I Am Mama in the City and I am a Type 1 Diabetic: The Early Years1
I started noticing that something was wrong during the end of my first semester in nursing school. I have a vivid memory of sitting in my pathophysiology class, studying the symptoms of diabetes, when I started to get worried that I was becoming a hypochondriac. There I was sitting and listening to a lecture on the classic 4 P’s of diabetes mellitus and, oh my god, they all applied to me!
There was the polyuria and the polydipsia, and you can’t forget about the polyphagia or the pound loss too. In simple terms, I had the most severe case of cotton mouth a girl can ever experience. I was constantly beyond thirsty and to fix that I’d head to the caf or the vending machine to get a chocolate milk or a can of coca cola. I’d down that sugary baby in 10 seconds flat and feel relief for another 10 seconds before the cotton mouth poofed up again. Then I’d high tail it to the bathroom to pee pee pee pee. See the pattern here?
I had my head in the books and wasn’t paying attention to what my body was telling me at all. I was totally exhausted from the constant high blood sugars floating through my body, but blamed that feeling on all the studying and early morning clinical call times. Eventually I went to my GP’s thinking I had a simple bladder infection, hence the 1001 trips to the bathroom each hour. Right away he diagnosed me as a diabetic, albeit a Type 2 diabetic which was the wrong diagnosis.
I sat in the doctors office and cried and cried, I was so sad. I didn’t want to have a lifelong disease, I didn’t want to be different. I was in total denial and thought I better search for another doctor who could tell me different news. It wasn’t until two weeks later when I went to see the diabetes RN and she told me there was no way I was a Type 2 diabetic. For a glimmer of a second I thought, ‘AHA!! See I’m not diabetic after all!’. Then she started me on insulin and told me I was truly a Type 1 diabetic. I can not fully express how awesome I felt when that insulin hit my blood stream.
When you walk around with high blood sugars for a long time everything becomes a little bit more hazy. My vision, which had been blurry from the high blood sugar, cleared up. The heavy veil of tiredness lifted and I couldn’t believe how lovely it felt to be alert. Such a concept! My mouth was moist and I peed like a normal person. Woohoo!
Being faced with the idea of giving myself needles made me a little bit woozy but I adapted really quickly. I think being a nursing student helped me cope with this. I soon became a super pro at the SC injection and my patients really appreciated receiving my kind skilled injections as a student nurse.
I give myself anywhere from 4-8 injections each day, and 8-10+ when I was pregnant
I didn’t end up being too kind to myself the first few years of being a Type 1 diabetic. I was in denial that it was a serious disease and wouldn’t test my blood sugars with any regular regime. I would eat big cheeseburgers and french fries and not adjust my insulin as needed. I’d go out drinking with girlfriends (nursing students really know how to party) and not test my blood sugars. The thing is, making this kind of life transition doesn’t happen over night. I’m just lucky that I never had to end up in the hospital or visit the ER.
It wasn’t until the end of nursing school that I started to take things a lot more seriously and realized that I could be in control of my own health and ultimately the way I felt on a daily basis. I started taking my blood sugars regularly and was poking my fingers 4-6 times a day to get my blood sugar readings just right. I was changing my insulin doses based on what I was eating and my endocrinologist gave me the thumbs up. It feels so good to be in control of your diabetes and feeling that you are the expert on your disease is a great place to be.
I test my blood sugar a minimum of 5 times a day and sometimes closer to 10
Living with a chronic disease took some time to get used to but now it is just another part of my life, much like eating and showering. Sometimes it is annoying to tote around a glucometer and needles and insulin, but for the most part it is just something that I do.