On July 23, 2011, I received I startling phone call from my new endocrinologist. It was eight thirty on a Saturday morning, so I was even more shocked. He said, "you need to go the ER immediately. There's no more waiting."
I had been diagnosed as a type two diabetic just eleven months earlier. I was put on Metformin and Victoza to control my blood sugars, but nothing was working. I was losing an incredible amount of weight (90+ pounds,) I was always tired, I couldn't eat or drink enough, I was weak, sweating a lot, and I had sensations of parts of my body feeling "asleep" that I never knew possible.
I was scared after we hung up the phone. I was crying and called my mom to let her know that I was headed into the ER under doctors orders. At 2100 miles away, she sounded calm, but, admittedly now, she was scared and just as panicked as I was.
I remember walking into the ER of the hospital and seeing my doctor waiting for me. He was in casual clothes, which I had never seen him in before and his face was somber. He was concerned and stayed with me for the next five hours to observe me and my reactions to an IV of fluids and the start of insulin. He reassured me that I hadn't failed (which I thought I did,) but it was my body failing me. He was like a knowledgeable friend that I needed. I was petrified of needles, but he and the nurses showed me how to use them. They had patience with me and calmed me down when I was hysterical. I can never thank them enough for how amazing they were in that ER.
I remember thinking, if I would have done this better I could have avoided this. I shouldn't have eaten so much fast food. I should have exercised more. I should have paid attention to my body. I shouldn't have drank so much in college. I obviously did something horrible to deserve this and karma was now kicking me for all the people I had let down. Diabetes was pointing in my face and laughing for all the judgements I had passed on other people. I could no longer do what I wanted to do. Kids would never be an option for me- although I had never wanted them previously, it felt like Diabetes was now making my decision for me.
I was given needles and insulin pens and sent home to start my new life. I thought my life was over. I got nervous that I would lose my feet and my eye sight. I got online and everything scared me about diabetes. I read everything I could possibly read through tears.
In the next couple of months, I started talking about diabetes more. I talked about it with friends. I talked about it with family. I saw a nutritionist and a CDE and asked more questions than I can remember the answers to. I talked about it with strangers and co-workers. Then, I talked to my employer.
I worked as a nanny at the time and she said that one of her co-workers had a daughter with diabetes. I got her email and I nervously typed, thinking she would think I was such a freak for reaching out to a complete stranger. But she wrote back! We set up a meeting for dinner.
Jess greeted me with a warm smile and a hug. She told me about the Diabetes Online Community and that they were getting together in a few weeks because there were a few in Kansas City that always met up and took care of each other. I wasn't sure I should go. Meeting a room full of strangers that might judge me for not doing things the right way? No, thanks. But, I swallowed my pride and I went.
This was one of the best decisions I ever made. They were wonderful. Scott, Babs (and Type Awesome John,) Bob, and Jess all met me with welcoming smiles. They invited me to share my story and they shared theirs. I forgot a pen needle at home and Scott had an extra. I felt safe and comfortable.
They told me about the DOC more and conferences and meet-ups. They taught me that people all over the world were going through what I was going through and I would be fine.
All the initial fears started to melt away. I admit, losing my feet and eyesight still bothers me every day. But the rest of it? It's all gone now.
They took me to my first conference in January. I was about two weeks before starting insulin pump therapy and I saw all these brave little kids running around with this disease that was so much bigger than them. I talked to rep from a pump company and she gave me a hug. She told me she went through the same thing twelve years previous. Once she found out I was a nanny, she asked, "Ever thought about being a diabetes camp counselor? It will change your life."
Man, she was right. I decided to do it. So for a week last summer, I went to camp and had one of the best experiences of my life. It was amazing. And mind-blowing. And life-changing. These people were all so strong, and they said the same thing about me. They even made me believe in myself.
I learned about the You Can Do This Project and watched videos that will inspire me forever. (Admittedly, I have not made one yet. But it's on the bucket list.) I learned about Blue Fridays and the amazing woman behind it. I learned about DSMA and a forum that would change my bad days into the best days. I met some of my best friends on a Twitterverse that I never thought possible.
I became and Advocate for JDRF and The American Diabetes Association.
Someone once said to me, "[Diabetes] is a club you never wanted to be a part of." So true, but I have wonderful support.
Throughout these two years, I have learned more about myself than I ever could have imagined. I learned I could conquer a fear of needles-a fear of anything. I learned I could make friends no matter how scared I was. I have learned that people will always be in your corner when you let them. I learned that some doctors really, really care and will do everything to protect the Hippocratic Oath. I learned that some doctors are full of shit and really have no idea what diabetes means. I learned that I can find all of the information I need when I seek it out. I learned that I can take care of myself. I learned to roll with the punches and let go of some of the stuff I can't control-although, I admit this one is still in the works of the learning process. I learned that my best friends will offer me a kidney because we have the same blood type and there is a good chance I might need it. I learned that people can love you, diabetes and all, whole-hearted, and not look down on you because of box that is connected to you or scars that will forever be around from a harpoon of a CGM. I learned that people want to learn, despite the misconceptions they may have. I learned that your best friend will make up a ridiculous story about your "pager" just to keep you laughing when someone else is being an idiot.
I have been really lucky through my journey. Sure, I have had struggles and I will continue to have them and fears of all the things that could go wrong. But at least I'm not alone.
On my two year diaversary, I look back and I am thankful to have this disease in a day and age where everything is developing. I am thankful to have all the resources I have. I am so lucky that I have access to what I have access to and it's not a death sentence of something that will determine everything in my life. I am thankful for all I have learned and all I have proved to myself.
I am welcoming myself back to the blogging world with warmth in my heart, a smile on my face, and a cupcake in my hand.
Happy Diaversary to me!