Having diagnosed myself with diabetes, I demanded the doctor run a full set of blood tests. Just to confirm what I already knew, you understand. I was weak, dizzy, my vision was blurred, I felt devastatingly tired, could barely get out of bed, and only then to stuff myself frenziedly with chocolate and biscuits.
The internet sites were very clear. Type 2 diabetes can affect thin people as well. In fact, we are the forgotten sufferers. This is because there is a little known phenomenon known as ‘skinny-fat’. Thin on the outside, fat on the inside. It was entirely possible, these sites assured me, that my internal organs were coated in lard. So much made sense to me now.
I ran screaming to my GP. She already thinks I’m mad. She never says ‘hello’ or ‘what can I do for you, dear?’ She always sits completely impassively in her wheelie seat, looks me up and down and says, very suspiciously: ‘Y-es…?’
I told her I was diabetic, she sighed and ordered the tests. I then waited a week for her to phone me with the results and when she didn’t I rang the surgery to ask why.
The receptionist said it was ‘not protocol’ to ring a patient when the results did not show anything worth telling them.
But you don’t get rid of me that easy. I know from bitter experience that you have to be nearly dead for a busy south London NHS GP to take you seriously and, as I said, my GP already thinks I’m mad, not entirely unreasonably. So I demanded they give me my pathology report, collected it in person and looked up all the different levels on Google. (I shall be applying for a discount on my National Insurance contributions later.)
While I did not appear to be diabetic, there were no fewer than six exclamation marks next to various readings, denoting where alarm should be taken. The lab technician had even taken the trouble to type a warning about my drastically low levels of vitamin D, not that the GP had thought it worth passing this on.
Fine, I get it. It’s no big deal. The sun hasn’t come out in this country for 37 years. We’re all vitamin D deficient. But my levels were not just low. Optimum vitamin D should be between 125 and 200 nmol/L — that’s nanomoles per litre, which is fitting because being like a poor little mole deprived of sunlight is exactly what is going on here. My level was 37. That’s one pale and pasty mole.
The other exclamation marks were by my white blood cell count, which was too low, which even I know is a key indicator of a suppressed immune system. What I didn’t know, but have now discovered on the internet, is that a low count of the type I have is almost always a response to an underlying condition or disease.
‘When the WBC count falls below the normal range,’ says one website, ‘your body will be susceptible to a range of infections, skin problems, viruses, tiredness…’
Which I had told the GP I was suffering from. Would it not, in the name of — oh, I don’t know, crazy idea — saving the NHS money further down the line, have been a good idea to look into this?
Should I really be on the internet, scouring websites called Blurtit or Buzz, putting two and two together myself and making 59? For example, my results say I have a low lymphocyte and monocyte count, which, when you Google it, gives you nothing less than HIV.
It’s either feast or famine with these sites. You can’t just have a touch of bronchitis, or a little light liver disease. It’s impending death or nothing.
So I rang my nutritionist friend Ian and he gave me a list of helpful supplements, including 1,000 units of vitamin D3. He made clear, however, that if I do have Aids this probably won’t do the trick.
‘Fine,’ I said, ‘but it’s worth a try.’
‘I’ve got to get on,’ he said.
‘You get on,’ I replied sarcastically, because I had wanted him to fawn over my impending death by sun deficiency a while longer. But in truth, I knew I had to get on as well.
‘When you have a low white blood count,’ said a site full of spelling mistakes, ‘you should take precautions to avoid infection, including washing your hands frequently, avoiding crowds and people that are are [sic] sick, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. In addition, you should avoid raw or undercooked foods, avoid contact with pet birds and reptiles and avoid farms and barnyards.’
Oh dear. Some sort of chemical suit might be in order when I visit the horses.