Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Pancreas Broke and All I Got Were These Lousy Lessons

I have learned a lot of things in my 30 (almost 31) years of life.  When I was a wee little one I learned early on that the best entertainment came from my big brother.  I learned that if you beg long enough your parents are likely to get you that hamster, guinea pig, snake or puppy (even if it takes 10 years).  In high school I learned that fitting in was not as important as being an individual...and that pink hair often brings stares.  In college I learned to be adventurous and to try new things.

At 24, I learned that boys who sing Johnny Cash songs and play the bluegrass fiddle are definitely the marrying type.  I've learned (or so been told) that even though I tend to be shy at first...once you get me talking you will most likely never get me to stop.  (In fact, I am not sure my hubby has gotten a word in edge-wise since our wedding).  And most recently I learned that no matter how hard I try I can't help but giggle when I see Waylon's new haircut
I would have never guessed that what I have learned through the course of my life so far would prepare me for what I have endured over the last four years.  I have to give credit to my parents who taught me to be independent, strong, and driven.  They shaped me into the woman I am today...teaching me to take control of my life and be happy in everything I do.  Their guidance during my formative years not only prepared me for the life changing event of being diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, it made me more open to the things I would learn over the next 4 years...and what I will continue to learn over the course of my life.

So here we go...My Pancreas Broke and All I Got Were These Lousy Lessons....

1.  Exercising sucks.  That is so important to health and well-being that it's worth the making it fun and fitting it into your daily schedule is a must.
2.  Support from family and friends is priceless and very much a necessity...not only in dealing with a life-changing disease, but in all other aspects of life.
3.  Sometimes all you can do to feel better is throw your hands in the air, sigh, scream, yell, and cry...and that is OK!
4.  When you are dealt a challenging hand, don't happy with the good cards and make the bad cards into something more manageable.
5.  Needlework and sewing are great hobbies for a diabetic.
6.  Growing your own food and eating clean and whole is not as hard as you may think and does wonders for your mind and body (and sometimes even your pocketbook!)
7.  One of the most important jobs a person can have is taking care of themselves in order to be there for the ones they love.
8.  I can prick my finger 10 times a day, give injections to myself and insert infusion sites...yet I am still a big wimp every time I get blood drawn at the this strange?
9.  Diabetes is a good cure for a french fry obsession.
10.  Strength is not just measured in how much you can bench press or how many miles you can's also measured in your ability to see a 350 and a 47 on your blood glucose meter in the same day and still have a smile on your face.
11.  Feeling like you are all alone is the worst feeling you can ever have.  Since my diagnosis, I have felt this many times.  Finding someone who shares your struggles and understands what you are facing (i.e. another diabetic) is the best medicine when you feel this way.
12.  I have an amazing husband (of course I already knew this...hence the "husband" part)...he is more than I could have ever hoped or dream for in a partner.  He is supportive and understanding and loves me despite my broken pancreas....and my incessant talking!
13.  When you have a disease that is typically misunderstood...people will often impose their thoughts and opinions on you (i.e. "Are you allowed to eat that?" or "Have your heard that eating cinnamon can cure your diabetes?").  The best thing to do in that situation is smile, provide the correct information, and understand that their questions and comments often mean they are just concerned with your well-being.
14.  Multitasking has taken on a whole new meaning...who knew I could ever count carbs (i.e. do math which I am horrible at), talk about the garden with my hubby, fix dinner, calculate insulin, and plan tomorrow all at the same time.
15.  I have learned that "life-long" takes on a whole new meaning when you add the word "disease".

Most of all I have learned to be in control without overbearing.  To forgive myself every now and then.  To pat myself on the back and remind myself that I am doing the best I can.  To remember to live my life and to balance all that is important while teetering on the see-saw that is diabetes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My D-aversary....Part I

Four years ago this month my life changed forever.  In June of 2007 at the age of 26, I was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes.  My life would never be the same after that June.  For my D-aversary (daibetes diagnosis anniversary)...I want to share with you my diagnosis story, what I have learned from having diabetes, and what I plan to do to celebrate another year with the big D.  Get comfortable and let me tell you my story....

