The Dancing Queen

A few days after my low blood sugar scare I went for a hike with a friend and our dogs (man, I miss the hikes in the beautiful Pacific NW!) armed with my blood glucose meter and a stash of glucose tabs. I was afraid of hiking alone again until I got a bit more confident with my new self, so the company helped. She didn’t know anything about diabetes, but told me to put her number on speed dial and give her a call if something scary ever happened again when I was alone. Luckily I never had to call her, but it was nice to have an emergency plan. In fact, I think I have been extremely lucky that I never ended up in the ER, since from what I hear that’s how most people find out about their condition.

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To help me out of my blues my friend invited me to go clubbing with a bunch of friends of hers. That was the first time since my diagnosis so I was a bit nervous. At that point I had cut out all alcohol from my diet because I did not know how it would affect me, in fact I didn’t think I could ever drink again. So I went to order a soda just so I could hold something in my hand and the barman thought I was the designated driver so he gave it to me for free (I didn’t even know they did that!). I drank my boring sugar-free soda (and I don’t even like sodas!) while everyone else was chugging down beers and cocktails. Of course that made me feel even more of an outcast. I never got drunk when I went out but I do admit a couple of drinks definitely helped me take the edge off in social situations. Most of all, people who drink are only funny to other people who drink. The sober eye sees the drinkers (or drunks…) through a whole different lens and, well, sees that in reality they are not funny at all. I painfully made it through that night and decided that I no longer wanted to go out anywhere if that’s how it was supposed to be.
One of the biggest problems I found after my diagnosis was really the lack of education, or the lack of an experienced ear to talk to. It almost felt like I had to live with an imposed death sentence. I know now that I didn’t have to renounce to anything, I just had to learn how to deal with it. I never had met anyone else with Type 1 diabetes, so I didn’t have that kind of support. The dietitian and the educator nurse at the doctor’s office really don’t go through all those details, so at least in my case I was just left there as a deer in the headlights. This was probably the hardest part: I needed to have a good support network because in the beginning it’s too tough to face alone. I did hear that they organized kid’s camps for newly diagnosed children, but there was nothing for adults. Granted, the majority of Type 1s do get it when they are kids or teens, so getting it as an adult is still not as common, but adults are just as lost as kids, if not more!

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Together Forever

Some people, including some of my close family members, are afraid of going to see the doctor because they fear they might find out that they have something wrong. I was never one of those people: I’ve always been a pretty healthy person. Even as a child, the few times I’d get a fever, it would only last a day or two. So I’ve always gone to my routine checkups without hesitations and even got complimented on how good my cholesterol levels looked.

It was time again for my yearly checkup. As usual, I had to tell the tech that I needed to lay down or I might faint. Ever since I was a kid I’ve had a needle phobia: at my first dentist visit when I was 6 years old I puked all over their carpet – I’m sure they must have loved that. Vaccines were a fun time too: the doctor had to run around the desk to try to catch me, and in the end my dad had to help him hold me down.

Anyhow that summer, at age 32, I went in for my annual checkup and had my blood drawn, and didn’t think too much about it after. The following morning, a Friday, I got a call from the doctor’s office: they wanted me to come in as soon as I could, so I set an appointment for a few hours later. I became a bit nervous since the doctor would always just send the lab results in the mail.  From what I’d heard, they would only call if something was wrong. Those hours leading to the appointment seemed eternal:  I started googling what were the worst things that could be found through blood work, but that was just making me even more anxious.

The appointment time finally came so I biked from work to the doctor’s office. My normally smiling doctor this time looked extremely serious.  I sat down and he simply said “well, it’s never easy to tell someone that they have diabetes, I’m sorry”. At the moment I couldn’t really grasp what that meant since I knew nothing about diabetes, in fact I could only think of how the word “diabete” (in Italian) always made me think of the fir tree, which is called “abete”. Sitting on the doctor’s bed that thought sounded pretty ridiculous in my head. He said something about my blood sugars being so elevated that he didn’t even know how I could still function so well and told me he was surprised that I hadn’t ended up in the ER. Then he told me how I should watch what I eat, and prescribed me some Gliyburide and Lipitor.

Once the appointment was over I had to call someone to pick me up since the doctors said it was dangerous for me to ride the bike in those conditions. I felt completely lost and my head was spinning.

It’s good to be fit

I was 32 and feeling really good about myself. I got a new bicycle and started riding it to work every day, about 7 miles each way.  Despite the occasional angry drivers who tried to run me over (what do these people have for breakfast?), it was a extremely refreshing ride.   On weekends, I enjoyed taking my doggies on hikes along the beautiful Northwest trails. These were long, strenuous walks rewarded by the amazing views at the top.

I had lost quite a bit of weight even though I was eating more than ever: I felt great about that because I figured my metabolism was kicking in, putting all those calories to work.  I was always craving apple juice and was drinking tons of it, thinking it was helping me to stay hydrated.

I took a week off to join my family in China. It was very exciting to meet them there, although being a vegetarian it was hard to find things I could eat, so my diet consisted mainly of white rice and not much else. While I was there I was getting very painful cramps on my legs, which I attributed to the many hours sitting in the plane. My sister, who hadn’t seen me in a few months, mentioned my hair seemed to be thinning. Since I had noticed that myself, as soon as I returned home I went to see a dermatologist  to check what was going on. He told me it was alopecia and said I could try some Rogaine but not to worry about it. I did however passed on the Rogaine because I don’t like to take medicines if I can avoid them.

Around that time I started getting frequent yeast infections which I’d never experienced before. My ObGyn prescribed some very strong suppositories which I reluctantly tried, but they were not much help as the infections kept coming back. So I started eating more yogurt, hoping that it was just a phase and it would pass soon enough.

Little did I know that all this was the beginning of a new life,  and not one I would have ever imagined for myself.