Between a Rock and a Hard Place


About a year ago both my family doctor (a wonderful fellow who will always take the time to explain, and even to chat, and who, late in his career, has undertaken the computerization of his medical records because “It is good for my patients” even though his labourious hunt-and-peck data entry unquestionably costs him income) and my internist/cardiologist ( a former student, a teacher at the medical college and one of the kindest and gentlest people I know) both told me that my blood sugar levels had started to top the ominous 6.0 level. (Although my friend and gym buddy, Rod, scoffs at such numbers, calling me not even a bridesmaid on the path to diabetes.)

And so, dutiful patient that I am, I began to pare down my consumption of refined carbohydrates. Whole wheat bread:  one slice per day max. Potatoes? HAH! Once per week….at most. Desserts? Once a week…and still feel guilty. Scotch? …………….Well, gee whiz, I am not an angel. And exercise? I go to the gym 6 days a week.

And, low and behold, at my last blood sugar measurement, a triumph. I had shrunk from 6.6 to 5.1. Glory Hallelujah, angel choirs and fireworks! I was immensely proud of myself.


Also about a year ago, my GP referred me to a nephrologist  (yeah, I know that sounds like some sort of person who reads your fortune according the position of the stars but, in fact, it is a kidney specialist) because my creatine levels were somewhat elevated. (Usually being elevated is a positive accomplishment, like getting an Order of Canada or being named to years of self-service in the Senate) but in the wacky world of Medicine, “elevation” is usually not a consummation devotedly to be wished. My nephrologist, another fellow who was much at pains to explain everything to me, decided to monitor me……

And so….I now come to the moment of truth. At my recent monitoring meeting, before I saw the nephrologist, I had a meeting with an utterly charming dietician who, in the cheeriest and friendliest way imaginable, informed me that I have a potassium problem. It seems that my blood potassium levels are now in the “action zone.”

As this woman so  accommodatingly explained to me, my somewhat overworked kidneys need some relief from processing and eliminating potassium; otherwise I might soon start experiencing diarrhea or nausea, weakness or numbness, tingling and/or breathing problems.

And, dear and gentle readers, since those symptoms could easily describe what I currently feel about the state of world affairs, I told my dietician, “I will do as you recommend.”

Well, it seems that the body accumulates potassium from EXACTLY the sources (mostly plants) whose consumption wards OFF the effects of diabetes. Gone must be high fiber comestibles such as avocado, cantaloupe, oranges, pears, asparagus, beans, LENTILS!, CARROTS!!!, greens such as kale, collards or beet, RAPINI!!, squash and (horror of horrors—) TOMATOES!

I am even advised to limit my daily consumption of black coffee and unsweetened tea. Highly acceptable are refined flours, meats, pastries, white bread and sugars.

And so, to my readers and friends who are in the world of medicine, an endeavor which has richly enhanced life and longevity, I beg:   CAN YOU GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER?

Or, must I face the ultimate solution and recognize that, were I to lose say 30 pounds, all of this might melt away?

O dear and glorious physicians….has it come to this?

Johnston Smith is a retired teacher and an active spiritual director in Winnipeg.

  • Paul Baker
    Posted at 06:42h, 22 February Reply

    What a charming morning read. It did indeed put a smile on my face! Thank you.

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 09:14h, 22 February Reply

    Thank you Johnston$

  • Roger Yaworski, SJ
    Posted at 12:15h, 22 February Reply

    Thanks for the health update.
    Remember doctors are practicing medicine.
    As they tell me “what do you expect at your age.”

Post A Comment

Subscribe to igNation

Subscribe to receive our latest articles delivered right to your inbox!