25 years. What does this mean exactly? It means I am grateful to be alive. Every day is a gift. I have learned to identify the people and things that are most important in my life and this is what I focus my energy and time on. Today you see, I am celebrating 25 years of life!
25 years ago today I almost lost this life of mine. I was in 6th grade and just 11 years old. I was misdiagnosed for many months as having a virus when I first started getting sick in the fall of 1986 – until that fateful day of February 13, 1987.
I was rushed to the hospital with a blood sugar soaring the level of 1,000 mg/dL (blood sugar should be about 100). I was frail and exhausted with bones sticking right out of what little flesh I had. They fought for hours trying to find a vein to insert an IV catheter into my shriveled (from dehydration) child-sized veins. Thankfully, a senior anethesiologist was called in to give it one last try. By the grace of God, he somehow got that catheter in my little arm. The fight was not over. I was placed on a heart monitor. My Mom was told that I most likely would not make it through the night — it would be a miracle if I lived…
I am still alive. For this I am thankful. I was given a diagnosis of Type I Diabetes. I was shown how to take shots into an orange and eventually my own arm, test my blood sugar and count food exchanges. The insides of my arms were black and blue from the constant hourly blood draws needed to make sure my health was coming back like it should be. The nurses all told my mom what a brave little girl I was.
Did I know what this diagnosis would mean for me then? The impact it would have on my life? No, I did not. I must say that I sailed through high school relatively unscathed. Things changed in college when I began partying like most college students do. I ended up in ER once after a party my freshman year. I received a slap on my cheek by the doctor, saying, “You could have died. DON’T DO IT AGAIN!!” That woke me up — to the dangers of trying to be a college student living just like everyone else who did not have diabetes.
What have the rest of the last 25 years looked like for me? Well, the honest truth?? It has been very, very difficult at times. I sometimes ask myself what I may be like if I didn’t have this disease in my life.
Insulin is not a cure. What exactly does this mean? It means that every moment of every day, every single thing I do must be monitored and balanced. Every activity. Every morsel of food. Every medication and supplement. Every hour of sleep or lack of sleep. Every bit of stress. Every illness. Every kind, variety and length of exercise because they each have different effects on my diabetes. Every emotion experienced, both positive and negative. I am doing the job of my pancreas and as ahighly sensitive person — every little thing I experience has a big impact on my body.
There are infusion set changes for my pump – every 2 days if I am lucky to find a site that works and absorbs the insulin. It is not uncommon to hit a blood vessel or other bad areas which necessitate up to 4-5 infusion set changes in just a day or two. Blood sugar checks – up to 10 times or more per day. A new continuous glucose meter sensor inserted about once a week. A shot of Symlin in my abdomen before every meal.
It is a constant balancing act. The hardest part? This is all done without the awareness of most other people. The few exceptions: someone also living with diabetes (although the disease varies widely from person to person) and maybe a significant other or some close friends. I don’t think most people could imagine having a condition that does not leave your mind for more than a few moments at at time. And if diabetes does leave my attention for very long — this is when problems can occur. Things can get out of balance very quickly. Low and high blood sugar both present risks for seizure, coma and death.
I am now on a path studying to become a holistic health practitioner. I hope to positively influence the lives of many through my blog and holistic practice after I finish my education. I started this blog just about 2 months ago with the hope of sharing what this life with diabetes means. How it affects me. What I have done to live and feel better. For me, the truth has been found holistically through integrative medicine — yoga, meditation, homeopathy, shiatsu massage, daily walks, a healthy whole foods diet, prayer and massage are some of the things that keep me in balance physically, spiritually and emotionally.
Many things that can happen that others take as something minor can be life-threatening for those of us with diabetes. When I was in college, stomach flu put me in the hospital for 3 days. If I had not admitted myself to the hospital when I did, the doctor said I would not have survived. Freshman year of high school my appendix was removed minutes before bursting in an emergency overnight surgery. Had it been removed just seconds later, doctors stated I most likely would not have made it.
I am not going to go through every illness I have experienced the last 25 years. I am just trying to share with the many who don’t know — what diabetes is and can look like in a person’s life. It is not as simple as just taking insulin and testing your blood sugar unfortunately. It means you do the best you can every day and then hope and pray that one of the many complications from diabetes don’t develop just yet. Annual checks at the eye doctor mean that these feelings are never too far away as they look for early signs of retinopathy that can lead to blindness. I have experienced discrimination and been let go from jobs when my health got in the way.
Today on February 13, 2012 I am happy to be alive. Diabetes is not easy to live with, but I do my best. I have learned a lot. I still mess up and do not very smart things sometimes which negatively impact my sugars.
However, diabetes has helped me learn to be more compassionate. More understanding. Perhaps a little more wise. Able to take things in stride. Little, even very little things make me ever so happy. My furry children – Mabel, Juniper and Jonah mean everything to me and provide me much love and companionship in the absence of children. And I realize life is too short to focus on people who do not support, love or encourage me. I am fortunate to have a loving husband and some good, kind people in my life.
I am simply doing the best I can. Every day is an adventure. And I am still figuring things out. Maturity, intuition and patience have become good friends as the years pass along.
Thank you for reading and seeking to understand some of what living life with diabetes has meant for me these last 25 years. And why this February 13, I am so thankful to be given another year of life. This is another year for me to try to get it right and discover God’s plan for me.
This is a poem I wrote while working on this post.
Diabetes still scares me, but I keep on living.
Diabetes still frustrates me, but I don’t give up.
Diabetes still makes me shriek at times in pain, but I wipe my tears and go on.
Diabetes has taught me more than anything I could ever know about life. For this I am thankful.
Two more things…
On June 2, 2012 I will be riding 27 miles at my 2nd ADA Tour de Curebike ride. Each mile I ride will symbolize one year of living with diabetes. In honor of my 25 year diabetes anniversary, I am setting my goal to raise $2,500 to help find a cure for diabetes, raise education and awareness – all goals of the ADA. If you would so feel moved, I would wholeheartedly appreciate a donation to help make this goal a reality. Here is a link to my page. Thank you.
Something fun: While working on this post, I realized that my 25 year anniversary felt worthy of a celebration. So I am doing just that! I planned my very own party for Friday night and created this Facebook event page inviting friends and family to come help me celebrate! I can’t wait!! Thanks in advance if you are able to come help me celebrate!!
Blessings, light and love,