The Needle And The Damage Done

A virgin blog…
A fresh page…
A new beginning…
A chance to confront yourself…

I’ve hit the backspace key so many times when trying to think about the first sentence into my first blog ever. I should realize that I’m no Charles Dickens and just get on with it. After lurking around the site, reading some posts, and
accepting my first couple of friend requests…it’s about time I told my story.
For those who are interested in a voyeuristic look into people’s lives, but
more so…this one’s for me.

On the night of the Super Bowl back in 1998, I was at college in upstate NY and
couldn’t really care less about the game, really. I can’t even remember who was
playing. The commercials sucked, and the half-time show sucked even more. I
drank a 2 liter bottle of Coke, another of Mountain Dew, and a 6-pack of
Hawaiian Punch in a 2 hour period. The thirst wasn’t being quenched and it was
making it’s way past my bladder faster than a Japanese bullet train. Something
was up. Something wasn’t right and I knew it. Next morning I headed over to the
campus Health Center.

I don’t remember how I got blood work done right then and there. Maybe it was a
glucometer that the nurse had laying around. Not sure. I remember her coming
over to me and saying that I needed to go home and see my PCP, my blood sugar
was over 800! I asked the nurse, “Is that bad?” Needless to say, I
was on my way home back to NJ. They wouldn’t even let me drive. A good friend
of mine drove me home and I had an appointment with my PCP the next day.

Went to the PCP and got some lab work done. Waited for the results. And waited
some more. Went back to the PCP and 2 co-pays later I hear from Doc,
“You’re diabetic.”

“Cool. How do we cure this?”

“You can’t.”

“Oh.” And that’s when it sunk in. Well, not really, but more on that

So there I was, sitting in Doc’s office when a nurse comes in and shows me how
to use a glucometer. OK, I get it, it’s not rocket science. Prick the finger.
Get the number. I’m good to go. Oh yeah, one little thing I forgot to mention,
I was tipping the scales at 330 lbs. at the time, which I’m sure didn’t help.

I head back to college a day or two later. Whenever I hit the campus center for
a meal, I would bring along the Xerox sheets that had the “good food
list” and the “bad food list”. Not a bad deal…pop a Glucophage
or 2, have the meal, check the levels, and I’m good to go. Well, somewhere down
the line I noticed that I was dropping some weight, not feeling as tired, all
in all things were going pretty good. My brain started to think “You’re
cured, you can go back to your old ways of eating.”

Stomach said, “Heck yeah!”

Pancreas said, “Oh fark!”

At the time, Brain and Stomach were all I was listening to. I would eat what I
want, when I want, and where I want. Even had seconds in most cases. This time
in my life was the what I thought to be the best time of my life, little did I
know that what I was doing was setting me up for a lot of pain.

As you may or may not have figured out by now, I was the fat kid in school. The
first to make everybody laugh and the last to be picked for the kickball team.
Third grade was a real hoot when kids would come up to me and ask what size bra
I was wearing that day.

Back to 1998. Graduated college in June. Became a pyro-technician at Great
Adventure. Worked on a movie with HBO. Started working in radio. Notice how
diabetes is mentioned a total of zero times. Yeah, really wasn’t a big part of
my life then. Without the daily reminder of taking the Glucophage or pricking a
finger, diabetes took a back seat to everything. I was losing weight, so, who
was I to complain?

I was working in the field that I wanted to, things were going great, and I was
about to ask my girlfriend to marry me. Long story made short: we met in
college and started a long distance relationship about a year after I
graduated. She said yes.

After she graduated, she came down to NJ to live with me. We got an apartment
and things were going great until the neuropathy set in. Granted, this is about
5 years after I was diagnosed as being diabetic (who knows how long before I
was diagnosed that I actually had the disease?) and I hadn’t checked my blood
sugar levels, downed a Glucophage, or even seen a doctor in the same amount of
time. My soon-to-be-wife and I were living together (in sin) and this was the
first time that my diabetes had interfered with my life. I was having mood
swings that would make menopause look like a walk in the park. This was a real
test of our relationship. I came close to calling off the wedding too many
times to count. I couldn’t sleep at night (which sucked because I had to be at
work at 5 AM) because it felt like my
feet were on fire and I was constantly being stabbed in the legs.

Up to this point, I always thought of diabetes as something that I really didn’t have to pay attention to. It would take care of itself. Diabetes schmiabetes, who wants cake? I never admitted that I was diabetic. Sure, I told other people. But I didn’t tell the most important person. Me.

My future wife said that maybe I should go and see what my PCP had to say. I had never heard the term endocrinologist until I went to see Doc. So I got the referral and made an appointment.

Went to the first visit with my new Endo and as I sat in the waiting room I was noticing everyone in the waiting room was over the age of 60. All the ads I checked in the waiting room propaganda looked like Wilford Brimley was the spokes-whore for everything “diabeetus”. To this day, it still bugs me the way he says it, but that’s another post for another time. I get weighed at Doc Endo’s and I tip the scales at 151 lbs. This was a god-send I thought. I had never been that weight. I could shop at the Gap & American Eagle and the clothes would fit!

