I recently passed my 42nd diaversary, so I thought I would create this profile.
Yes, 42 years ago, I was officially diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic (T1D) by not one, but two doctors. Like many of you, I was assuredly a T1D, well before the “official” day. In light of what we now know about the onset of T1D, I most likely started on the immediate path to diagnosis the previous November (1972), when I was admitted to the hospital with severe flu-like symptoms while attending University as a freshman. My fever was so high, the staff was cooling me down with an alcohol mat that acted as a heat exchanger. I don’t remember the precise details of how long I was there, but I think it was at least 6 days and I couldn’t go home for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Fast forward through the rest of that semester and the Spring semester, where I couldn’t concentrate very well. As a result, the university let me know that I wouldn’t have to worry about returning for the following Fall semester (or any other semester, for that matter) due to my less than stellar academic performance.
When I returned home, I soon picked up a job working in a dinner theater and very late nights (aka - early mornings). I was going to start on my career as a thespian! You see, the waiters were billed as actors to the public. I was assured that I would soon have a real role in a real play, as long as I gleefully pitched in waiting tables, building sets, hanging lights, etc, etc. Well, it was really just waiting tables …
As the summer progressed and I found I was extremely thirsty and peeing a lot. A few of my friends got to the point where they would scout out the restroom locations before we decided to go out on my off days. They might have been concerned, but I was convinced it was all the weird hours and excitement of “Working In The Theat-a!!” Surely, I couldn’t be sick, could I?? (I know, you’re ALL saying, “Yes, you most definitely could, and please don’t call us Shirley!”)
Finally, I went to see a doctor at a clinic who sat me down and asked me to describe my symptoms. I don’t even think I got to describe losing 30 pounds, when he proclaimed, “Well, you have diabetes!” My stunned reaction (to myself) was along the lines of, “What? He didn’t perform a single test! I don’t believe it! I’m going to a real doctor.” I left the office and went home, where I immediately called my father’s internist. For some reason, he took the call. When I described my symptoms, he very calmly said this:
“Listen very carefully. You are in a dangerous position. If you can drive, I want you to hang up the phone and go to the ER right now. Tell them you have Diabetes Mellitus and that I said to admit you, stat!”
So, there you go, two doctors, one diagnosis!
The early days & years
Many of you are all too familiar with what followed. Learning how to insert a syringe into an orange, reading the ADA booklet(s) about diabetes, the discovery of insulin, the hope for a cure right around the corner, peeing on Tes-Tape or in test tubes, comparing colors, eating those gigantic, chalky, B-D glucose tablets (ugh!), etc. I was right there with you.
My doctor never expressed any concern for my living anything other than a normal, full life, except for taking 40U of NPH insulin daily (and only 1x/day, at that!). I became quite familiar with @DrBB’s “Eat or Die” schedule. Of course, this was all before meters. On one level, I thought all was fine, I was able to work, marry, have a family, get divorced – all normal things. On a deeper level, I knew that my control had to be pretty poor, since most of my very infrequent tests showed I was spilling sugar. Plus, in those pre-meter days, it was hard to exercise consistently.
MDI, ER Visits and Pump Nirvana(!?)
After some moving from Maryland to Florida and back, my doctor retired and I started looking for a real endocrinologist. I found a good one, no, a great one, who quickly made me aware of MDI, meters and carb counting, I:C ratios, etc. She always acted as my expert coach, but let me make the decisions on treatments. My long-acting insulin was still NPH, so I was still on the “Eat or Die” schedule, and I was starting to find eating to be an unpleasant chore. Did I mention yet that I love to eat? I was getting to the point where eating was just slapping on the feedbag, inhaling the food and moving on – UGH!
One day, my dad sent me an article from the WSJ that discussed insulin pumps. I initially dismissed it, but after waking up in the ER after a middle of the night hypo, I asked my endo if I should move to a pump (okay, I virtually insisted on a pump). We got the paperwork started shortly after I left the ER and met with a couple of pump representatives.
It was a MiniMed or Disetronic (now Roche) world back then, and since I was spending most of my free time on sailboats, I opted for the Disetronic H-tron Plus since it was waterproof and came with a “hot-standby pump”.
Pumping from nearly day 1 has radically changed my life. Suddenly, there was no more “Eat or Die” schedule. I was able to renew my love of eating, and delaying, skipping or adding a meal. Exercising has become available again. I no longer have to cart syringes, pens, vials, etc., around with me.
Most importantly, pumping allowed me to expand my horizons and to live my life as a person with diabetes, not as a diabetic person. Yes, I bring a whole plethora of tools with me, but the diabetes is more in the background (even while it is constantly on my mind) – certainly a bit of a conundrum!
Since pumping, I have raced sailboats all over the Chesapeake Bay, bought and lived on a wonderful sailing catamaran for five years. I sailed from Maine to almost all of the Caribbean Islands. My sailing also brought me to locations where I wanted to Scuba dive, so I got certified and discovered a beautiful world beneath the waves (in spite of my primary care doc’s reservations).
I now live in Central Florida in a great little town just north of Orlando called Mount Dora. I am semi-retired and work in a little coffee shop, plus I work free-lance as a photo assistant. I sometimes write or edit articles for local magazines.
The next adventure is in the works! My wonderful wife and I are preparing for a cross-country bike ride next year on recumbent tricycles. (@Judith_in_Portland, we will be starting in Portland!)
I don’t think I could plan on this without my pump/meter and now with the addition of a CGM.
Oh and while I have over 42 years in with diabetes as my constant companion, I have over 61 years with a positive attitude on board.