Today is 24 July. Yes, you say, I know that already. It’s part of the post itself. But the date has a special meaning for me. Eight years ago, today, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I was 31 years old.
I don’t remember much of the day. I do know that in the days leading up to my diagnosis, I felt progressively more ill. I was having trouble breathing. I was thirsty all the time, and the water I drank (sometimes waking up three or four times a night, thirsty) went straight through me. There is no history (at all–not my siblings, not my parents, not their siblings, not my cousins, not my grandparents, not their siblings) of diabetes in my family so, we didn’t read the signs, which were glaringly obvious.
No one knows the cause of type 1 diabetes. We know it happens more in the young (but I know someone who was diagnosed at age 70). We know it happens more frequently to people from Scandinavia, so it could be connected with vitamin d deficiency or pale skin (but it effects people who are not Scandinavian, too). We know it is an autoimmune disorder (like lupus or Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis). I don’t know why it came to me.
I am a generally healthy person. Before dx, I hadn’t been to the doctor in five years. My personal disease history does include mono when I was 19 and pneumonia when I was 14, but there was nothing there to indicate that my immune system was ganging up on my pancreas, destroying my insulin production.
I remember the night before. I had nightmares that felt CSI induced. I woke up, peed, got a drink of water, and sat down to catch my breath. I hadn’t eaten the previous day. We were planning on going to the doctor the next day. I remember getting up for another glass of water. I think I remember lying down on the kitchen floor on the vague theory that I would be closer the next time I needed water. I know I put my glass down on the floor above my head.
I don’t remember my brother finding me, passed out on the kitchen floor the next morning. I don’t remember my mom coming in, realizing she couldn’t wake me, calling Dad (who was working out of town for the summer), calling 911. I don’t remember the paramedics asking her if I had diabetes (she said, “no,” of course) or rushing me to the hospital or putting IVs on each arm. I don’t remember the ER at all, although I apparently moved to the front of the line. By the time Mom followed the ambulance there, I had already been diagnosed. I wasn’t there when the ER doctor told Mom I had diabetes. My blood sugar was 693. My body temperature was low. He wasn’t sure I would live.
When I woke in the ICU, Mom was there, and she told me I had diabetes. I fell right back to sleep, but if I felt anything, it was relief. At least, I knew what it was wrong, which meant I could deal. I think it was scarier for Mom. All she could do was watch.
Five days in the ICU, three days upstairs–it was August before I got out of the hospital with a blood sugar meter, syringe training, and over five hundred dollars worth of prescriptions. There are no generic insulins. Without prescription coverage (which I didn’t have) just the two forms of insulin I take daily were nearly two hundred dollars. The rest was mostly strips for my meter.
I check my blood glucose eight to ten times a day. More if I’m feeling off. I was on a pump for a couple of years, but because I don’t currently have a job, I’m back on syringes and two forms of insulin–at least four shots a day, self administered. I never used to have to think about what I was eating. Now, I compulsively count carbs, hoping that I come close to covering with my insulin so that I don’t end up yoyoing for the rest of the day.
Treating diabetes is kind of like being on a merry-go-round. You want to be able to keep spinning at a constant rate. But every move you make, every push of the foot, changes things. Eating, exercising, injections, sleeping, excitement–everything can affect my control.
It’s been eight years. If I could change the past–of course I would. No one wants this, no one knows why people get it, no one can stop it from happening–any more than we can stop a white cell response to an infection. But it’s how I live now.
And it could be so much worse.