Are We The Same?

This is a post I just posted to my blog. You can check out the original at my blog, Diabetes Odyssey.

I often think about other diabetics and what their experiences are. Am I a typical diabetic, or are there truly unique things I have gone through? I always assume that I am like any other diabetic, just with my own little differences here and there. We are all the same, but all unique. That’s the beauty of life.

I have compiled a few questions and answers below. These are questions I’ve chosen because I often wonder how my experiences here compare to other diabetics. If you have a story you’d like to tell about any of the below topics, please post it in the comments, if you don’t mind.

Do you remember your diagnosis? How did that Dr. visit go?

My memory of this event is spotted because at that time my blood sugar was running so high all the time that my permanent memory was damaged. Either that, or I just blocked a lot of it out because it was so traumatic. I remember sitting on the edge of the exam table, it was metal and cold, even through the thin paper cover. My dad was with me, we were at his endocrinologists office. My dad was a type 1 as well (there are 6 of us altogether). The doctor came in and pretty much the first words out of his mouth were, “you’re diabetic”. He said it with a comedic kind of tone. I think he was trying to lighten the impact. I remember smiling a bit, more out of defense mechanism than anything. I think my dad put his arm around my shoulder (he either really did, or I just wished he had). The doctor went on to talk to my dad about things my nine year old mind couldn’t comprehend.

Has diabetes harmed your memory?

A bit. I spent my childhood and twenties with chronically high blood sugar. This has damaged my long term memory, but not so much my short term. When I think back to old events, unless it was a truly impactful moment for me, the memory is always like trying to swim through very muddy waters. It takes a lot of work to really remember anything from childhood, or even just three years ago. This is one reason I like to take a lot of pictures.

I see a difference and improvement in my memory now that my blood sugar is under much better control. It’s kind of like emerging from a deep dark hole.

Has diabetes harmed your education?

A bit. Again, it was because of chronically high blood sugar, as well as the emotional and psychological trauma that wasn’t addressed. I almost got held back in the third grade because my grades dropped so far. I was tested for learning disabilities that year as well. My parents fought the school about this, if I remember correctly, because they knew my new diagnosis was probably to blame. I just needed time to adjust.

Well, I never adjusted, but my grades improved and I got through school. I struggled in junior high and high school with other problems, though. I had trouble with not wanting to be there, I ditched…a lot. But, I still did well, I did pretty darn good in high school, despite hardly ever being there!

I chose not to go to college right away, because I was dumb and wanted to enjoy my freedom a bit first. But once I did go to college it was too easy. I found myself shocked at how elementary the classes were. Mind you, this was general ed at a community college. I never did finish college, though, because I couldn’t bring myself to stay awake for the lectures, keep up with the homework, and do group work (I do not do well working with others), I had to work, and deal with adult life (marriage, finances, work, etc.) and diabetes. It was too much to handle for me. After years of taking a couple classes here and there, and subsequently dropping them. I just gave up.

Have you been treated differently for being diabetic?

Only when I was a kid. My teacher in the fifth grade managed to embarrass me to hell and back. The class was getting ready to put on a history play; our teacher let us know there was going to be a classroom party after the play was over and everyone would get cookies and punch. At this moment she looked me dead in the eye and said, “Not you, Tamra, I’ll find something sugar-free for you.” I swear to you every student in my class turned and stared at me like I was an alien. I wanted to dig a hole and hide.

It was at this moment that I decided to not tell anyone I was diabetic. For years to follow I never mentioned to anyone that I was diabetic. If they found out, it wasn’t from me.

Do you wear medical jewelry?

I do. As a child I wore it on and off. My parents wanted me to wear it at least when other family wasn’t around. But I was always around people who knew I was diabetic, family, friends, teachers, etc., so I never thought it was important. When I got up into junior high and high school, I spent more time alone and out in the world. But I didn’t want people to know I was diabetic so I rarely wore my medic-alert bracelet, or if I did, I made sure it was hidden under long sleeves, etc.

In my twenties I never wore medical jewelry. I frankly had forgotten about it. Recently, after my heart surgery and eye surgeries, I decided I really need to be wearing medical jewelry, so I dug out the bracelet I have had since I was nine years old (it’s gone through several chains, though) and started wearing it regularly.

A few months ago I won a new medical bracelet from a Twitter event. I wear that one now and my original one is tucked away in a safe place.

I actually am thinking seriously about getting a “Type 1 diabetic” tattoo on my forearm.

How many forms of glucose monitoring have you used?

At the time of my diagnosis and for a couple years after, we used a color coded method of glucose monitoring. You would put a large drop of blood on a “chem strip”, wait a couple minutes and then wipe it off and compare the color to a chart on the strip bottle. The darker your strip, the higher your BG. Not very precise. Time consuming as well.

The first glucose monitor we had was large, heavy, slow, and required coding with each new strip. It also required large drops of blood.

Since then I have gone through at least eight meters. With each one it seems to get smaller, lighter, faster, requires less blood, and is more precise.

I also use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) now.

There’s also the A1c labs I do every 3-4 months.

Are you proud to be a diabetic?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am proud to be diabetic. I think it is kind of twisted to be proud to have a disease. But I can be proud of how far I’ve come despite my diabetes. I am proud of how well I am doing now at controlling diabetes, especially after so many years of neglect and rebellion.


Although it was a long time, the dx was so traumatizing I remember it like it was yesterday. I didn’t go to the doc for diabetic testing, but routine blood work uncovered high bg’s, so he gave me a GTT which I failed. I was put on insulin (the old, bad kinds in 1978).

Lyrica affects my memory more than my long term diabetes.

I had a heck of a time completing a final exam in college when I had a bad hypo. Other than that, no effect.

