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5 Years

5 years ago today, I was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic.

In the beginning of February 2006, I had yet another case of strep throat. I went on antibiotics, and a day later, I was on a road trip with the high school orchestra. During that trip, I started drinking a lot of water and going to the bathroom a lot. In the middle of our concert, I remember getting up and trying to get off stage to go to the bathroom since I wasn't playing in one of the pieces. I blamed it on the enormous antibiotics I was taking.

For two months, I had an increased appetite and increased thirst. I would eat a big dinner and be hungry thirty minutes later. I could go through more than one Nalgene bottle full of water in a period at school (which was about 50 minutes). I was losing weight, which was strange as I was no longer running cross country, and I'm genetically prone to gaining weight. I just thought that maybe my metabolism was increasing. I was also waking up with muscle cramps every night (charlie horses- ow!).

Finally, the week before Easter, my mother and I were discussing these things while out shopping. I distinctly remember demonstrating how loose my clothes were and how much I had to tighten my belt as we were walking into a Walmart when her mother's intuition kicked in and she suggested that I might have diabetes. When we got home from the store, I immediately went to look up symptoms. I was hoping my mom was wrong. I didn't think I was the type of person who could handle a disease every day. I didn't think I was the type to be able to take a pill once a day for the rest of my life or give insulin injections for the rest of my life. I was hoping to it could not possibly be diabetes, but as the list of symptoms came up, I fit the symptoms perfectly.

That weekend was Easter weekend. On Sunday, at our family dinner, my grandfather checked my blood glucose on his glucose meter. It read "HI" which on his glucose meter meant a blood sugar of above 600. I was still in denial.

The next day, my mt.om called my doctor, and we had an appointment after lunch. I remember eying a piece of my mother's famously delicious chocolate cake and deciding not to eat it even though I wanted to. I think I'll always kind of regret not eating that piece of cake as the last carefree bit of food I'd ever eat.

At the appointment, they took my weight (I had lost 20 pounds- from 145 lbs to 125 lbs), had me urinate in a cup (the only times in my life I ever wish I were a boy), and took me to an exam room. The nurse came in, took my blood sugar, said the number, and left the room silently. "435".

I looked at my mom and began to cry. I asked her what a normal blood sugar was supposed to be, but she didn't know or she wouldn't tell me.

The doctor came into the room and broke the news to us as gently as possibly. I could only nod because I couldn't talk without my voice breaking. I was allowed to go home and shower, but then I had to go to the hospital.

I was in the hospital for several days, cheerfully in the pediatric unit in a room with green walls. I had to watch educational videos and read the Pink Panther Book of Diabetes. A lot of the educational videos were full of elderly people in eighties clothing talking about their diabetes. I had a hard time relating to the videos, and even in the first few days of being a diabetic, I noticed how my type of diabetes seemed to be the minority.

For the first day or two, I was full of jokes and fake smiles as I was trying to be strong. I had always been afraid of needles- even fainting after vaccinations, and I joked that we had found a way to cure my phobia. At the end of the second day though, I fell apart. I couldn't keep up the jokes. I remember crying for at least an hour thinking "Why me, why this, why now?" while my mom sat with me.

The diagnosis came at one of the most inconvenient times- I was a week away from sending off my college decision, a month away from high school graduation, and a few months away from going off to college and living on my own.

Somehow, I managed. During the first year, I had a lot of "why me" times and "who am I now" times. I spent many hours, often late at night, talking to my amazing mom on the phone. She is so supportive. I felt really isolated during the first year, and I know that I went through many stages of the grieving process during that time. I think I would have been a lot better off had I seen a counselor during that time, but somehow I managed.

Having diabetes has played a large part in shaping who I am in the five years since I was diagnosed. It has inspired me to push beyond what people have expected of me and prove that I cannot be limited by my disease. I changed my college studies from Business to Biology / Pre-Medicine so that I can help others like me. I ran my first marathon as a diabetic, something I didn't think was possible before I was diagnosed. I've made a lot of friends and found a great cause to support (even if I might have some personal motivation).

I have embraced my diabetes as part of who I am. Sometimes I struggle to not let that be my biggest defining factor, but for the most part, I don't mind having diabetes. Even though Type 1 has nothing to do with diet or exercise, I have improved my eating habits and lifestyle since being diagnosed. Having Type 1 makes me take responsibility for my body, and motivates me to take the best care of myself so I can live a long, happy, and active life. I can honestly say that I don't think I would be as athletic as I am or pushing myself as far as I have if I didn't have Type 1.

To end on an interesting note, here are some estimations of my diabetes numbers:
Days with Type 1 Diabetes: 1826
Days on Multiple Daily Injections: 855
Estimated Number of Injections: 5256
Days on an Insulin Pump: 949
Estimated Number of Site Changes: 2862
Estimated Number of Finger Sticks: 12,782
Estimated Number of Test Strips Used: 12,992
Estimated Number of Lancets Used: 40 (I know, I know. I need to change my lancet more often/ For the non-diabetics, that's the needle used to poke fingers to take a blood sugar).

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