It’s tough to put into words my thoughts & feelings about something. When it comes to your thoughts & feelings about a health condition that is chronic, those thoughts & feelings can change on a daily basis………..
I was 24 years old when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in August of 1991. Pretty old for someone to be diagnosed with what was then called “Juvenile Diabetes”. I had not been feeling “right” for about a month or more prior to my diagnosis. I was not really feeling bad, just not right. At the time, I was managing my parents Hallmark Card shop. My regular routine involved exercise, working, playing basketball & partying. Although I had moved back in with my parents, younger brother & sister after graduating from college, I still had a lot of college still in me.
In June or July of that year, I noticed that my workouts were becoming more & more difficult. I seemed more tired than usual. My energy level was not the same. By the middle of July, I had stopped my exercise routine thinking that I needed rest from over-training. I continued my other nightly activities, playing ball & midnight bike rides without noticing too much change. Then, I started noticing that I was getting more & more frequent leg cramps that never fully went away. I definitely remember my unquenchable thirst. Next came the constant urination. The peeing never stopped. Even through the night. Some nights, I did not wake up. There’s something wrong with a 24 year old that starts to wet his bed again!
At the time, though, I was not too focused on my own health. My Mother was into her second year of radiation, chemotherapy & surgery to combat Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We were much more concerned with her than with me. But, the seriousness of my condition came to light when I lost 10-15 pounds in the span of about 2 weeks. My normal body weight has been around 155 to 160 pounds. Losing 15 pounds is significant for a person my size, especially since I was not trying to lose weight. I finally made a doctor’s appointment. He ran some tests & collected some urine. When he came in to see me, he told me that he had good news & bad news. Being the optimist, I opted for the good news first. With a straight face, he said, “Well, you are not pregnant. But, I am 99.9% sure you have diabetes.”
He wanted to confirm his suspicions so he sent me to have blood drawn at a lab & asked that I return home to wait for his call. About an hour or so later, he called to let me know that his initial diagnosis of Diabetes was correct. Because the lab results for the blood glucose was over 1,000 mg/dl, he asked that I not drive anywhere. He wanted me to check into the hospital. At the time I was home alone, but promised to call him when somebody arrived back home.
I was upset & scared. I was not sure how this would affect me or my life. I remember I started crying. But right then, I made a promise to myself that I would never let anybody see me upset because of having diabetes. I knew I had to be strong. I made the commitment to attack it before it attacked me.
I spent three days in the hospital learning about all the diabetes self management guidelines. The area that concerned me the most was the meal planning. The dietitian that was consulted to work with me did not answer all of my questions. She was adamant about avoiding certain foods. She drilled me on giving up many of my favorite foods. I could not buy into that. The whole experience was not a positive one. While lying in bed at the hospital, I realized that I had found my calling. I wanted to become a Registered Dietitian. I figured if I had to learn these new things, watch my diet & make lifestyle changes, I might as well get paid to do it. More importantly though, I thought I could help other people better manage their diabetes.
I returned to college in 1993 to begin work on a Master’s Degree. While doing that, I had to take some prerequisite classes that I missed when getting a degree in Political Science. The feeling of purpose & direction entered my life. I have always maintained that had I not been diagnosed with diabetes, I would not be where I am today. Diabetes changed my life in an overall positive direction. Because of diabetes, I discovered new interests, new careers, new friends and a renewed purpose. Because of diabetes, I met the woman that would become my wife and mother of our children. Because of diabetes, I am a better person. To me, diabetes is cool. Yes, having diabetes still sucks, but you cope. Sure it makes me different when comparing me to my peers, but when working with clients that have diabetes, it gives us something in common. I know I may have viewed it differently had I been diagnosed with diabetes while still a child. But for me, the diagnosis of diabetes saved my life!!