Treated differently:
I don’t really think about that.

Medical jewelry:
I have some, but don’t wear it. I don’t wear jewelry as it irritates me. Sometimes when I go on a trip, I will suffer the irritation of wearing a Medical ALert around my neck.

Glucose Monitoring

  1. Tes Tapes (next to useless)
  2. Chemstrip bg strips without a meter (color comparison to read)
  3. tons of brands of many models of meters
  4. CGM – MM

No, nor ashamed.


Do you remember your diagnosis? How did that Dr. visit go?

I was in my 20s, so very different from what it’s like for a kid. Still, I remember very distinctly the doc coming back with the results of my BG test with the words “Well, you are the proud owner of diabetes.” Also: “Probably your wife wouldn’t have been able to wake you up tomorrow.” I also remember giving myself my first injection–like @phoenixbound, the “old bad kinds.” Took some doing, but it got easier. I wasn’t hospitalized.

Has diabetes harmed your memory?
More than advancing age? I don’t think so. I’ve always had pretty good control and (knock on wood) no complications after 30+ years.

Has diabetes harmed your education?
I have a Ph.D. from Harvard, so I guess not :wink:

Have you been treated differently for being diabetic?
Your story makes me glad I didn’t have to get through public school with it! No.

Do you wear medical jewelry?
I never did until going to Europe this past spring, first trip abroad wearing a pump so I thought having one was a good idea. It’s a silver bracelet type, kinda nice looking–checkout person at a store recently complimented me on it, not knowing what it was. I’ve thought about getting a tattoo too!

How many forms of glucose monitoring have you used?
Chem strips!!! oh god do I remember those. Until sometime in the early 90s (?), then glucometers of various kinds.

Are you proud to be a diabetic?
Proud of having it doesn’t make any sense. But I don’t make any big secret of it, or go off and hide if I need to do a fingerstick or a bolus or use an injector pen. I’m reasonably discrete about it but I’m not going out of my way to hide it–I’m not ashamed of it, let’s put it that way. That may be another difference of not having had to go through school and puberty with it. I can definitely see how that would make you totally resistant to other people knowing. But yeah, I’m proud to have survived the slings and arrows of it for 30+ years.

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You mirrored my thoughts totally in the quoted text.

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Out of order:

Has diabetes harmed your memory?
YES YES YES times a million. I used to be able to repeat most conversations verbatim; I had a very good sense of time.
Two months after diagnosis I lost my sense of self in time, lost the sense that almost anything I remembered had actually happened to me, and lost the link of remembering what had happened more than a few minutes earlier in an anchored-in-time kind of way. All the vividness of all of my memories went POOF.

Do I remember my diagnosis? How did that visit go?
I do and don’t due to the question above. I was 17. I was having difficulty walking due to a distended belly that hurt. I used the bathroom three times before seeing the doctor. There was an ad for a glucowatch biographer in one of the magazines in the waiting room, and I particularly noticed because I had been thinking I might have diabetes, thought I thought it a melodramatic thought.
My mother recited my symptoms. The doctor asked me to pee in a cup. A few minutes later she said there was sugar in the pee, and had a nurse test my blood sugar on a meter. It went beep beep beep 425. My mother burst out crying and a moment later I followed suit.
And so on and so forth.
The doctor misdiagnosed me as type 2, but sent me for bloodwork, called later that day, crying herself, to say she was wrong, and told me to go the ER due to DKA. I spent five awful days in the hospital.

Has diabetes harmed my education?
If you mean my formal education and grades, then I don’t think so. I didn’t like school before or after diabetes diagnosis. I was a sophomore in college at age 17 when I was diagnosed. Diabetes made some things harder, but I got four "A"s the semester I was diagnosed.

Have you been treated differently for being diabetic?
Sure, sometimes. Like doctors take me more seriously when I’m sick.

Do I wear medical jewelry?
No, not for a while. I probably should again.

How many forms of glucose monitoring have I used?
I have primarily used two glucometers- accu chek aviva and relion prime- but have tried at least a dozen others. I have used four CGM systems, five if you see the G4 with the old and new software as different. I have used diastix, but more for fun than anything else.

Am I proud to be diabetic?
No, but I’m proud of the way in which I am diabetic. If that makes sense? I’m proud of keeping myself alive, and doubly proud to have done it the way I have.

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DX- I was 8 and felt like crap for a week with all the classic symptoms. Due to a problem at the lab went 1 more weekend w/ out any answers. By Monday morning when I got to the family doctors, I was in and out of my coma. I didn’t get the word until that wonderful insulin started working and I came around. Don’t ever want to feel like that again. ( to this day hate the highs more than the lows!)
Memory- never really noticed anything and been doing this for almost 45 years.balways thought all those lows were killing brain cells but maybe not.
Education- got it while in grade school and was never an issue. Things were pretty laid back back than. Loved school and got through some college with no problems.
Treated differently?- never been a problem. I’ve always been very open about it. I don’t feel.ows so I always let people I worked with know what was going on.
Jewelry- my parents made me wear a bracelet when I was young and did until I had a car accident and they never looked at my bracelet. I have started again for no reason really.
Forms of glucose monitoring- started with those great tablets, test tubes and urine. My own chemistry lab 4 times a day. Used test strips when out and about and then chem strips, than meters, many over the years and now Dexcom
Proud- not really but very proud of the fact that I’m still here and doing very well. All the things my parents and I were told did not happen. Being blind in 5 years, having no feet, never having children, losing my kidneys. Here I am 45 years, getting through those teenage years without any real knowledge and I think healthier than most people. Proud of being a diabetic? No but sure proud of what I’ve been able to do.