"My diabetes is killing me!"

"My diabetes is killing me!"
Dr. Cameron Herr Endocrinology-Diabetes Kansas City, Missouri

Dr. Cameron Herr D.O., M.B.A. is a top Endocrinologist in Kansas City, MO. He is ranked among the highest Endocrinologists in the United States. He has a passion for the field and an unwavering commitment to his specialty. Dr. Cameron Herr D.O., M.B.A. is an expert in changing the lives of patients for the better. Through... more

Are you one of the estimated 317 million people that suffer from diabetes?!

If so, have you ever asked, "Why me?" "What did I do to cause this?"

These are such common questions and people often blame themselves or suffer from the stigma that their lifestyle is the sole cause of diabetes. Now, there are several different types of diabetes. We most often distinguish people as having either type 1 or type 2, though we appreciate in today's day of medicine that there is a gray area where other types of diabetes exist. These are latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood (LADA) and monogenic diabetes of the young (MODY). These are a bit rarer and often require seeing an Endocrinologist for a deeper dive into the exact underlying type.

Regardless, when people traditionally think of diabetes they often think of type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, the face of type 2 diabetes is obesity. The incorrect logical thought process is that the lifestyle alone (eating Cheetos all day) caused the diabetes. While lifestyle plays in important role in diabetes, there is usually a genetic underlying component. Not all obese people get diabetes. Some normal body weight people can have type 2 diabetes. Which gene is the cause? I wish I knew! I'd be a billionaire. In all likelihood, it is many contributor genes. We are learning more each day.

Now personally, I see diabetes mellitus of all types (1, 2, MODY, LADA, etc) every single week and have dedicated my career to guiding people to better care, and trying to clear the air of the stigma that surrounds such a common disease.

As a high school student who was primarily focused on friends, sports, and getting into trouble, I admittedly did not pay much attention to the world around me. However, one thing that did have a profound effect on my life was watching my own father battle with diabetes. I stood idly by while he progressed from "lifestyle changes" via diet/exercise into a pill (metformin), to pills (metformin + glipizide), to pills and an injection (Byetta). Over a few years he eventually ended up with multiple daily injection therapy with insulin.

Now, at that time we did not have the fancy insulin pens (with 4mm needles) we have all come to know and love today. Like many people still do, I watched him draw insulin from a refrigerated vial into a syringe. That transition from pills into formal insulin therapy was traumatic.

Like many of you reading this article, I watched a loved one, whom I consider to be one of the strongest people in my life, become very vulnerable. This has always stuck with me, and is the underlying reason why I take medication changes very seriously. Changing medications and escalating therapy is not easy. It can be expensive. It can cause undo stress. And while there are benefits to each medication, there are very real side effects. One thing I love about diabetes is that it is not a one-size-fits-all disease. Each person is different, with different sugars, and with different goals/targets. This is where I get to step in and make recommendations tailored to an individual lifestyle. One of the most important factors in choosing a medication is the comfort of the patient. One of the worst things a doctor can do is to send someone out their door feeling like an experimental guinea pig.

Going back to my high school days, I continued to watch my father have poor control of his glucose and this resulted in a debilitating stroke that continues to affect him today. I'll never forget seeing him in the hospital, just moments after having been administered "clot busting medication" sobbing uncontrollably. This was the most humbling moment of my life (next to 9-11-2001). I vividly recall visiting him days later, "My diabetes is killing me."

Looking back on that time, diabetes did not necessarily cause his stroke, but it certainly contributed. I see my dad in every single diabetic patient. I take each person's diabetes control personally. I never want anybody to suffer something like that from a disease that is manageable (cost/insurance excluded).

In short, my dad was not able to walk, write, or have clear speech for over one year. He now walks, albeit with tremendous instability, writes left-handed, and has regained his normal speech. If not for him, and a disease that was "killing him" I never would have ventured into a medical career. I owe him everything.

My goals as a young physician are to provide people a realistic, but very goal-driven approach to controlling their diabetes. No matter the type of diabetes. No matter the background. No matter the age. And even no matter the insurance/cost. Where there is a will, there is a way! If we have to be creative and 'play the game' then we will. Patients need physicians in their corner. In an age of medicine that is more confusing and seemingly changing day to day, patients need a guide, an advocate that will fight on their behalf. Do not let diabetes kill you.

Enter me. I live in Kansas City, MO, and practice at Saint Luke's. I am so proud to do what I do. I have an amazing team of nurses who I don't thank frequently enough.

This is my first blog post. Each day I hear a humbling story. I wanted to share a piece of my story so you know I am in the trenches with you.