Four years (and one pair of glasses, two scripts for Xanax and 20 lbs. lost) ago, I heard three words that changed my life forever.
It was a Friday morning, offices were getting ready to close for the Christmas weekend, which for most, it was a four-day weekend. It was a four-and-a-half day weekend for my doctor’s office. My frail frame and weary body rolled out of what I did not yet know was almost my deathbed as normal that day. I spent so long in the bathroom that I probably dozed off again before dragging myself to the shower. The brown roots of my red hair were at least an inch and a quarter, my eyes were sallow and the only clothes that didn’t hang off of my body were leggings and a sweater.
I drove to work with my bottle of water because I couldn’t go 20 minutes without it. Mid-day, when I returned back to my desk there were two voice mails on my phone. One on my desk phone and one on my cell phone. They were both from my doctor. “Call us right away. We close at 1 p.m. today and we need you to come in.”
I had just demanded blood work because the Xanax and meditation they prescribed wasn’t working for my “anxiety.” I grabbed my things and a ride to the doctor’s office and it was the longest ride of my life.
I was the only person in the office at that hour and waited impatiently in the exam room, clinging to the last few minutes of life as I knew it. The door opened in what seemed like action-movie slow motion. The doctor walked in, sat down and delivered the news that changed my life forever. “You have diabetes,” she said.
And I started to laugh … and cry.
I couldn’t quite grasp what she said. She wrote me a script for two diabetes medications, told me to read about the food pyramid and sent me on my way. Did I mention it was Friday? Before a four-day Christmas weekend. Yea, I was pretty much screwed.
My blood sugar was 539. To put that in perspective, a normal, aka nondiabetic, person will typically not ever go over 140. That was my fasting number that day. To put that in more perspective, now I usually wake up anywhere from 80-120, maybe 138 on a bad day.
Happy to report, that since then, I haven’t registered over 500 again.
My husband doesn’t like when I commemorate this day. But like a birth, a first date, an engagement or wedding anniversary, or a tragedy, it is a day that changed my life forever. It is a rebirth for me: I woke up that morning living my life as I had for the previous 29 years and 331 days. And when I awoke the next day, my life was different. I no longer just grab a snack out of the pantry and just eat it or no longer sample my way through the warehouse stores without having to pull my cart over, pull out a bag, draw some blood and wait five seconds to see if I can eat it or not. Ok … I still just grab a sample and go sometimes. But I no longer sit down to lunch with friends and just eat. I whip out a bag and a “pen” and start with a finger prick under the table. I can usually get away with it until I pull down my waistband and inject something into my abdomen. If it is a new friend or one with whom I haven’t shared my story, the conversation usually sways to what I am doing and how I do it on a daily basis.
To wrap up on a positive note ... Since my diagnosis, I am proud to report that I am quite healthy. For the most part, my numbers are “normal.” Save for the occasions that I do forget about being diabetic and indulge, underestimating my carb intake. I’ve spent four years learning about diabetes and am the best person who knows how to manage the disease for my own body. And no two diabetics are alike. I do appreciate hearing what works for you or someone you know and I enjoying sharing what works for me, but it may not work for each other.
Living with diabetes (the no-rent-paying roommate, if you will) has brought many amazing people into my life … oddly enough my husband, because if I hadn’t been diagnosed I wouldn’t have been doing what I was doing when we met, and many new friends and opportunities to support finding a cure for the disease.
I will leave you with this: Never be afraid to ask for a finger poke. If you or a young one in your life is ill and no one can seem to figure out why (remember my Xanax comment … I was treated for anxiety when I was really on my way into something much worse form high blood sugar), ask for a blood sugar test. Your doctor should be able to do it and any pharmacy can do it for you. It takes all of five seconds and hurts much less than hospital bills.
Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes can include: EXCESSIVE thirst, frequent visits to the bathroom and well, you can pee for what feels like five minutes straight, blurred vision, shortness of breath, major fatigue, and rapid and extreme weight loss. I was losing about six lbs. a week, which sounds glorious, but if you have ever lost that much that quickly ... it isn't pretty. I experienced all of those symptoms and yes, I shared that with my doctor.
For resources on diabetes, please check out:
And please don’t feel sorry for me … this was probably one of the best things to happen to me. If I had to “catch” any disease, the big “D” isn’t the worst I could have caught.