I was browsing through the Freshly Pressed posts in my WordPress Reader today (an excellent resource for thousands of blogs!) and came across one entitled, “Portrait of a Diabetic“. Of course, being diabetic myself, I wanted to read it. This man has written eloquently about his experience as a diabetic, he never specifically says what type of diabetes he has or when he developed it but I would guess that he’s a Type II, adult onset diabetic. I was eleven years old when I was diagnosed with Type I Juvenile Onset Diabetes, that’s over 25 years ago now and I have never had to deal with diabetes the way Mr. Queen has, not even in the early days when things were a lot more regimented than they need to be now. I thought that I would give some examples of my experiences with diabetes, not to rebut Mr. Queen’s words, but to show that there are many ways to deal with this condition in it’s many different forms.
As a juvenile diabetic I didn’t have the option to try and manage my diabetes without medication. Within hours of the diagnosis I had already administered my first injection. I was given a diet sheet and told to follow it’s instructions, there was a certain amount of starches, proteins, milks, fruits, vegetables and fats that I was to have at every meal. Each day I was to do my injections before breakfast and dinner at the same time, I was to eat my meals at the same time every day, the timing of food intake had to be coordinated with when my insulin was working at it’s peak. I was not strictly prohibited from eating treats like birthday cake or Halloween candy, I merely needed to plan ahead and either take extra insulin beforehand or have the treats after a period of physical activity.
After managing my condition this way for about a decade a new method of insulin delivery was coming into wide use. It involved taking two injections each day of a super-long acting insulin and then using a super-quick acting insulin every time I ate something. It was a bit tricky to learn, I had to start counting my carbs and ended up carrying around a 6” thick book that listed carb counts for virtually every food imaginable. (I still have it on my shelf downstairs, I’ve gotten so good at counting carbs that I don’t think I’ve looked at the book in over a decade. Won’t throw it away though, as soon as I do I’ll need it!) Some days I ended up having six, seven or even eight injections each day but it was completely worth it to be able to eat anything I wanted whenever I wanted. I could wake up in the morning and wait to eat my breakfast, skip lunch if I wanted to or dine late for a special occasion. My occasions of out-of-control blood sugar levels also dropped quite a bit because I had so much more control over my insulin levels. Ten years later I had a bunch of scar tissue (from injections) in my stomach but I had a life while managing a sometimes tricky medical condition.
One day I had an unfortunate incident involving low blood sugar levels and an overnighting brother who had forgotten what to do in those situations (and lost his head!) Paramedics were called, the emergency room was visited, and I ended up losing my driver’s license. Not the biggest tragedy in the world of course but it opened up my eyes to the fact that the F.I.T. Program was no longer working to manage my diabetes. In the course of trying to get my license back I ended up seeing a new internist who recommended that I start using an insulin pump. I was quite leery at first, it was still rather new technology and I wasn’t sure that I wanted something attached to me all the time but I decided to go ahead and give it a try. I was only the third person in the area to use it but I immediately noticed a difference, the insulin it uses works so fast that changes in my blood sugar levels are apparent within fifteen minutes.
That was over 12 years ago and insulin pumps are now used by thousands of people. They are, I believe, the preferred way for Type I diabetes to be treated now.
As a mom, there are days when I wake up and am lucky to get in a cup of (cold) coffee before I get sucked into the whirlwind of raising two little boys. A lot of days it’s dinnertime before I get to have a proper meal (I doubt anyone other than another mom would think leftover crackers from the kids’ plates counts as a proper meal) and even that is a challenge sometimes. If I do happen to catch a few minutes I can happily grab anything that I want, whether it’s a toasted bagel, Caesar salad or even some ice cream.
Honestly though, the reasons that I am most thankful to have an insulin pump are my two beautiful boys. I remember sitting at one of many Diabetic Clinic days where they gave us various presentations about managing our diabetes, I was likely about 13-14 years old and they showed us the movie “Steel Magnolias”. For those who don’t know the film, Julia Roberts plays an out-of-control diabetic who decides to have a baby (which can really mess with you even without being diabetic!) and then she dies from kidney failure before her son is 4 years old. From that day on, I knew that having children wasn’t to be my future. Twenty years later, with the advent of the insulin pump and some exceptional pre-natal care, I am now the proud mom of two beautiful boys.
This, this! is the portrait of my diabetic life!