Getting to Know Me
My name is Shirley (Culp) Dawson and I have been living with diabetes for over 10 years.
I grew up in White Hall, Arkansas, a small city bucked up against Pine Bluff Arkansas about 30 minutes south of the state Capitol of Little Rock. Our family of my mom and dad and two sisters, were very close, due, I believe to my mom’s illness.
Mom had severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and it began to cripple her at the young age of 30. We lived a middle-class lifestyle (actually a very low-income middle-class lifestyle) with only my dad working, at the Southwestern Bell Telephone company. We didn’t do dance, karate, music, girl scouts, ball, or any other activities and we enjoyed the boxes of hand-me-down clothes from my cousins. But we played together, worked together and laughed together. No, we were not perfect, we girls also pulled each others hair, ignored our younger sister and many times disobeyed our parents, but our house was full of laughter and love.
An Active Child, Teen and Young Adult
I loved riding my bike, playing pick-up ball games, shooting the basketball and all kinds of sporting things. I was my dad’s shadow fishing, cleaning the fish, digging worms and practicing archery. My youngest sister was his golf shadow (I wasn’t into golf).
I was skinny, a tall gangly type tom-boy all through my teens and in my 20’s I played and coached softball and volleyball and loved racquetball. I was usually playing some kind of sport six nights a week. With that kind of exercise, I had absolutely no issue with my weight.
Then I grew up at the age of 30 and met my husband playing co-ed volleyball. We married when I was 32 and continued our active lifestyle.
My Physical Issues Begin
I had my first and only child – a beautiful daughter we named Jennifer when I was almost 35. At 34 I weighed 135 and during my pregnancy, I gained up to 190 (almost 60 pounds). She wasn’t a good sleeper and for six months I went without sleep – so much so I remember thinking one day how could I even live with so little sleep. But I had to work and I had to take care of my family, so I pushed on.
My back went out due to the weight gain and after my child was born I couldn’t even lift her to put her in the car seat. My eyes changed so that I couldn’t wear my contacts any longer. And interestingly enough my body chemistry changed. Before pregnancy no watch would work on me, they all stopped after a day or so; but now I can wear watches fine. So I know there was some kind of fundamental chemistry change in my body after my pregnancy.
Losing that baby weight was so difficult, especially since walking or exercise was out because of my back issues. I had deteriorating discs in the lower spine area and ruptured ones also. I continued to gain more weight, despite trying different diets. I had to start taking metformin for my blood sugar and finally, my doc gave in and put me on daily insulin injections of both a short-term and long-term insulin along with the metformin.
Physical Issues Continue
I had a hysterectomy, bladder repair, and a hernia repair in my mid-forties; I later developed another hernia that grew to be a very large one.
In my early 50’s, I underwent a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy and was diagnosed with ET (Essential thrombocythemia) a myeloproliferative disorder. Myeloproliferative disorders are a group of diseases in which the bone marrow makes too many red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets My bone marrow makes too many platelets, making me a clotting risk or even sometimes a bleeding risk. I was put on a daily chemo-type drug (hydroxyurea) to control the platelets along with Aggrenox (a combination antiplatelet agent intended for oral administration). It has worked well so far
During a routine removal of a hernia, I threw a blood clot and had a stroke) due to being off my blood thinner to prepare for the surgery. I now avoid any elective surgeries. The stroke affected my thinking and math skills, no paralysis. It was a couple of years before I could multitask and do math again. Even now, when I’m very tired, I still begin to feel that same confusion.
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in my late 50’s after I began having strange flare-ups of pain all over my body. This happened every time I would do something out of the ordinary that pushed me to lift, walk far or do something stressful. These flare-ups would last 2-4 days and basically put me out of commission. I was placed on Meloxicam (a NSAID) and Cymbalta (a mood elevator) to treat the fibromyalgia.
I had a retina detachment in my late 50s and underwent major eye surgery. I was very lucky to retain almost all of my peripheral vision in my left eye. I underwent laser treatment in the other eye to prevent a detachment in that eye. Then I developed cataracts in both eyes and had to have cataract surgery to get a replacement lens. This was a bright spot in an otherwise downhill health spiral. With the new multi-focal point lens, I can see better than I have in my entire life and do not need glasses except for reading.
Lastly, I have sleep issues, mostly with RLS (restless leg syndrome) and problems sleeping because of pain in my legs and hips. I probably average 3-4 hours of sleep a night. I’m on an oxygen compressor at night to keep my oxygen level up. But I wake up every day still tired.
My Life at Age 60
This has been a long story to get to this point. I’m now 60 years old, weigh 275 pounds (as of 3/28/17 I now weight 230 pounds – YAY!); both my parents died at the age of 67, I have many different health issues, several of which could have fatal complications and I do not want to die early like my parents. I most especially do not want to see my toes and feet/limbs have to be cut off, go blind or have another stroke that I can’t recover from. I currently in a wheelchair most of the time but hope to one day be able to get up and walk again.
I have a precious 18 month-old grandson and 3 beautiful step-granddaughters that I would like to see grow up and become wonderful adults. I want to have years of retirement with my husband, Mel. I also want to enjoy my life, have less pain and more mobility. I know I need to lose about 140 pounds (as of 3/28/17, I need to lose 85 more pounds to reach my goal) and eat well and sleep better. (the current 3-4 hours a night is not acceptable nor enough for my body to heal itself).
I am determined to overcome most of these health issues and live out a long and productive life. My first goal is to get my glucose levels under control and begin losing the extra weight and finally, getting out of this wheelchair. This blog is my journal to success. I am confident that I will have success because my life “literally depends on it.”
Thanks for looking at my site and coming to this page. I would love for you to leave any questions or comments below.