In January of 2007 I was on top of the world.  I had just gotten married the previous August to an amazing man.  I had graduated with a Master's in Agriculture Education the month before and I was halfway through my first year of teaching agriculture in a local middle school.  Hubby and I were settling into our new home and looking forward to the rest of our lives together.  I remember going to the doctor that January for a annual physical and getting a gold star for being healthy (including good blood sugar).  Hubby and I were eating healthy and staying active.  I had gained a few pounds that winter and hubby and I had decided to start back at the gym on a regular basis.  Aside from the stress at school I was doing great.  Life was good.

In March of that year I got sick...I had caught the bane of every teacher's existence...the "picked it up from one of the kids stomach virus".  I was sick for about a week, recovered quickly and was back to school.  Little did I know this was when my immune system went haywire and decided those pesky insulin producing cells were no longer needed.  The remainder of the school year seemed to weigh heavily on me.  I was exhausted all the time, cranky, and very stressed.  But who could blame me?  Who wouldn't be feeling that way while teaching middle school kids? 

As the school year came to an end in late May, I begin to notice some odd symptoms.  I was still exhausted, waking up with leg cramps in the night, starving all of the time and craving foods (especially sweets), and constantly thirsty.  I couldn't make it through a 45 minute class without drinking an entire bottle of water and then subsequently having to go to the bathroom between every class.  The symptoms were easy to brush aside as stress induced.  At the time I was also cleaning my classroom, dealing with seasonal allergies and the impending heat of summer.  It seemed excessive but not totally out of the ordinary for me to have these symptoms. 

I remember going to the gym one afternoon and realizing I had lost 10 lbs in about 2.5 weeks.  I had been on a plateau with weight loss so I thought my hard work at the gym had finally paid off.  I should have seen the signs.  The following week, Hubby and I went backpacking with some friends.  Our hike in was a short 5-6 miles and we were camping by a river for a few days.  The hike should have been a breeze but I found myself struggling to keep up and experiencing leg cramps and major fatigue.  I didn't understand how I could feel so out of shape when I was in great physical shape for backpacking.  After we set up camp I spent the weekend filtering water (or so it seemed) because I was so thirsty.  We made it through the weekend and hiked back out.  On our trip home, after the 4th bathroom break in a 5 hour trip hubby informed me it was time to go to the doctor to figure out what the heck was going on.

The following week I went to my primary care doctor to have some blood drawn and tests run.  My doctor called me 2 hours later and told me my fasting blood sugar was 435 (normal is 70-90).  He explained that I had diabetes.  I realize now that  I could have died that weekend in the woods.  Undoubtedly my blood sugar was dangerously high and I had ketones rushing through my body.  It was a miracle that I did not go into diabetic ketoacidosis and lapse into a coma.
The days following my diagnosis were a whirlwind.  I started immediately on insulin therapy via multiple daily injections.  I learned about checking my blood sugar, taking my insulin and carb counting.  Within 6 months I was on an insulin pump.

When I was diagnosed I had no idea what having diabetes really meant.  I didn't know anyone who had Type I diabetes and I felt incredibly alone.  The year following my diagnosis I had started teaching at the high school.  By the following summer, my 1 year D-aversary, I realized being a new teacher and a new diabetic didn't mesh well.  Something had to give, and my health was first.  That summer I quit my job. 

Four years after my diagnosis, I am healthy and happy.  I struggle everyday with this disease.  It's like having a full-time job, among all of my other responsibilities, except diabetes is the one that never gets checked off the list.  The first 3 years after my diagnosis I felt like diabetes had taken over my life.  I struggled to keep from drowning beneath the weight of this disease while keeping all of my relationships afloat.  I was a different person, a shadow of who I used to be.  The activities hubby and I enjoyed and bonded over were now too difficult to manage while learning to manage this disease.  Finding a job that would work with my new job of managing my health was impossible.  Being happy again seemed quite unlikely. 

This year on my D-aversary I celebrate reclaiming my life.  This past year I have found that groove that allows me to come up for air every now and then.  Diabetes is still a full-time job.  I still struggle and it is not easy.  But now diabetes is a part of my life, not the thing that controls my life.  I finally feel like myself again. Reclaiming the pre-diabetes me has been a long fight, but a fight I have won nonetheless.

Stay tuned...
Part II: What I have learned from having diabetes
Part III: What I did to celebrate my 4-year D-aversary

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Going "Nekked" for the Summer

Waylon's going naked for the summer...

and After
We hesitated with having him shaved...but he is so dang hot in the summer.  He looks like he lost about 20lbs!  Doesn't he look like a coyote?  Ok...I admit he is a little goofy looking but he doesn't seem to mind!