Today it’s been SEVEN YEARS since I was diagnosed with T1D. I’m sorry, what???
First… I can’t believe that it’s been THAT. LONG. Like, I feel like I should be more experienced and knowledgeable about this obnoxious disease. But, second, that also means it’s been seven years since I graduated college? Um, no. That must be inaccurate.
So, I’m thinking I should share my diagnosis story with you all. I don’t actually know how many of the people in my life know it well. And, I mean… I started a blog that is partially dedicated to the T1D life and then my dia-versary (diabetes anniversary) rolls around… seems like a prime opportunity to share the details, no?
Okay, great! Let’s go.
April 14, 2010.
My first joke will be to let you know that this was 98 years to the day after the TITANIC SANK. What a perfect metaphor for my life as I knew it.
Leading up to 4/14/10, I had been experiencing the classic T1D symptoms, I just didn’t know it.
Constant thirst — imagine drinking 8 Nalgene water bottles during the day and 3 during the night — and going to the bathroom as many times needed to take care of that constant thirst. You literally can’t drink enough water.
Blurred vision — I actually went to the eye doctor over Easter break and was told to get glasses.
Weight loss — turns out I lost about 15 lbs. in a week and a half. But, I was in college… weight loss?? Hell yeah! I was not upset when people were like, “you look good!” And I was like, “oh hey thanks! See ya later, I’m running to the bathroom!”
Tired — I remember feeling SO run-down and exhausted. But, I was BUSY (those that know me well are not surprised). I was a senior in college. I was looking for a job, finishing group projects, running an on-campus student business and interviewing for my replacement. Plus, there was that senior party-house keg tradition that may or may not have been at the top on all seniors’ agendas the last month of college…
I remember telling my mom about my symptoms when I came home for Easter break. We joked that those were symptoms of being diabetic [ready, set, foreshadowing]. But, knowing little (actually, nothing.) about T1, it wasn’t really on my radar as something that would be real — or that would happen to me (classic thought process, right?). I focused on getting my eyes checked and ignoring the whole “thirst” problem. I would figure it out after I graduated in a month. I’m not one to go to the doctor unless I HAVE TO. Or I’m like on my death bed. [Well…]
So, instead, I did the next best thing: hit up the World-Wide-Web. Specifically, I WebMD’d my symptoms. You know how people tell you not to do that? Yeah, don’t. It just came up with a picture of The Dark Mark and then I saw The Grim in my tea leaves for a week.
A couple weeks later — a Sunday — I was trying to do homework and could not stay awake for more than 30 minutes without napping. I didn’t have class on Monday, so I decided to sleep Sunday away (assuming I just needed to rest from Saturday night) and do my homework on Monday. Monday came and I slept half the day. Mom Brau called and convinced me to at least go to the clinic on campus. I called. They were booked on Monday and Tuesday. Well.. if I had to wait until Wednesday I decided I would rather go home (an hour away) and see my own doctor. I slept on and off through Tuesday classes as well.
Wednesday 4/14 — no class. I had plans to get up, drive home, hit up the doc quick , and then meet my mom for lunch. She had some homemade chicken noodle soup that I was SO LOOKING FORWARD TO. I waived off offers from my parents to come up to school and pick me up. I was FINE. I certainly didn’t want to make them drive an hour to get me and then another hour back. This thing was not a big deal. I stopped at the gas station on the way out of town and got some Gatorade and Clif Bars to GIVE ME ENOUGH ENERGY FOR THE DRIVE HOME. Seriously. This literally makes me cringe thinking about this now. Not smart.
Don’t worry. I made it home.
Then, I went to the clinic, and didn’t come home for 4 days. And didn’t get any homemade chicken noodle soup.
I went to the clinic where my PCP practices, but he was booked so they hooked me up with the Endocrinology specialist. Fitting.
