Body

Diabetes symptoms and the shock diagnosis that changed Marcia Hines' life

"I was losing oodles of weight. I was thirsty all the time, and, without being vulgar, I was peeing like a pregnant woman!”

By Ellie McDonald
There’s a lot we know about Marcia Hines. Let’s start with the fact that this American-born Aussie has been wowing crowds with her signature, soul-soothing vocals for half a century (and, at the age of 64, shows no sign of slowing down.
Although, aside from Marcia’s singing, acting, dancing and TV presenting skills, this star is now proudly known for her work advocating much-needed awareness for a health condition that impacts up to 1.7million people across Australia. Her current battle? To help Aussies identify diabetes symptoms and act on them fast.
Marcia Hines has lived with type-1 diabetes for almost 30 years and manages it with exercise, a healthy diet and the odd sweet treat.
“Before I was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, my health and my body felt brilliant, but I wasn’t eating properly,” she remembers.
“I was skipping meals. There’d be days when I didn’t eat. I was losing oodles of weight. I was thirsty all the time, and, without being vulgar, I was peeing like a pregnant woman!”
It was only when Marcia was struggling to recover from a dental procedure that a friend suggested she get tested for diabetes.
“I wasn’t sick, but I had a procedure done on one of my teeth and it just wouldn’t heal – it just kept throbbing for days. I went to the doctor and that was when I was diagnosed with diabetes.”
But it wasn’t so much the diagnosis that was Marcia’s health wake-up call – rather, it was the stoic life perspective of someone a little less fortunate.
“I was in hospital learning to inject myself with insulin and there was a girl in the same room with jaundice,” Marcia continues.
“She’d had a liver transplant and it had rejected. She looked at me and said, ‘Marcia, we could really be sick, couldn’t we?’”
“And that’s when I said to myself, ‘You’re not sick, Marcia. If this girl can see life the way she’s seeing it, then you’re just going to have to deal with what you’ve just been dealt.’”
“She was like an angel. She was my reality check. I could have a lot worse things than just diabetes.”
"When I was diagnosed, I remember my mum standing over my bed saying, 'Thank God she’s not going to die [laughs!].' My mum used to always cut to the chase," Marcia tells us.
This month, Diabetes Australia ambassador Marcia is shining a spotlight on the importance of having a blood-glucose test undertaken NOW…
Because, as she will tell you through her own experience with type-1 diabetes, knowing diabetes symptoms, as well as having that two-second finger-prick test today, could make for a healthier, happier, life-changing tomorrow.

How diabetes works

According to Diabetes Australia, if someone is diagnosed with diabetes, it means that their body is unable to sustain health levels of glucose (a type of sugar that provides one of the body’s main sources of energy) in the blood. This can lead to health complications and, if left untreated, can reduce life expectancy dramatically.
Basically, diabetes can be categorised into three groups: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.
Each type is serious and complex in its impact on the entire body. But rest assured: while there is currently no cure, it can be managed through daily care, self-care and, in some cases, medication and changing your lifestyle.
Cathy Freeman’s pre-diabetes turned into type-2 diabetes after the birth of her daughter, Ruby, now five.

Causes of diabetes

The three types of diabetes differ vastly. First up, type-1 diabetes is a sometimes-inherited genetic autoimmune condition. If you have type-1 diabetes, your immune system actively destroys cells in the pancreas that work to produce insulin.
Then there’s type-2 diabetes – where insulin, over time, becomes more and more ineffective at managing your body’s bloody glucose levels – which accounts for 85 per cent of diabetes diagnoses in Australia alone.
Experts say that this is because type-2 diabetes is not just genetic, but is a condition that can develop over a long period of time and is strongly linked to obesity, high blood pressure, lack of exercise and poor diet habits.
When Mariah Carey was pregnant with twins Monroe and Moroccan, she was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes (gestational diabetes mellitus or GDM) occurs during pregnancy, usually between the 24-28-week mark, and often goes way after the baby is born.
The key indicator? When a mum-to-be has higher than normal blood-glucose levels appear during their pregnancy.
Those who are overweight, have had polycystic ovary syndrome (PSD), are from an indigenous Australian, Torres Straight Islander, Vietnamese, Chinese, middle-eastern, Melanesian and Polynesian backgrounds are most at risk.
On top of that, your risk heightens if you are over the age of 25, have a family history of type-2 or gestational diabetes, or have given birth to a large baby in the past.

When diabetes goes untreated

Even though diabetes can generally develop over time, some of the health implications tied with diabetes can be critical and also life-threatening. These complications include:
  • Eye damage (namely diabetic retinopathy) that can lead to blindness
  • Kidney damage (neuropathy), including tingling, numbing, burning pain and even losing all feeling to the affected area
  • Foot damage, which can lead to toe, foot or leg amputation
  • Bacterial and fungal skin conditions
  • Hearing problems
  • Cardiovascular problems

Diabetes symptoms

In each type of diabetes, signs and symptoms of diabetes can come be life-threatening (in some cases, people have found out they have diabetes after having a heart attack!). Other times, some people will show no out-of-the-ordinary symptoms. However, common diabetes symptoms include:
  • Feeling lethargic or tired
  • Itching or skin infections
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Leg cramps
  • Blurred vision
  • Being extremely thirsty
  • Always feeling hunry
  • Weight loss (type 1) or weight gain (type 2)
  • Passing more urine
  • Mood swings
Halle Berry was 19 when she fell into a diabetic coma that culminated in a type-2 diabetes diagnosis.

How diabetes is diagnosed

As Marcia tells us, a simple, 15-minute chat with a diabetes advisor and a blood-glucose test can determine if you have type-1 or type-2 diabetes or not (gestational diabetes can be tested via a glucose challenge test, known as a GCT, then a pregnancy oral glocuose tolerance test, referred to as a POGTT).
“The great thing was that I was diagnosed right away – I had a finger-prick blood test that basically checked my sugar levels, and my sugar levels were through the roof!” she says.
Pop into your closest Priceline Pharmacy for your FREE type-1 and type-2 diabetes check with a diabetes advisor (and talk through a management plan, if you need one) this month – trust us, your health and wellness will thank you for it.
If you would like to learn more about diabetes, along with diabetes symptoms, book an appointment with your trusted GP, visit Diabetes Australia’s website or call 1300 136 588.