My Diabetes Story
I’ve been having some diabetic complications over the past couple of days and inspired by one of my fellow riders, Jenny Vandevelde, I posted about how I was feeling on Facebook. I don’t usually do that when it comes to my Diabetes. Having been diagnosed over 24 years ago, I was taught at a very young age that Diabetes is just an add-on to my life and it does not define me nor does it confine me. I am a normal girl (woman) who just has to take a few extra steps every day. I was taught to not make a big deal out of it; to just deal with it and move on. However, I learned a couple of things over the past couple days.
1. It is a big deal! I have been sweeping my Diabetes under the rug for about 20 years now. I have been testing my blood sugar whenever I “have the time” so that I do not make myself center of attention. Taking insulin for the meals I have eaten hours later so I don’t have to bring attention to myself with the beeps of my insulin pump, and not telling people exactly how much it affects my life. I try to not mention the Diabetes unless the moment deems it absolutely necessary. I didn’t even tell my boyfriend that I had Diabetes until after we had been talking for a few weeks or so.
2. Due to the responses I got on Facebook when I posted how I had been feeling lately, I realized that people don’t really know my story, my Diabetes story. Yes, the people whom have known me my whole life know the intricate details but for the most part, people just know that I am a “Diabetic”. It’s just a label that goes in the Crystal files, much like 32 years old, single mother, loves to laugh, Diabetic…. I try to not share too much about how it affects me or why I am a completely different person than I was 24 years ago because I was diagnosed.
I have Type 1 Diabetes. It’s not the kind of Diabetes that most people hear about everyday on the news. This disease is genetic and it normally affects young children and not because they are overweight. Every Type 1 Diabetic has their own story and they are all worth listening to. We go through so much in 24 hours that a lot of people don’t realize how much exactly it influences our day, our relationships, our sexuality, our life.
So, here is my story.
I was a very energetic and vivacious 8-year-old. I was a very social child, a social butterfly, as my mother describes me. I was constantly busy with activities from Brownies, dance, to Tee Ball. It’s so hard to imagine myself being this way because while I still have similar attributes now, I am definitely not that much of a social butterfly now. Did the diagnosis really change me all that much? Does having Diabetes not allow a young girl to be social? I often wonder how I can get myself back to that place. But I suppose that is a whole other blog that needs to be started.
It’s really sad to think that until today I did not remember the exact date I was diagnosed (or at least temporarily diagnosed by my mother). April 3, 1988, I woke up and it was Easter morning. I remember going to the mantle and sifting through my white Easter basket. It was full of candy and delicious goodies that I could not wait to devour. My parents were still sleeping as my brother and I ate our breakfast of jelly beans and chocolate goodies. I remember that Shane and I traded a few pieces here and there and that all the good pieces of candy were definitely gone by the time our parents woke up.
My mom, being a typical mother, woke up and couldn’t believe how much candy we ate. She was flabbergasted and her motherly instinct took away our baskets shortly after she woke up. “No more for you two! I can’t believe how much candy you ate and it’s not even 7am!” I laugh now thinking about how I do the same with my daughter. That was my last “normal” Easter morning. Later that morning, my life changed forever. I got violently ill. I was severely dehydrated and I believe I drank almost 4 gallons of water by myself over the course of the day. I can still remember how heavy my body felt and how it took what little energy I had left to walk to the bathroom over 20 times in a period of a couple of hours. I was reactively lethargic and I remember my father having to pick me up when I didn’t have the energy to lift my head. Hearing the voice of my mother speaking to my father in her scared and frustrated voice still replays in mind, “She has Diabetes, Willy! I know it.” Denial being a defense mechanism for my father, he did not believe it.
Now, let me give you a little background on how prevalent Diabetes is in my family. A lot of my father’s family members, from both his maternal and paternal sides, had Type 2 Diabetes. My dad’s sister’s daughter, Mallorie was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 3 years old, about a year before me. Shortly following my diagnosis, Mallorie’s older brother and younger sister were all diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as well. My mother had every reason to be concerned and due to the most recent diagnosis of Mallorie, she definitely knew what she was diagnosing.
I went to the doctor the next day and I remember sitting down on the table. My mother explained that I had Diabetes and much like my Father, the doctor was a little hesitant to believe the self-diagnosis. He ran some tests but told us not to worry and just go on as “normal.” After the appointment, we went to the grocery store and I remember discussing with my mother that we should just start eating like I am a Diabetic. Normalcy was no longer an option. I knew the end result and so did she. In 2 days, the tests came back; Diabetes was my new “normal”.
Thankfully, I was not hospitalized like most newly diagnosed Diabetics. My mother quit her job and took the summer off to focus on getting us as a family familiar with Diabetes. While, I am grateful my mother took this time to understand the ins and outs of Diabetes, this summer put a strain on our family unit as a whole. My parents had decided to divorce by the end of the year; finalizing their divorce Valentine’s Day of 1989. That summer will always remain to be a great one in my memory. My mother had every day to spend with us and she took us all over the city while closely watching over my Diabetes. She was my guardian angel. She still remains to hold that title as she is the only one who knows how to fix my complications from Diabetes. My precious mother has kept me out of the hospital more times than not. I have only been hospitalized once for my Diabetes.
My mother taught me never to treat Diabetes like it was a disease. She wanted the best for me and made sure that Diabetes was never an excuse of why I could not do an activity. While her intentions were good, I do not believe, she meant for it to be as extreme as I have made it to be. Diabetes is an active part of my life and people deserve to know how it affects me. Diabetes affects every moment of my day. There is not a moment in my life that I can forget about it. My day is filled with testing my blood sugar, programming insulin into my pump, making sure I eat properly, calculating the carbohydrates on all the food I intake, and deciphering moment by moment whether I feel “normal”. I am not normal by the world’s standards and I am just beginning to accept that for me being different is quite all right. I’d rather not be “normal”—at least until the day this disease no longer affects my family, my friends or I. I’m praying and hoping this ride for a cure results in a big step towards curing Diabetes, especially Juvenile Diabetes, forever.