It seems that one of the first questions people ask upon hearing you have diabetes is “when were you diagnosed?” The short answer to this question is “Four days after my 18th birthday on Friday, November 13, 1998, approximately 10 o’clock in the morning.” The detailed answer is a little longer.
My father also has Type 1 Diabetes. He, coincidentally, was also diagnosed shortly after his 18th birthday. Growing up I knew something was different – my friends’ dads didn’t have to take shots before meals, they didn’t need juice if they were in a bad mood because their sugar was low, and they didn’t have to test their sugar before eating. However, those three things were really the only differences my dad had compared to friends’ dads. He still coached soccer, horsed around with us, mowed the lawn, went on beach vacations, etc.
In retrospect, I kind of wish my parents had made a bigger deal out of his diabetes. I am sure that they just wanted to protect my sister and me, which I can understand. I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal until I was diagnosed and it was me who was taking shots, pricking my finger, and experiencing low blood sugar. This is a pain in the butt, man! How has Dad been doing this for so long??
Back to the diagnosis. I was going to the doctor’s office for my very first, ahem, lady visit. Not thrilled. I was a freshman in college at the University of Delaware, living on campus even though my parents lived a few miles away. So my mom was taking me to the doctor since I didn’t have access to a car on campus. The nurse called me in and after taking my vitals (Hey! I lost weight! Score!), she asked me to pee in a cup. I was in the exam room, waiting for the doc to come in and chat with me before my exam. I heard the nurses say something about “ketones”. All of a sudden the doctor is coming in with my mom. Ummmmm, I do not need my mommy in here while I get my lady bits checked out. Love ya mom, but, no.
The doctor told us that there are ketones in my urine and she wants to check my blood sugar because she thinks it may be diabetes. My mom was white as a ghost as my blood sugar results showed up on the meter – 352. I naively asked if it had anything to do with the fact that I drank tea with lots of sugar that morning. The doctor explained that sadly, no, that wouldn’t make my blood sugar go up that high if I did not have diabetes. Well, damn. This isn’t going to be fun, but, no big deal right? So I have to take a few shots, life won’t change that much. Oh, to be young again.
The doctor said that she felt I was probably in the honeymoon stage and she felt comfortable sending me home rather than to the hospital because my dad could keep a watchful eye on me. I still don’t agree with this, but I suppose I was lucky in this regard. An appointment was made with an endocrinologist for monday morning and off I went on my merry way.
The weekend was normal. I was put on a low dose of NPH but told to just act normally. My dad offered to do my injections for me, but I took charge from day one. Something he still mentions as impressing him to this day. I remember going to the mall with my boyfriend and wanting a smoothie but not getting one because the doctor told me to stay away from sugars and carbs as much as I could that weekend.
The endocrinologist appointment on Monday was a nightmare. Talk about lack of bedside manner. Here I am, an 18 year-old kid, and the first thing she tells me is that I’m going to gain weight. Ummmm, thanks? Know your audience, lady! I was put on injections of NPH and R insulin. The first week I stayed at my parents’ house before returning to campus and did OK. I tried to just go with the flow because I knew my parents were upset and I didn’t want them to see me sad.
Hindsight is always 20/20. I absolutely had some of the classic symptoms, but to me, they all had an explanation. I had lost weight but I was walking from the dorms to classes every day and was watching what I ate to avoid the freshman 15. I was peeing a lot but I was also drinking a lot of water to help with weight maintenance. I was thirsty but it had to be because of all the walking, right? My parents didn’t even put 2 and 2 together with my symptoms.
After about 18 months of multiple daily injections, I decided to go on the pump at the urging of my awesome new endocrinologist. I started with a Minimed 507 and stayed with Medtronic for almost 12 years. I went on a pump vacation for about 8 months from late summer 2012 until spring 2013. My reasons for this pump vacation were mainly because I was getting married and wanted the freedom of not having to worry about my pump with all the wedding events – showers, parties, honeymoon. I found my A1c coming down with the combination of Lantus and Apidra injections. I am now back on the pump (Trying out the Animas Ping) and have the added tool of the Dexcom continuous glucose monitor. I’m hoping to become a mommy in the next 1-2 years which is the main motivation to return to the life of a cyborg.
I’m not a perfect diabetic and I don’t claim to be. I feel that life with diabetes is all about balance – keeping your disease in check while living the best and happiest life possible.