First thing Doc Endo says to me, “I’m going to put you on insulin.” Not even a “Hello” or “How are you?”

Great. Insulin is for the hardcore diabetics. Not me. Couldn’t we try diet and exercise first? That was met with a resounding, “No.”

So we go through the motions of figuring out my insulin cocktail and how to shoot myself up. As a parting gift, I get a brand new shiny glucometer and a scrip for test strips to poke myself 3 times a day. I took all this as a sign to get my life in order and go on the straight and narrow with diabetes. Even took a 6-week course at a local Joslin Diabetes satellite office.

Things were going well, for a little while at least. Wake up in the morning, check the levels, and mix my cocktail of fast and slow-acting insulins. I was taking about 4 shots a day and levels were getting mixed reviews. This was the beginning of the downward spiral #2.

I started to think that when I would get a high reading on the glucometer that I was being a bad diabetic. This wasn’t healthy thinking. I would get depressed. I would get mad at myself. Diabetes was my fault, I thought. I would loathe every time I had to stab myself with the cocktail. I became depressed. It was a vicious cycle and I wasn’t going to do anything about it. I didn’t care. So I let my brand spanking new glucometer gather dust in my closet somewhere.

Three or four years passed. I was taking the shots. But I was bolusing blind. I had no idea where my numbers were. If I got low, I would eat something, but not know how it affected me. I would go hypo in the middle of the night sometimes and the next thing I know, I’ve eaten 5 PB & J’s, 2 bowls of cereal and a large glass of OJ. I’d then go back to bed, not knowing where my numbers were. And to top it all off, visits to my Endo became less and less until the number of visits a year was down to zero.

Then one of the nurses at my PCP told me about “The Pump”. Hold on a sec, you mean to tell me that I take one “shot” every four days instead of 4 shots everyday? Where do I sign? Did a little research online and settled on MiniMed. Filled out the paperwork and about a week later, it arrived in a big box with 6 months worth of infusion sets, reservoirs, and a couple of packs of batteries. Woo Hoo! This is the answer to all my prayers. Took the box home and put the video in the VCR and watched with great anticipation. This thing is great. All I have to do is program it and it takes care of everything. I can do anything, I can eat anything, I can…!

Things were going great. I was getting married in a month. I have a new pump. What could possibly go wrong? Two weeks before my wedding (after a 2.5 year engagement) I was fired because my “position was no longer in the budget”. First time I had ever been fired from a job in my life.

So there went the constant reminders about being diabetic with the pricks of the fingers and the A1C goals. But I was OK, right? I had a pump and all I had to do was tell it how many carbs I was going to toss down my gullet and everything would be fine. Not exactly.

I figured out a way to get what I needed by not doing anything about the disease. All I had to do is call up Pump Company and they would send me supplies. Every time I went to my PCP for an A1C test I would “lose the paperwork” and never go. Whenever he asked me what my levels were, they were “good”, or I would lie and give him bogus numbers about the pre-meal and the prandial. He would give me 6 months worth of insulin scrips and off on my merry way I went. In hindsight, I can kinda gather what it feels like to be someone addicted to pain meds…just go to the Doc, lie, get the scrips, and back to the pharmacy for your needs. Am I ashamed of this? Now I am, but at the time, I didn’t care. I didn’t care about me.

I’m not sure exactly where these next points fit in, but I’ll throw them in. A lot of times when we were at functions with my family and there were introductions being made to business associates or friends we haven’t seen in a while, my mom would introduce my wife and I as, “…this is Tim and his wife Jamie. Tim’s a diabetic and wears a pump. C’mon Tim, show (insert name here) your wee pump.” And it would bug the crap out of me. Almost like being diabetic was a stigma. This made me feel more to blame that I was diabetic. Also, seeing as how I was the first one in the family to be diagnosed with diabetes, I don’t think that I got the support from my family that I was looking for. Unless you call e-mails about stem cell research and pancreatic transplants a form of support.

Anyway, I digress. Fast forward to now. 2007…found out that the job was transferring me to the Boston area. I told my PCP and he said, “Joslin’s there”.

“A satellite office?”, I asked.

“No. THE Joslin Center.”

“Cool.”, I thought.

It took a little time to get an appointment, although I did procrastinate a little when we moved up here, but nonetheless I made an appointment. It was my first admittance that I had a problem with diabetes and that I had a problem with being a diabetic.

My first appointment was about a month ago, and I’m going for a follow-up tomorrow. It was the first place I went to where I didn’t feel ashamed that I was diabetic. It’s the first place where I’ve seen people there my own age dealing with diabetes, and if they can do it, I can. I know that my once a month trips aren’t going to be the panacea for all my issues, hang-ups, symptoms, or complications with the disease, but it’s a(nother) starting point.

Note: I would like to thank KM of for letting me into her world and showing me that being diabetic isn't something to be ashamed of. Also, a thanks to Chloe for the inspiration to sit down and actually start typing out my story. Oh yeah, and thanks to you, for actually reading it all the way to the end.