Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Diabetes Anniversary

Happy Anniversary, Diabetes. You've entered my life two years ago and I haven't been able to shake you since. Just like a case of herpes. 

I've had this blog for almost two years and have never posted the full story of my diagnosis. Initially, it was just too hard to write. As time ticked by and diabetes became a normal part of my everyday life, it just wasn't something that I thought about anymore. And I see the importance of it. If the point of this blog is help out a newly diagnosed twentysomething year old, it would be good for them to know where I started. 

Sit back and relax. This is a long one. 

The day before I was diagnosed with diabetes, Jerry and I won a pie competition. We kicked some pie ass with our Vermont Death Pie (aka Maple Bacon Praline Apple Pie, say that three times fast!). We competed against 35 other pies – almost all of which I personally sampled. It was delicious! It was awesome! It was ironic!

Earlier that day, assuming I was spending the day perfecting our pie, Jerry called to check in. I answered the phone in tears...from my bed. Looking back at it now, I am not sure if it was pure exhaustion or the frustration of insatiable thirst and hunger. Feeling much like a cranky, overwhelmed child, I put myself down for a nap like any good parent would. 

The truth was I hadn’t felt well for quite a while. On a nightly basis, I was alternately awoken by painful muscle cramps or a gut-busting need to pee! No matter how much I slept, I was exhausted. No matter how much I drank, I was thirsty. No matter how much I ate, I was starving! My body felt heavy. My limbs were weak. I was losing weight without even trying.

Despite all of this, I was far from thinking that I was diabetic. After all, I was young, healthy, ate well and exercised regularly. Sure, I knew how I was feeling wasn’t normal, but diabetes? Isn't that just for overweight people who eat too much candy?

My primary care physician called me the day after the pie competition to inform that I was, in fact, diabetic. I immediately burst into tears. She had little information to offer me. Not sure how someone at the age of 28 could possibly Type 1, she assumed I was Type 2. She suggested I stay away from sweets and make an appointment with an endocrinologist the following week. This was on a Friday afternoon. 

I spent the rest of the weekend in diabetic limbo, scouring the internet for answers. Which only made my head explode! Questions swirled around my head. What should I eat? What should I avoid? What did this mean for my future health? What did it mean for when I wanted to get pregnant? We spent the weekend at a full-day beer festival. What better way to drown your sorrows?

By the time Jerry's birthday came around a few days later, my untreated diabetes had hit its lowest point. I felt absolutely awful. I was exhausted, in pain, barely able to focus. The night ended with me in a crying heap, not really sure what life was going to look like.

When I first called the endocrinologist my PCP recommended, I was told I had to wait a month for an appointment. A MONTH! Are you fucking kidding me? Which is exactly what I said to the nurse on the phone. She was not too pleased, but considering my circumstances, she took pity on me and got me an appointment for the following week. Within 5 minutes, she had called me back, stating that the doctor just looked at my test results and wanted me to come in tomorrow. That couldn't be good.

When I saw the endocrinologist the next day, my blood sugar was immediately taken, 491. Was that bad? I didn’t even know. The doctor, in a matter-of-fact way, said “I’m sorry but you’re a type 1 diabetic. Your blood sugar is almost 500. This is not something that can be treated on an outpatient basis.” Through tears, I asked what that meant. She said “I need to send you to the Emergency Room where you will be admitted to the hospital.”

I spent the next 8 hours in the emergency room waiting for a room to open up. I was immediately put on IV fluids and given shots of insulin. It was surreal. I kept looking over at mother, who was with me at the appointment, and repeatedly said “I’m so sorry, Mommy” not even sure what I was apologizing for. I had started my day any other way, ate breakfast, drove to work and had a couple of meetings before heading to a doctor’s appointment on my lunch break. My day ended in a bleak hospital room, blood testing every two hours, an IV in the arm, feelings of absolute helplessness, anxiety, exhaustion, and depression. This is my life now? How did this happen so quickly?

Once everyone emptied out of my hospital room, I started to cry. And I couldn't stop.

I was inconsolable. Several concerned nurses tried to talk to me, but the mix of sadness and exhaustion prevented me from saying anything other then, “I’m okay. Don’t want to talk,” I cried until I fell asleep, realizing that my life was forever changed.

I spent the next three days completing a crash course in Diabetes Survival 101 and learning a new, unfamiliar language. Information came in waves. Totally lost, completely overwhelmed, I was discharged from the hospital to start this new adventure. At that time, I assumed life was over. I had stopped thinking about the future, because in my depressed mind, one just didn't exist anymore.

When I think back over the last two years, I really am proud of how far I've come. Life didn't end. It just looks a little different now.

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