One hundred eighty two days ago my life changed for the better; that was the day that I gave up my sugar high. Like most people who make such a life change, I feel happier, healthier, and more alive. In contrast to most addicts however, I had to pick up the needles in order to clean up my act.
Six months ago I drove to an urgent care place for an 11pm appointment. For two weeks I had been drinking like crazy (water, people…water!). I couldn’t get through a lesson without drinking a full bottle. And the obvious result was that every hour I couldn’t get to the bathroom fast enough. I don’t exactly have a job where it’s acceptable to be leaving constantly to pee, especially when the nearest bathroom is nowhere near my “learning cottage” of a trailer. So when I started getting pain in my kidneys, I made the appointment that landed me in a swine flu infested doctor’s office at almost midnight on a school night.
Like most junkies, all it took was some pee in a cup to see that I was positive. The urine test led to a blood test, and the rest played out like a scene in a crappy lifetime movie. The tech pricked my finger and read me the glucose monitor result of 500; she then hurriedly left the room. I already knew what this meant, but being that I was in a doctor’s office (of sorts) I was waiting for someone to give me an official diagnosis before trying to process anything. For those who know me, although I wasn’t trying to process anything, my brain was already moving at 5,000 miles an hour.
My official diagnosis came in the form of the tech and the doctor’s conversation outside of the hardly soundproof exam room door. It went sort of like this “500? Really?” “We don’t get people like that here.” “I don’t think we’ve ever had to tell someone that.” As much as it sounds like something that would only happen on TV, this conversation went on for must have been at least another ten minutes. And then another ten minutes passed. Finally the doctor came in and the great words she managed to come up with after her 20 minutes of planning were, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you have diabetes.” Really? That’s the best she could come up with after all that build up? This was followed up with, “Did you want us to call an ambulance, or did you have someone who could drive you to the hospital?”
So, not really knowing what else to do, I called my parents’ house, woke them up, and gave an explanation about as brief as the doctor’s diagnosis was. They of course agreed to drive down, but that meant another forty-five minutes of sitting in the exam room waiting. To make things easier, the doctor and the tech took turns coming in every ten minutes to ask me how I was doing. This was honestly the most irritating part of the whole event. I was doing just fine; after all, I had had a whole extra twenty minutes to digest my diagnosis before they even gave it to me.
Fast forward twelve hours, and I was walking out of the hospital a new person. Or a slightly cranky, tired, and hungry less than perfect version of my new self. I had spent about four hours in the ER waiting area (again surrounded by the hamthrax) with a poorly placed needle in my arm connected to absolutely nothing. Apparently they do this when you first get there so that when they finally see you days later it will be that much quicker to hook you up to whatever you need. I was then seen for a total of five minutes by the ER doctor, who must have received her schooling in the same place as the urgent care doc. She walked in, looked at my chart and said, “Well, it looks like you have diabetes. When the diabetes educator and nutritionist get here around 8am we will have them meet with you.” And she walked out. The next four hours consisted of me being hooked up to IV fluids in an attempt to lower my glucose level. And waiting. And waiting. The diabetes educator and the nutritionist tag teamed me for the next four hours, explaining how my new life would work.
So, I walked out of the hospital and started my detox. Interestingly enough I received zero insulin while I was in the hospital; my first dose occurred after I picked up my prescriptions and got back to my apartment. I was finally working towards cleansing my body of the useless sugars that had been poisoning me for portions of the last three years. And like any body that had been used to something that was taken away abruptly, my body revolted against my lowering glucose levels. I felt hungry constantly. I wanted to use so badly; I just wanted a damn big bowl of pasta with a side of fruit and a pile of sugar on top.
Over 900 finger sticks and over 700 insulin injections later, I’m pretty certain that the disease that tends to cut people’s lives a bit shorter will actually help me live mine better. Although my endocrinologist says I can eat what I want (in moderation, just like the rest of the world), I still think more about what I put in my mouth (insert dirty joke here). I started to workout again more seriously; partially because I felt well enough to do so again, and partially because I know it will help me maintain healthier glucose levels. I drink less; not that I don’t still have a little fun when I go out, but this was the official end to the complete belligerent nights of my college past. Basically it put an end to the irresponsible way that I was treating my body.
I’m content with the fact that I have diabetes. I was lucky enough to get this disease at what I think must be the easiest time. My parents didn’t have to go through worrying about a young child with diabetes. I didn’t have to be that weird kid that has to go to the nurse all the time. I didn’t have to sit out of rec sports events, or get sent off to sleepovers with a long instruction booklet on how to deal with me. I got to enjoy college to the max with things like homecoming morning breakfasts of mimosas and jello. I also wasn’t at a point where I was too old to care about making changes to my life. I welcomed the changes I had to make; they were necessary whether I was given this disease or not. Diabetes was just a convincing catalyst to get my stubborn self to follow through with becoming a less reckless adult.
So I wake up everyday happy to be alive. Happy to have a disease that has made me a better person. Happy that I didn’t have to be one of the people that has lived their whole life like this. Happy that my diabetes is well controlled and easy to manage. Happy that I have the motivation to prove to myself that I can run further, faster, longer. Happy that I finally know what made me feel sick for periods of time over the last three years (and that I wasn’t just imaging the symptoms). Happy that I’m six months sugar-clean.
And yes, I realize how overly dramatic this is. But that’s who I am.
All I can say is wow! Big hugs! Wish I was as upbeat as you!
My diagnosis came by accident after 10 years of symptoms and what I now know, having had a couple since diagnosis, were DKA! My first word was a swear word (I do not usually swear) and both the doctor and I flinched - I thought needles, and I was in hospital for something else and I have a healthy disrespect for needles. I could never be a junkie.
I was misdiagnosed as Type 2 and given tablets.
Actually it was a relief to be taken seriously for once. I had had all the symptoms but the doctors had dismissed me as an alcoholic (DKA smells of what can be mistaken for cider or dry wine). I now knew that it was not all in the mind and it was the “answer to all my symptoms”.
I wish I could say that it has been as upbeat as yours was, but I also get depression, maybe that has something to do with it, and I am not very stable! I did have to go on insulin and though I am a Christian it has been fun making my mother go pale when I test and inject in front of her!
I realise that I am feeling depressed today. There are so many positive things about diabetes. I just have such a hard time fighting my corner and I am tired of it.
This is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen written about 'betes! Absolutely loved it.
Hi Doodle. Your post was great fun, not overly dramatic at all–keep writing! I had a similar experience to yours, but on a much, much smaller scale. My endo and someone, not sure who, had a ten minute discussion of me/my case in the hallway outside the office door, and I heard every word. When my CDE came into the office shortly afterwards to do some of my paper work, I said to her, “You can tell the doctor I heard what they were saying–on second thought, don’t! It’s useful to be prepared!”. (I don’t want to be misleading, I have a great medical team.)
Thanks for the comments!
latvianchick - I think we all go through ups and downs - this was written during a moment of acceptance and optimism. I get moments of pure frustration and annoyance with this disease as well (and with life in general). This week I keep dropping low even though I’ve cut my basal rate in half from where it was this time last week. It has left me tired, confused, and irritated - luckily days and weeks like this come rarely, and I plan to win this latest battle with the big D with my shear stubbornness.
Doodle - I love your writing… and your optimism! I wish the positive thoughts you get from diabetes were contagious.
Oh wait… maybe they are!
I had the opposite problem. No one really told me what was going on for like a day. I had figured it out for myself (even though i knew nothing about diabetes!) All i every heard was DKA, which also took me awhile to figure out meant diabetic ketoacidosis. I think the first nurse educator pretty much sumed it up when she said “oh really, sorry i’m used to dealing with 13 year olds.” At first everyone treated me like a kid, then like an adult. don’t they have a teen setting? I was only 17.