My journey with diabetes – Back from the Brink!!












Hey, I’m back from the brink, minus one lower leg, but smarter, braver, and stronger!!

Thank-you friends and followers for your patience!  I have been MIA for the past months due to some health problems, namely diabetes.  I was literally at the brink of death due to my own stupidity and stubbornness!

As many of you know, I have been diagnosed as a Type II diabetic for many years now.  An old boss of my husband’s would have called it “hand to mouth disease.” To make a long story short, I have been overweight, practically since birth (Oh yes, I was a ten pounder!) with a strong affinity for the sweet taste of sugar.  As time passed, it seemed to become an addiction.  I have been kind of happy to hear that it has been recognized as such, now by scientists and researchers, because in my heart of hearts, during my more lucid moments, I thought I just had no self control.

When my illness finally took me to see my doctor, back in the early 2000’s the disease had escalated to the point that I was experiencing nerve damage in my feet, a sure sign that my blood sugar had been WAY out of control for an extended time.  Not only did I have diabetes, but also high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other ailments most often seen with obesity.  I was promptly put on a drug regime that had me choking down 13 pills every morning, and I was scheduled for mandatory check-ins with my doctor every three months.

The next several years would see my drug intake change from pills (glumetza, then metformin),  then on to injectable insulin (lantis), along with glyburide, to try and get my blood sugar within normal range.  I remember testing one morning and seeing the glucometer read 33!  I should really be in a coma – but I didn’t really feel sick at all!  my family would tell me years later that I was always “loopy”or brain-fogged, not remembering details of things that had been told to me the day before.  Not good when you are trying to run the financial backbone of a medium sized business!  I struggled with my diabetes, unknowingly for the next eight years.  At one point, my East Indian endocrinologist would tell me, “The patient has to take responsibility of their disease, Mrs. Cook.  We have no magic pills to take the symptoms of your diabetes away.  There isn’t any point in my continuing to see you if you don’t follow what I tell you to do.”  Well, that came as somewhat of a wake-up call, but I put it off as rude, condescending behaviour from an older doctor who was well into retirement age, and didn’t have much of a handle on the new diabetic medications that were coming out on the market.  I left his office, promising to get better control of my blood sugar, and to start exercising.  Hah!  As if that were going to happen!

Last year, my nephew and his fiancee invited us to attend their wedding, which was to be held in Cuba in April.  I was very excited to enjoy a ten day sun and sand, all-inclusive eating and drinking fest, while waiting for the big day to arrive.  Well, vacation day finally came, and we boarded the plane to Cuba, me with my seat belt extension in hand, ready to party!

The next few days saw us relaxing on chaise loungers down at the beach, being served pina coladas and cold beer.  My sister and I braved the waves to dip our toes in the ocean, and enjoyed the resort’s pool and swim-up bar in  the afternoons.  My feet took umbrage to these foreign waters, and to my dismay, the callus that I was plagued with, due to ill-fitting shoes, suddenly swelled up, and broke open into bleeding sores!  Warning bells went off in my head about the dangers of infection of the feet due to diabetics, so I presented myself to the resort’s doctor-in-residence forthwith for treatment.

The medical staff at the resort took exceptionally good care of me.  Despite not having  the best quality first aid supplies to work with, they bandaged me up, gave me two shots of penicillin, and some oral antibiotics, and had me return every day for a re-check and to have the dressing changed.  Needless to say, I never got back to the pool for the remainder of our stay.

After we returned home, following the wedding, I saw my family doctor, and she was satisfied that the “diabetic ulcers” were healing.  As time went on, a thick layer of callus grew over the injured area, and I started to relax about it.  For my birthday, I bought myself an Amope pedicure tool.  Although I had been going regularly to have pedicures at a salon, I was not satisfied that the callus was going away to the extent I would have liked to see.  The doctors didn’t seem to be overly concerned about it, so (yeah, I can hear you all going “gasp – oh no!”) yup, I took the Amope tool to my feet.  Things were going well, and I was doing my best not to go too deep with the abrasion, but suddenly, I had gone beyond the brink of safety, and the skin started to bleed.  Well, I thought to myself, “Lucky Paul gave me that awesome little mountain first aid kit for Christmas!” and I promptly used my recently acquired first aid bandaging skills to fix myself up.  I kept this all on the down-low, knowing that my then-Esthetician daughter would have raised the roof if she had known what I had done!

Christmas came and went, and myself and hubby Paul went out to our log cabin country home for an after-Christmas retreat.  My foot was still looking angry, but I was still applying a topical disinfectant and over-the-counter antibiotic ointment and bandaging it up freshly each day.  I wasn’t feeling well, and was blaming the damned holiday season for letting myself get run down.  I was running a fever and felt really lousy, but stubbornly wouldn’t give in to going to see my doctor.  Paul had to travel to Toronto on Search and Rescue business.  My foot was showing signs of infection by now, and the big toe on the right was discoloured.  I finally gave in and asked my daughter and her partner if they could run me over to the ER as my doctor’s office was closed, as it was Saturday.

When I finally got in to see a doctor at the ER, my daughter insisted on accompanying me into the examination area.  When the doctor removed the bandage, my foot was revealed, and the big toe had turned completely black!  “Looks like that is going to have to come off,” said the resident.  “You will have to be referred to an orthopedic surgeon.”  By now, I figured that was going to be the case, so I resigned myself to my fate, which I thought would be a toe-ectomy.

