Nine years ago, this month, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. What exactly was going through my head that fateful day? I didn’t write much in those first few months getting to know my incurable chronic condition, but I did take the time to document my experience in the hospital post-diagnosis. The following excerpt would eventually inspire my book, Sugarcoated. I’ve trimmed some of the content for this blog.
Me writing in Paris a year before I found out I had Type 1 diabetes
I hear the drum of the metal cart on the tile floor, its rusted wheel curved backwards towards the slanted door. Its heavy frame makes a swishing sound when the nurse appears, and I cuddle beneath the thin scraps of my blanket. She checks my IV with a smile, and I no longer try to conceal my runaway tears. She says if I need anything to call, and she will be back in an hour to administer my long-lasting insulin injection. I hardly know what she’s saying, let alone believe that I need insulin to live. The door’s shadow disappears behind her, and once again, I’m left alone to the static television and a view of the parking lot.
I see the lights from a golf course in the distance and think of my boyfriend’s family on Easter, enamored with the flat screen television and shouting with each successful hole. I think of my boyfriend now sitting around the campfire at his aunt and uncle’s house with a good meal in his body – a meal I will potentially never feel again. He boasted about his aunt’s cooking all week, and I looked forward to a weekend with the family and then an afternoon at the Great American Ball Park with my co-worker and her boyfriend. They offered free tickets, four rows up from the dugout, and I even bought an outfit for the event (seeing as I never wore red). I packed my clothes on the way to the hospital in the hopes the doctor would discharge me by early morning.
I look at my flip phone with scratches on the screen, and I wish to see a blinking light, a sign of life, but the battery died from excessive texting. My roommate left me before I realized I had forgotten my charger. The University health center doctor set me up near his practice in Northern Kentucky so he could oversee things, but I feel so disconnected from everyone in Cincinnati. Even my boyfriend’s car could not make the drive across the river, and when my roommate left around dinnertime, I wished for morning. Continue reading
Photo courtesy of Hilary Brown
Today is World Diabetes Day, a day led by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) to raise awareness and advocate for this disease. Globally, there are 382 million people living with diabetes. The U.S. is one of the top 10 countries for the number of people with diabetes, which is about 24 million. The IDF estimates that worldwide the numbers will continue to increase so that by 2035, 592 million people will be living with this disease.
So what is diabetes, and why should we be worried? Put simply, diabetes is when the body’s pancreas stops producing insulin, which we need to digest our food for energy. Type 1, the version I have, is an autoimmune disease, where a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin completely, and one must take shots of insulin to live. Type 2, the version more well-known, is where a person’s pancreas is still producing some insulin, but not enough to convert all of the food into energy.
According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the largest global funder for Type 1 diabetes research, as many as three million people in the United States have Type 1 diabetes (15 percent of which are children). Like JDRF says, insulin is not a cure, and they are working to change Type 1 to type none.
One can hope. Continue reading
This Veterans Day I would like to highlight something a little different on Sugarcoated – the concept of diabetes veterans.
I was diagnosed late in life at 22 (well for Type 1s, that is). I had missed out on growing up with the disease, among the support of family, friends, and fellow juvenile diabetics. Yes, I say “missed” because ever since I was diagnosed, I’ve felt largely excluded from the Type 1 community. Maybe it’s why I’ve never involved myself with organizations like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) until now.
Because you see, I had a different experience than most Type 1s I meet. They were diagnosed at six or 13 and remember attending diabetes camp and having their moms pack them juice boxes for even the shortest trips. I’m not saying their diagnosis wasn’t daunting or depressing because after all, it’s still an incurable chronic disease. But in growing up with it, they developed a stronger support system. Through camps and fundraising events, they met other diabetics like them. They became friends; they shared stories; they didn’t feel alone. Continue reading
I don’t like to carry much. I used to avoid carrying a purse or bag. But I also like to be prepared. And with diabetes in tow, it’s hard to do both.
Like today, my blood sugar started dropping once I left the office even though I had corrected the last low two hours ago. I couldn’t for the life of me find my glucose tablets, but I did have Gatorade on hand, so for now, my blood sugar stabilizes.
Here’s what I always carry with me: