One summer while home from college, I noticed some strange symptoms.
- I was thirsty. I drank 2-3 gallons of water a day. I was running to the bathroom to get rid of those 2-3 gallons.
- I was HUNGRY all the time. I would eat at least twice as much as usual.
- I was losing weight, without exercising or doing anything.
- After lunch, which always included a half liter of Sprite, I would (literally) fall asleep at my desk at work.
- During the night, I had such painful leg cramps. At least two walks around the house were necessary during the night to minimize the pain.
These symptoms were mild at first and then got progressively worse. I got to the point where I was losing two pounds a day and my clothes were hanging off me. My family expressed concern about this sudden weight loss. I said that I would see a doctor “soon”, but essentially put it on the back burner.
Then one weekend, I went camping with a few friends. We were together 24 hours a day and they saw how much I was drinking and how often I was sneaking behind the tree to pee (including getting up multiple times during the night and climbing out of the tent). Also, during our hikes, I would lag miserably behind and felt there was no way that I could keep up. When they asked about it, I told them all my symptoms.
Amidst a weekend of a lot of laughs, we decided that I probably had a tape worm, which would explain why I was eating SO much and still losing weight. So we named my tape worm “Ron” and made him part of our weekend adventure. I even fed “Ron” some extra s’mores… mmm.
My friends made me PROMISE to go see a doctor on Monday. As it turns out, I kept that promise.
I was driving back on Sunday and we got stuck in traffic on a bridge of all places (!). And needless to say, my bladder was FULL! When we finally got across the bridge (after what felt like an eternity), I SPRINTED TO the nearest public restroom. Eventually I got home, unloaded the car and felt exhausted.
I went to bed around 5pm. No one else was around then and when they got home around 9pm, they figured that I was exhausted from the camping trip and decided to go to bed early.
I woke up during the night and started vomiting uncontrollably. Eventually we went to the ER. My mom dropped me off at the door and I walked in while she parked. As I entered, I remember blacking out for moments. When I told the nurse this, they took me right away- before my mom could even get inside.
Once inside and hooked up to an IV, I wondered, “am I dying?”. A resident who had apparently slept through the class on “how to present a diagnosis to a patient” told me that it’s either diabetes or cancer. Given that I had NO idea what diabetes was, cancer just kept ringing in my ear.
I can’t remember when someone eventually told me that I had diabetes. But I asked them if I was dying and they told me, no. So I relaxed and figured that I would find out what diabetes was later. It couldn’t be THAT big of a deal.
What I do remember is when they told my mother. She came into the ER and behind a not-so-thick curtain they told her, “your daughter has diabetes”. My mom’s immediate response was:
“NO. TEST HER AGAIN.”
Then I realized maybe this diabetes thing is more serious than I thought.
There was no need to test again. My blood sugar was over 600, my A1c was 12.9, and I had diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) caught in the nick of time.
The next three days in the hospital was full of reading and learning about life for someone with type 1 diabetes. But mostly I think back to how great those days were– I got something that I had been (unknowingly) wanting for months– INSULIN! I finally started to feel “normal” again.
And I didn’t have cancer.
But I didn’t really know the journey that lay ahead.
As I read and figured out that diabetes was a CHRONIC illness, I made a promise to myself that diabetes CANNOT control or define me. I have (for the most part) held true to that promise. The struggles did come and I have learned that for my own health and life, it is essential that I embrace my diabetes.
This is why I now view my diabetes as a lifelong relationship. We have our good days and we have our bad ones, but just like with any relationship, I find that the more energy and care that I put into my relationship with diabetes, the more that I get out. July 21, 2003 was the day that I met diabetes and began this relationship.