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