Those were my symptoms. For months. Really, probably closer to 18 months. At first I didn’t notice. Then I needed to hold a couple more months until my health insurance kicked in.
I chose a doctor a friend had gone to and liked. And within five minutes of talking to the doctor, I learned I probably had diabetes. She ordered a blood test to confirm, but she told me to go home and pack a bag for the hospital.
I cried. I called Greg. I cried. I called my mom. I cried.
I cried because I was scared.
Even on this first day, I was thankful for my doctor. She was calm and encouraging. And she didn’t let me in on just how dangerously high my blood sugar was. I mean, she told me the number, which was in the 500s, I believe, but she didn’t let me know just how worrisome that was. She also didn’t tell me until later about my A1C, which measures the average blood sugar level over the past few months, and how it indicated diabetes had gone undiagnosed in me for quite some time.
Some in the previous year or maybe even two, my pancreas had stopped working. A virus killing off good cells is the best possible cause, but, really, the reason is a mystery. Turns out, my pancreas doesn’t produce insulin and my body was burning fat because it couldn’t properly break down sugar, leading to my thirst and hunger issues and weight loss.
I spent three nights in the hospital, where the nurses gradually brought my blood sugar level down with shots of insulin in my upper arm and tended to my dehydrated body with fluids. I learned how to count carbohydrates, give myself insulin shots and monitor my blood sugar levels. I realized our bodies are complex and that addressing this one need helped me feel so much better in every way.
I take one kind of insulin every time I eat and I take another kind each evening. I go to the doctor every three months to have blood work done so my blood sugar, thyroid function and cholesterol levels can be monitored. I know if I go too many days without exercise that my blood sugar rises for several days, giving me headaches.
I certainly don’t manage it perfectly, and I still like to treat myself to sweets [with extra insulin, of course]. But I take care of myself, even though it’s frustrating some times. A side effect of insulin is the difficulty losing weight. Yet I have to take it. So, like most people, I’m better off to pass on the desserts. But I like food. It’s a vicious cycle. Usually I am thankful my chronic condition is one that is manageable. But some days I wish I could have a normally functioning pancreas.
I don’t really want to live Jan. 28, 2004, over again. But it’s part of me. I don’t cringe when I give myself a shot or prick my finger. I just do it. Most of the pharmacist technicians at Rite-Aid know my name when I walk into pick up my diabetes supplies at least once a month.
Much of those few days is a blur. But I remember one thing clearly: When I called Greg just a few minutes after I found out, crying, of course, he said, “It’s OK, we’ll change our lifestyle.” He said, “we,” and I was reminded I’m married to my best friend who is willing to live life with me, despite circumstances that may alter the course we thought we were on.
And he’s lived by that these past seven years. He knows when I get irritable there is a good chance my blood sugar is high. He knows if my words start to be confusing and I’m sweating that my blood sugar is too low.
God created me and knows the details of every hormone and organ in my body. I may not know why my pancreas quit working, but I’m thankful there are ways to continue living this life, my life.
This is the last in a five-part series about how January changed me.