctor and undergo some tests. Once the results came back, he had his diagnosis. He had type 2 diabetes. This news was a big shock to Jurjen but he was also relieved that he finally had a diagnosis and an explanation for the extreme fatigue. He could now start to think about what the diagnosis meant and how he could improve his health.
Accepting what living with type 2 diabetes means
“He [the doctor] discovered my blood sugar levels were far too high and that I had high insulin levels and that has resulted, they think, into type 2 diabetes.” explained Jurjen admitting that the mental aspect is more exhausting. “You know people are looking at you and that they have an opinion about it. There’s a stigma attached to large people and by now I see myself as large. People judge you without making the effort to hear the underlying story.”
“I have to say for a while I had been completely exhausted. I would walk the dog and feel shattered. But I’m on the mend now. I’m becoming myself again. My energy levels are returning and that feels very familiar. It’s nice, it feels really good.”
His wife Denise also needed to process it: “For a long time I didn’t realize because Jur is always so optimistic and cheerful. It’s very sad to see because it’s such a lonely path for him. I’m proud of how he’s handling this. I’m also proud that he refuses to be defeated by it and as the man in the family he continues to fulfill his role despite his own illness and perhaps his physical discomfort.”
Support from his family
It has now been a few years since his diagnosis, and he now better understands his body and the limits that he places it under. Jurjen explains to his daughter that he is still the same daddy as always – he just needs to think a little more carefully about what he eats and how much he moves around.
“I would never have made it without my wife who had to cope with all of this. My energy swings, changes in diet, adapting to different nutrition. Our five-year old daughter understands exactly what is going on. She encourages me to go to the swimming pool and to the beach.”
“I hope for my own sake that I manage to get it under control. I will do whatever it takes to have a long, healthy, and happy life with my family. That is what it’s all about in the end, right? That’s what I’m hoping for.”
Receiving his diagnosis helped Jurjen change his life for the better. His story will likely strike a chord with many people who are living with diabetes or know someone close to them who is. Living a healthy lifestyle, including weight management, maintaining regular moderate exercise and monitoring your heart health is critical if you have type 2 diabetes.
Learn more about the interconnectivity of organ systems and how type 2 diabetes is linked to the heart and the kidneys, and how it affects the whole body.