'I thought I was just tired from working a lot': How one woman's fatigue turned out to be something more serious

When Mila Clarke Buckley received her diabetes diagnosis, she was still “confused." She explains, “I was exercising regularly and eating well. Why didn’t that work for me?” (Photo courtesy of Mila Clarke Buckley of Hangry Woman)
When Mila Clarke Buckley received her diabetes diagnosis, she was still “confused." She explains, “I was exercising regularly and eating well. Why didn’t that work for me?” (Photo courtesy of Mila Clarke Buckley of Hangry Woman)

Houston-based food blogger Mila Clarke Buckley knew something was off with her body for six months before she finally spoke up about it. “I’m always embarrassed to say that,” the founder of Hangry Woman, tells Yahoo Life.

“It felt like I was going to the bathroom every five minutes,” Buckley, who was 26 at the time, says. “I would drink about two gallons of water every day and still feel thirsty. I felt like I couldn’t get enough water.” Buckley also felt fatigued and was “constantly” clammy and sweaty. Still, she didn’t realize it was all due to a serious health issue. “I thought I was just tired from working a lot,” she says. Finally, Buckley saw a doctor after her husband urged her to get her symptoms checked out.

So, visited primary care physician and went through a full examination. But Buckley says she got a call from a nurse at her doctor’s office about an hour after she left, asking her to make another appointment soon. “I thought something must be really wrong,” she says.

When she returned, she was told she had type 2 diabetes, a diagnosis that surprised her. Buckley’s mother and grandmother both have the disease, but Buckley didn’t think she would develop it because she was eating well and exercising regularly. Her diabetes was far from being under control at the time. “My blood sugar was at dangerously high levels,” says Buckley.

“It’s something that’s constantly on my mind.”

Buckley’s doctor prescribed diabetes medication and, eventually, insulin injections to try to lower her blood sugar levels.

It’s crucial for people with diabetes to have blood sugar levels within a target range, Leigh Tracy, a dietitian and the diabetes education program coordinator at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life. “If your blood sugar levels are uncontrolled, it can lead to serious health complications including becoming blind, kidney failure, heart attack or stroke, and slow healing cuts or sores,” she explains. “People with continual high blood sugars can also notice problems with their memory.”

Related: This Is What It's Really Like to Live With Type 2 Diabetes

Buckley was still “confused” as to why she developed diabetes. “I was exercising regularly and eating well. Why didn’t that work for me?” she says.

Unfortunately, this can happen to some people, according to Katherine Araque, MD, endocrinologist and director of endocrinology of the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. “There are other clinical predictors of type 2 diabetes than just diet and exercise,” she says. “Family history and genetics matter too.”

Now, Buckley says diabetes has a big impact on her life. “It’s something that’s constantly on my mind,” she explains. “It seems like every decision I make in a day centers around my blood sugar and what that will look like, from obvious things like food and exercise to less obvious things like stress and getting a cold.”

Buckley checks her blood sugar several times a day through a device that sticks onto her back and sends her readings to a device. “It’s useful for me,” she says. “I used to have to do six finger sticks a day, and that hurt.”

Still, she can often tell when her blood sugar is off by her mood. “When it’s high, I’m out of it,” she says. “When I get low blood sugar, I’m cranky.”

Buckley has also had to rethink how she approaches social situations. “If I’m getting cocktails with friends, I’m the person sitting at the table asking, ‘What’s in it? Do you use any fruit juice?’ At first, my friends thought I was just being really picky, but they eventually learned,” she says. “Now, they watch out for me and ask the questions.”

A new career path

When she was initially diagnosed, Buckely didn’t know what questions to ask her doctor. “I was in shock,” she says. “I went home and Googled, ‘How do you live with types 2 diabetes?’ I was 26 and I didn’t really know anyone my age who was dealing with diabetes.”

So, Buckley started writing about her experience on her Hangry Woman blog. “I thought, ‘If anyone stumbles across it, cool. If not, I have all these recipes and tips to go back to,’” she says. “But I realized that there were more people like me that wanted those resources and everyday advice that they could take with them.”

Buckley started getting emails from readers and from there, “it snowballed.” She now gets about 50,000 visitors to her site a month. “It’s really cool to provide that information for people who have diabetes,” she adds.

Ultimately, Buckley says, her work makes her feel less alone. “That’s what I felt in the beginning, but I don’t now,” she explains. “It’s been cool to find other people who are dealing with the same things and to be able to see how they handle it.”

Buckley has been “doing OK” since she got her diagnosis four years ago, although her blood sugar levels aren’t always what she wants them to be. “It’s a rollercoaster in that you’re not always going to have the same consistency,” she says. “You have your ups and downs.”

But, she says, getting her diabetes under control has helped her to see how badly she felt before. “I remember how I felt and I never want to go back to that — I was a zombie.”

Now, Buckley just wants other people in her situation to know that you can do a lot of things when you have type 2 diabetes. “It’s not the death sentence that people are often told it is,” she says. “You can lead a happy, healthy, complication-free life, as long as you take the right steps to manage it.”