I waited a short few days to see the OS.  The guy looked a little like a hippie, and swaggered into the exam room, all business.  He took one look at the foot and said, “Yeah, that’s gonna have to come off just below the knee.”  To say I was gobsmacked is an understatement!  “We see this all the time, and if you don’t take drastic measures now, you will be back in a month or so to have more of your foot removed, and most likely six month later you will need the below-the-knee amputation.  Just as well to take care of it now.”  He debrided the infected area, then I was presented with papers for my permission to proceed with the surgery, and was sent home with more mega-antibiotics.

It sure wasn’t long before the hospital called me with my surgery date – February 14th.  Great, what a treat for Valentine’s Day!  Paul was so sweet and kind, when I know that he must have been boiling mad inside with the cavalier way I had been handling my health.  He took the stance of “what’s done is done” and kissed me on the cheek as they rolled me away to pre-op. Thank God for his love and unwavering support.  There is nothing more terrifying than being put to sleep and to know that you are going to wake up in pain, with pieces missing.

The next three weeks went by in a blur.  There was pain, but it wasn’t unbearable.  There was discomfort – I thought my ass was on fire due to the abrasion of lying/sitting in the hospital bed, but Paul got me a lambskin mat, and it was bearable. And there was a total loss of independence, and of dignity.  Suddenly I had to use a commode to go to the bathroom, and had to figure out how to stand up and shuffle the couple of feet I had to move to get there, using a walker.  It suddenly hit me!  I was disabled, and was going to be several months in recovery, not to mention, altered for the rest of my life.  All of a sudden I was dependant on walkers, wheelchairs, and all kinds of convalescent equipment for my daily living.

I have always been of the opinion that one is brought adversity in one’s life, just to see how you handle it.  Knowing that there were lots of people in that hospital who were facing their own problems, many of which were much more serious and life-threatening than mine, I had to take the time to be grateful for my blessings.  I have a great husband and family, a comfortable life, and medication and support with which to carry on with my life.  I have never succumbed to depression or for mourning the life I left behind, unencumbered by wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs.  I have taken on the responsibility of getting the message out to others about the dangers of consuming sugar.  It sickens me to see corporations waving all of their high-sugar products in front of our faces, and especially those of our children, encouraging us, like the proverbial drug pushers, to satisfy our sweet craving. They say there is nothing worse than a reformed addict, but I don’t know if I had know then what I know now about sugar and diabetes, if I would have ever taken the bull by the horns and cut down on my carbohydrate consumption. Maybe it took losing my lower leg to bring the raw truth to my  consciousness, and purpose to my actions.

They say it’s no use getting older if you don’t become wiser.  It is six months post-surgery, and I have just completed rehab therapy for using a prosthetic leg.  The people  at the Miller Center here in St. John’s, Newfoundland are excellent, and we had so much fun as I learned to walk again on two legs!  My therapist even told me I was the best patient she had ever seen through therapy, and what I was expecting to take eight months to a year, I accomplished in only six months.  The only thing I am waiting on now, is to have my final prosthetic leg made, once the shrinking of my remaining leg is complete.  That one will be much lighter and more esthetically pleasing-looking than the temporary ones I have been using up till now.  With the help of the diabetes education people at the hospital, I have finally gotten a handle on following the diabetes diet, and have managed to drop mu A1C levels from 9.4 down to 5.4.  the doctor has started to reduce some of my diabetes and blood pressure meds as my numbers are falling back into normal (or even below normal!) range.  I can’t thank Eastern Health enough for all of the in-home services that have been made available to me during my convalescence.  From two weeks of home care, to daily visits from registered nurses to change dressings, to emergency appointments to see my orthopedic Surgeon, to a home IV program to supply me with IV antibiotics without having to be admitted to hospital, to a home monitoring program that allows me to transmit blood sugar readings, blood pressure readings, and my weight to a dedicated remote monitoring team, I have no complaints whatsoever in the care that I have received.  I am, and forever will be very grateful.

So there you have it, my journey back from the brink!  And the brink it truly was, as my surgeon told me after the fact that I had been two days away from sepsis, and that is a very life-threatening, not-good place to be.  I have been granted another chance to live within my restrictions, and can now hope to live a long and happy life.  Although I miss the luxury of a good box of fine chocolates, it is little to give up, when I can aspire to  live out my golden years with my wonderful husband and family.


Thank-you all for reading my story.  I am looking forward to getting back into my writing as I catch up with all of the bookwork I got behind on these last few months.  If you haven’t already read my books, and enjoy action/adventure romance, look me up on  for my novel “The Lion’s Den” at:

or if you’re up for a little Christmas Romance try “Christmas Wishes” at:

Don’t forget, I have a blog running here with lots of snippets from my crazy life.  For a little light reading, and some prequels for “The Lion’s Den”, read on!

I promise to keep in touch via my website and through my facebook page, Author Norma Cook with updates and blog posts, hopefully posting weekly.

Again, thank-you for staying with me!  Adversity is just bumps in the road of life.  Now that I am back from the brink, I will keep calm and soldier on!

Love to all of you from me,

blue glitter norma





me in red - 1

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