03/29/2015 11:09 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Wake-Up Call and a Scary Diagnosis


As a business speaker and trainer, I shake a lot of hands. But for the past year, I have done so as quickly as possible, then tried to keep my hands out of sight. I do a lot of presentations and it's hard to be effective with your hands tucked away, but I was mortified for others to see them.

My hands aren't deformed. I keep my nails nice, but I don't have professional manicures. That would mean offering my hands to someone. I don't because I have a condition that presents as red blotchy patches on the backs of my hands. Raised, round embarrassing blobs that make me want hide my hands at every opportunity.

My general doctor said eczema, but rich creams did nothing. An allergist was confident it was ringworm, a contagious virus. I bought the fungal cream and applied it faithfully twice a day for three months. (I was told it would go away within six weeks.) When it didn't, I tried home remedies. First, apple cider vinegar, then coconut oil. This website said applying either of these several times per day would knock it out. Nope.

But even though the rash was spreading on the back of my hands, no one I have come in contact with has been afflicted, not even my husband, who holds my hands daily.

Finally, not being able to stand it any longer, I consulted a dermatologist.

It took him about two minutes to diagnose it. Granuloma Annulare, an auto-immune disorder that is often confused with ringworm. But what shocked me, no literally scared me the most, is that it's tied to diabetes.

My mother had Type 2 diabetes, depending on insulin shots four times per day. Her mother also had Type 2 diabetes and died when I was six. She was blind, one of the side effects of untreated diabetes. I also know the chances of having it if a parent has had it is higher. I have two generations before me.

My blood sugar levels have been something I have been watching for years. They are not normal, but have never been too high. Sort of that gray area in between, called "we are going to watch these numbers for now, get blood work again in six months."

I thought I didn't eat a lot of sugar. I am gluten-free so most desserts are out. But what I hadn't noticed is all the sugar in processed gluten-free foods. In order to make foods without gluten taste like something other than cardboard, sugar is added to enhance the taste.

When you are told you can't have something (gluten) and then find foods you can eat, (and the marketplace has gone crazy with consumer demand in this niche), it represents the ability to not be deprived of all the foods your friends and family enjoy. For me, eating gluten-free products filled the void of being deprived of what everyone else was having. I wanted that "me too" comfort.

But now I can't. And there are issues around feeling deprived again.

I'm working through it with the help of acupuncture and hypnosis, exercise, and a nutrition coach. I completed a 14-day paleo cleanse to clear toxins from my body and learned how to reframe my feelings of deprivation into healthy cravings. I know how bad gluten makes my body feel, and I am using that knowledge as motivation not to eat sugar.

I watched my mom suffer with medical issues resulting from diabetes, and I am determined to turn the tide. She died too young at age 81, and I want to be around when my son and his wife have kids (hopefully in a few years). I want to enjoy them and have a connection with them.

I want to shake someone's hand and not pull away. I want to have a professional manicure. More than anything, I want to be healthy.

Learning to find my healthy balance was a challenge. But the biggest lesson I learned is to consult the right expert versus listening to professionals whose expertise is not specific to what I needed.

Ironically, I focus on making the right connections for my clients. I make sure they have the proper expertise as I help them make meaningful connections with themselves and others. If they are on the wrong path, I am able to guide them. With so many people having opinions, it's easy to try a lot of quick fixes, most of which don't work.

I learned that what I do for others, I need to do for myself. This means paying attention to details and being my own best advocate when something isn't working.

It's important to stay connected to your own higher self, both in business and in health, and to make sure you are connecting to the right experts.

The good news is that with the proper treatment and self-care, the red patches are barely noticeable. There is a manicure in my future, and I look forward to shaking some hands!