|Unity in Diabetes|
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on July 29th 2009. To find out my diagnosis was almost a relief, because I knew something was wrong but couldn’t quite put my finger on it for the few months leading up to it. I had gotten some standard blood work done, because my doctor thought I may be low in iron. I didn’t have the majority of the typical type 1 diabetes symptoms (no extreme thirst, no frequent urination), but I was experiencing blurred vision, trouble concentrating at work, and sudden light -headed spells. After looking at the results of my blood work, my doctor told me that my blood sugar was elevated, and that I needed to go in for a glucose tolerance test. For those of you who haven’t had one before, they take your blood, tell you to drink this ridiculously sugary syrup, then your blood work is taken again 2 hours later to see how you recovered.
While waiting on my results for this, I visited a friend to celebrate her 20th birthday over the weekend. We went out for the evening and I only had 2 (although very sugary) alcoholic drinks and, of course, snacks when we got back home. I spent the next morning throwing up and feeling like I was having the worst hangover of all time. Which was strange because like I said, I had only had 2 drinks. I realize now I likely had bad ketones. When I came home, I got an urgent call from my family doctor, urging me that I should come into his office right away the following morning.
After a nervous car ride to the doctor’s office, and equally nerve wrecking wait in the waiting room with my father, my doctor told me that I had Type 1 Diabetes. I had definitely “failed” that glucose tolerance test because 2 hours after drinking that syrup my blood sugar had RECOVERED to 17 mmol, yikes! It was more than a bit of a shock because I had spent the last 2 weeks saying to myself “It could be diabetes, but it probably isn’t, so don’t worry”.
I had my suspicions because I was already more than slightly familiar with Type 1 Diabetes. My older half-sister Julie, was also diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (at the age of 7). At the moment my doctor told me the news, I was in denial and shock of course, but what I really felt was sadness for my dad. I felt like he was experiencing the same thing over again with me as he did with Julie.
She only lived in my house for a short time when I was little. Although I was young, I can still remember multiple times when she had a seizure in front of me from going too low and we had to call 911. She had a lot of difficulty with blood sugar control, and she frequently had really bad lows. On the day of my diagnosis I thought that was all that Type 1 Diabetes was, frequent 911 calls and near death experiences. I thought that it would be the same for me. I was terrified.
Since I did not have any ketones on the blood work (weird right?) my doctor did not put me on insulin right away. He was not sure that I was actually a Type 1, since I was 20 years old at the time. As it turns out, we had caught it really early and my pancreas was really slow to decline. I was able to stay off insulin for over a year and a half, with help with some type 2 meds. Seems a little strange I know, but because of my past experiences with my sister, I sort of had an insulin-phobia and was trying to keep from going on it for as long as I can. I think it was a bit of an acceptance thing for me as well. I felt that as soon as I went on insulin I truly was “a diabetic”. Obviously I could not keep this up forever as my pancreas really was calling it quits, and I finally started insulin injections in December 2010. I was so paranoid about lows that I tested no less than 20 times a day (my poor fingers!). After a few months I decreased my ridiculous amount of testing to about 10 times a day and started on my insulin pump in May 2011 (which I love!)
Having experienced what I did with my sister, I made it my mission to NEVER let diabetes control my life as it did with her. Instead of letting it get me down, I decided to choose the positive route and continue to get everything I could get out of life. Now almost at my 4 year dia-anniversary, I can’t believe how much my life has changed since that day. I thought my life was over that day, sitting in the doctor’s office, but it really was the opposite. As much as Type 1 Diabetes sucks on a daily basis, I’ve got so many good things out of it as well. One of these things include actually getting healthier. I started eating so much better because I so much more aware of the food I ate and started exercising. I actually lost 15 pounds post-diagnosis just from a healthier lifestyle.
The second great thing I got out of my Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis, was connecting with other Type 1 Diabetics. When I was first diagnosed I really didn’t have any one to talk to that truly understood what I was going through with Type 1 Diabetes. I had super supportive family and friends that is for sure (who I am very thankful for, especially my Parents), but try as they could they didn’t truly understand what I was going through on that level.
|Meredith on a CIM Canoe Trip. Luke's in the Background. Hey Luke!|
In going to events I made many diabetic friends, including Kayla Brown, who was also diagnosed 4 years ago as well. She has a very popular blog in the Diabetes community (Kayla’s Life Notes) and like me, she had adopted a positive, “diabetes won’t get me down attitude” from the start. In both of our universities, things called “memes” started to become very popular. For those of you who don’t know what a Meme is, it’s basically a photo with a funny caption that people share with one another via the Internet. All of the universities had their own Memes page, and so Kayla thought to herself, why not make one for Type 1 Diabetics?
|Meredith and Kayla Promoting the Memes page at a JDRF event|
I really love expressing my Type 1 Diabetes experiences through positivity and humour. To be honest it is really therapeutic for me. If I’m having a bad diabetes day I make a meme about it. Instantly 100’s of people relate and comment. It truly is amazing to connect and relate to so many other Type 1 Diabetics around the world in such a positive way. We are all bonded and banded together on a level that non-diabetics really cannot understand.
Kayla and I now run an online store with funny Type 1 Diabetes related captions that is tied into our facebook and other social media pages as well. I love to design shirts so this has been a great creative outlet for me.
I’ve heard the quote a few times now “I have diabetes, but diabetes does not have me” and I truly believe that this applies to me. I’ve done everything I wanted to and more despite my diagnosis and it has brought so many good things into my life. I would never say I LOVE having diabetes, but having a positive attitude and a sense of humour about it really helps get through the day to day struggles we all experience.
If you are interested in the Type 1 Diabetes Memes pages follow the links below
Thank you for letting me share my story!
- Meredith M.