April 26th will mark my two year “anniversary” of diabetes. Looking at pictures from senior year, I realize how unhealthy I was. Losing 20 pounds in a couple months isn’t a good look on anyone. I was eating almost all the time, anything I could get my hands on. On top of that, I was chugging water. I was going to the water fountain between and during every class. I began to notice a pattern. After I went to bed at night, I would wake up an hour and a half later. During that time, I would chug almost a half gallon of water and use the restroom. Then I would fill up a glass of water again and take it upstairs with me and fall asleep. An hour and a half later, the cycle continued. This lack of sleep and lack of sugar in my cells reflected me sleeping all of the time. If I wasn’t at work I was sleeping (yes, this means I slept in every single class at school). My teachers thought I didn’t care about my grades and my mom thought I was just exhausted from being so busy at work and school. In reality, I was very, very sick. Both my body and my personality were diminishing, and I felt miserable.
I’ve heard many diagnosis stories, and they all seem to have a common theme: “I felt sick, was drinking a lot of water, so decided to go to the doctor and check it out”. I should have done this. Everyone knows their own body, and I knew I was sick. Whether it was laziness, fear of going to the doctor by myself, or a little of both, I never saught help.
A month before graduating high school, I was eating my morning bowl of cereal and getting ready for work. A couple minutes into eating, my eyes became really puffy and I started to feel funny. I thought that I was starting to come down with something and decided to call out of work. Ten more minutes went by and I realized I was getting worse and wondered if it wasn’t actually the flu/ allergies/ etc., so I called my mom. Mom didn’t answer, so I called my dad. Dad didn’t answer. At this point my face was completely swollen and I was unrecognizable. Eventually my mom called me back, and I told her I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something. We concluded it was from soy milk. She told me not to worry, and that she would be home soon with some medicine and hung up.
Now, if you know my mom at all, you know that the people she works with influence her a lot. At the time, most of them were in the medical field and knew a thing or two about everything. My mom calls me back only a couple minutes after hanging up and frantically asked if my throat felt itchy or if it was going to close up. I told her “yes… I mean something feels funny” and began to pace around the house not really knowing what to do with myself. My mom hung up and called both 911 and my dad as she was driving home.
When she got home, she looked in panic when she saw my face. We laugh about it now. But I was very comparable to Shrek. You couldn’t see my eyes and my lips looked like I had just gotten injections. An ambulance was only seconds behind her, and we walked outside to meet them. They turned me right around inside and gave me a shot. Another man checked my blood sugar; it was almost 500. He politely asked me how long I had had diabetes.
“Diabetes? Can’t he take one look at my face and see that I’m having an allergic reaction?” was all that I could think. He asked me a couple more questions, ones that I don’t think my mom and I will ever remember because we were both in shock. They told me I was going to go with them to the hospital, and my mom, just as confused as I was, told them it was okay and that she could drive me there. They looked at us, realized we didn’t know what was going on, and said that that’s not how this was going to happen.
They carried me into the truck, and my dad arrived at the house. In “Tony-like” fashion, my dad came to the back, told me he was there, and hoped in the front of the truck. Still to this day, my dad says that riding in an ambulance was something he had always wanted to do and getting to honk the horn was probably a million times better than how I was feeling in the back. He jokingly reminds me “how cool” it was and I tell me that I missed out.
When we got to the hospital, I was still very concerned about how swollen my face was, I had completely forgotten about the diabetes topic. Well, the rest of the hospital staff was quite the opposite. My family and I kept reminding them why I was there and they kept ignoring that fact. Tests were done and blood was drawn. No one ever really came up to me and gave me a proper diagnosis. A nurse came in and taught me how to use a syringe and told me about carb-counting. My dad kept asking if this was important because we didn’t have any results yet and after all, I was just there for an allergic reaction to soy milk. In a nutshell, they told us that we should pay attention, because there was a 99% chance that I was going to leave the hospital with all of the supplies they were showing us.
It took me about an hour to give myself my first shot. My father cried and my mom was distraught. Four days later, I left the hospital with medical supplies and numerous binders of information I needed to learn. My doctor explained that I was sick and was never going to be cured, but this disease was now my responsibility to manage.
A couple days after I left the hospital, I lost my eye sight. Going from 20/20 vision to waking up one day not being able to tell if you’re looking in the mirror was terrifying. This is normal for a new diabetic, as my blood sugars were constantly going up and down. I was doing a good job of tracking my blood sugar and carbs with pen and paper, but this was still to be expected. I had teachers read me my tests and some days, I just wouldn’t go to school.
The past two years have been full of ups and downs. I’ve left my doctor’s office crying because he struck fears into me that I could never fathom. Losing limbs, organs shutting down, permanently losing my eye-sight, or going into a coma could all be a reality if I didn’t start to realize that this disease “isn’t just going to go away”. Some days, I check my blood sugar out of habit. Other days, I ignore the disease all together. On those days, I feel sick and am putting myself in massive dangers.
It’s weird for non-diabetics to understand why we “celebrate” our anniversary. This year, I am celebrating because I am thankful for my health. I am lucky for getting diagnosed before it was too late. This year, I am celebrating my faith, because four days in a hospital helped me to regain it. This year I am celebrating my friends and family. I am so incredibly thankful to have a boyfriend who will sit on the couch with me just to feed me as many cookies as I need to bounce back from a low, and will remind me to reattach my pump when I forget. I am also so thankful for my parents who will do anything in their power to make sure I am healthy, and my friends who ask all the questions in the world because they want to make sure they understand.
“I have an entirely new sense of what’s important. Diabetes helped me put family first and made me appreciate life, not just as a whole, but in the minute by minute. It’s a kind of appreciation that may only come when you know the chance of death is, if I may quote the Rolling Stones, ‘just a shot away.’”-Michael Aviad