I don’t remember most of the appointment. I assume I shared symptoms, voiced my self-diagnosis of Mono, shared some blood and pee’d in a cup. I DO remember when she came back with the early lab results…
This was 2010… right when neon-colored and patterned tennis shoes were starting to become A Thing. I had just gotten a pair of new, hot pink Nike Free’s (they were awesome and I still own them). I was wearing them at this appointment.
The doc walks in with some results and says, “Oh! I really like your shoes!” I mean… that is a very nice compliment, but I had already spent plenty of time with her to notice and comment on the shoes. And, she chose to that moment to compliment them? It didn’t seem right. I was like, oh..no. [think Phoebe from friends voicing this].
She says, “so, it looks like the Mono test did come back positive…” as she pulled out a little black case that contained some sort of little piece of technology (aka a BG meter) and put a little strip in the device. “… and I want to test your blood on this meter because we don’t have your results back from the lab yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s Type 1.” What? Type 1? MONO??? She pricks my finger. 540-something. Yep… it’s what she thought. I didn’t even know what was happening at this moment, but my 22-year-old-college-senior-likes-to-drink-beer-self was still focusing on the fact that I had Mono.
I don’t remember how she said it exactly. Whether it was “you have type 1,” or “you’re diabetic” or whatever else she might have said. But I burst into tears. In all honestly though I don’t think I knew what Type 1 meant. But I knew I didn’t want Mono. I think I was just crying because I was like WTF is going on?? Can I go eat lunch now?
She told me I had to go to the emergency room at the nearby hospital immediately and if I didn’t have someone to pick me up, she would put me in an ambulance. Yeah, umm, no thanks.
“Hey mom… instead of meeting for lunch, want to come pick me up and bring me to the hospital?”
And, off we went.
I would spend that night in the ICU with some sort of drip (maybe insulin? I actually have no idea) and nurses drawing blood every half-hour out of both arms. The next day I had to convince at least one nurse that I was in fact diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and not Type 2 despite my age (wait, you’re the nurse assigned to take care of me?). I would spend a total of 4 days and 3 nights in the hospital trying to bring my blood sugar down. Since my body was also fighting Mono and that was affecting my liver enzymes, this was causing my blood sugar to stay abnormally high, despite continued insulin treatment.
My A1c — measure of your average blood sugar over the last 3 months — was 11.4. Humans are aiming for 5-7. It is likely that my pancreas decided to malfunction quite a few months before diagnosis but because of the “honeymoon” phase that some people go through, and the amount of exercise I was putting in on a daily basis from October to February, my body was sort of managing itself. Of course when I look back at my swim season that year, my times were not the best and I had days where I felt like I was swimming through molasses and couldn’t explain why that day I couldn’t keep up with my teammates and the next day I was pushing race times. Was T1D lurking in the background then? Or, am I just trying to justify a season that wasn’t my best after a semester abroad… maybe both 😉
In the hospital, I learned the Type 1 basics: your body stopped producing insulin, a hormone needed to help the body regulate blood sugar levels, because your body turned on itself and attacked — aka: autoimmune disorder. To continue living, I would have to administer synthetic insulin to myself based on the amount of carbohydrates I was consuming. If you don’t give yourself enough insulin and your blood sugar goes to high, you risk Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) or coma or death. If you administer too much insulin, risk hypoglycemia or coma or death. Light stuff.
Then I learned about carb counting and how to stick a needle into my abdomen. Fun.
Then… I was released back into the wild. With needles and insulin and a new found need to understand how the health insurance system worked.
And, that’s prettttty much it.
I sent a bunch of awkward emails to professors and peers I was in group projects with explaining the sitch. I got out of at least two team presentations and received a two-week extension on a paper and a final.
After that, a lot of learning happened (and is still happening). I learned how to be flexible with my carb consumption and how to include exercise into my diabetes management. I learned how to live with my parents again after 4 yeas of not living with them, because ECONOMY and STUDENT LOANS. And, probably most importantly, I learned how to sling latte’s at Starbys and how many carbs are in a #PSL.
Cheers, seven years.