My Victoza Journey
by carol king
When I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2003 I was devastated. I am a qualified nurse and knew precisely what this diagnosis could potentially mean for my future health. I had visited my General Practitioner, as I was feeling so dreadfully tired and thought that I had hit menopause, so to be told I had diabetes was a real shock. I had had gestational diabetes when pregnant with my third child in 1991, but it had never been followed up.
I was prescribed an oral medication regime of metformin and glipizide for my blood sugar, simvastatin for my cholesterol (although my cholesterol levels have always been relatively low) and lisinopril for my blood pressure (which was approximately 155/95, slightly on the high side). This continued thereafter for the next six years. During this period my A1c fluctuated from up to about 8.4% to 7.9% at its best. I tried to lose weight, eat healthily, and perhaps do a little exercise, but to no avail. I lead a very busy life, with three children, one grandchild, a husband who works away all week, and a very busy full-time job as a lecturer at a local college. I felt I was not achieving anything other than drifting along with my diabetes care.
I have a very supportive primary healthcare team, made up of my own GP; the lead GP within the practice and my diabetic nurse. She suggested to me last July that I may like to consider a different approach to my care. We had briefly discussed the possibility of insulin injections, but more as a future consideration. I wasn’t keen on this really – I remember feeling that insulin is almost the beginning of the end! I realize this is not entirely rationale (as a qualified nurse), but this was how I felt.
It was suggested that since Victoza had been permitted for use by NICE in June 2009 that I may consider this. My nurse explained that there may be some side-effects; I read up on it too and felt that it may be something that could help me. I started on the lowest 0.6 mg/day dosage for about two weeks and moved onto the middle 1.2 mg/day on August 24th (clearly a significant date as I remember it so well). At first with both the lower and the higher doses I felt really nauseous and had a huge headache, but I felt I had to persist. I therefore decided to administer it at night when I went to sleep – so I would not be aware I felt sick! It worked.
I immediately started feeling better; stopped thinking about what I could eat all the time; could no longer eat more than I should (eyes vs. stomach); decided that I needed to increase my exercise from zero to something and started walking 30 minutes/day. At first it was painful. My leg muscles ached, but I persisted and soon was able to do my 30 minute circuit in 20 minutes. I also started paying attention to eating the right foods – more fish, vegetables and less carbohydrates. Essentially now I almost eat no bread, potatoes, cake, etc. I am more inclined to eat a fruit salad rather than sweet things (not that I have ever been a prolific sweet eater – a little chocolate now and then is fine). I believe I saw that I was feeling better and that encouraged me to pay more attention to the things I could control.
I have now lost about 1.5 stone in weight (about 21 pounds, so I now weigh 224 pounds), and more importantly, it has stayed off. I have dropped three dress sizes and while the English winter has prevented me from walking every day, I am still trying to maintain frequent walks. If I can’t get out for a walk, I ensure that I climb the stairs rather than take a lift; walk where possible. I even managed to sit in an airplane seat without an extension belt in January 2010!
The most significant thing that sticks in my mind was that toward the end of summer, I was able to run up a hill with my granddaughter – I was so pleased – I did it, was not out of breath and didn’t huff and puff afterward. What an achievement.
The only other side effect I’ve had is that if I inject Victoza into my legs, I seem to get some sort of mild reaction locally, but I’m not entirely sure if this is related to the drug or the needle. I now inject regularly into my abdomen and have had no reactions there.
Victoza (I called it my Italian drug – as I am half Italian) has made such a difference. I feel that I am more in control of my diabetes; I have the willingness to lose weight and exercise, and in December my overall A1c was down to 6.6%. This was a huge boost to my confidence and gave me great motivation to carry on trying to lose weight and take care of myself. The greatest motivation is knowing that I CAN do something about living a longer and healthier life; I want to see my children grow up and succeed, have children of their own (as well as my oldest daughter’s child). I want to be able to live life to the full, continue my job - while it is hard work, sometimes tiring and stressful, working with young people is incredibly fulfilling.
So many people have said to me I don’t look 52 – I don’t now but I used to (and that was before I was!). I have the energy to look after my four year-old granddaughter all day – my eldest is training to be a midwife – and I truly believe that Victoza has helped make that change in my life.
Injecting is not a problem; it is such a tiny needle. Carrying the Victoza pen around on occasion is problem-free – it looks like a highlighter pen of sorts. My GP, my diabetic nurse, even the pharmacist at my local practice are all aware that I am happy being on the drug – I think they can see how well I’m doing too and are genuinely interested in the effects it is having. My friends and family all say I seem more alive, less tired and happier since I’ve been on it.
If you’re thinking about using Victoza, ask your healthcare doctor or educator about it. As a reminder, the nausea was hard for me, but I did work around that – the shot, that I thought might be challenging, was very easy (being able to inject the pen anytime and anywhere definitely helps). I’ve found it to be a fabulous choice for me – after all, it’s given me back my zing for life!