November 9, 2015 by scratchtype1
Today is streak day #11,187. But the running streak is only a paltry 211 days. That first number is how many days have passed with me diagnosed as having type 1 diabetes. 11,187 days ago, I was very ill. I had lost more than a quarter of my bodyweight, I felt a thirst so terrible that I would wish it upon no one, I was dying. When the doctor had me pee into a specimen cup, it was no problem to pee because all the sugar spilling into the kidneys was pulling water along with it, dehydrating me. The pee was a thick dark brown from all the sugar.
And so I was then taken to the nearest hospital and by the time I arrived, I could no longer walk. I was dying from type 1 diabetes.
But with the correct diagnosis and the needed medical attention, I began a new life in the intensive care unit, an IV bag in each arm, a terrible thirst then only eased by occasional swabs of water to the lips by a small sponge. The world seemed distant and dark that first night in the bed with metal rails. I awoke briefly during the middle of the night when a nurse worked to change the bedding and gown because I hadn’t woken up to even try to use a bedpan.
They educated me that week in the hospital. Your pancreas no longer makes insulin. Your immune system killed your beta cells. Here’s an orange to practice making an injection, you’ll have to do this from now on. Every day. Here’s a meal plan. Here’s how you test your urine to see if you’re spilling sugar or ketones. Here’s how to stab a finger and check your blood sugar. They told me all about this treatment, but never told me how this was going to define my life in so many ways that I didn’t know. That they didn’t know. You only really understand the craziness of type 1 diabetes and its treatment if you actually live it.
When you actually turn around from driving over to someone’s for dinner because you forgot your insulin pen, then you understand. When doing that means you won’t actually have time to eat that dinner, but you know that you ought to have that bolus insulin with you because you might need it later on, even after a missed dinner.
When you wake up, sort of, from a nap. You feel slow and thick in your thoughts, like they aren’t moving well. You slowly come to realize there is sweat beaded all over your arms and the sheets are damp. You wonder why you’re sweating so much. Then slowly, the understanding that you’re hypoglycemic, that your body is trying to rally against too much insulin and not enough carbs. You then lift yourself heavily out of the bed and go to the glucose meter. The blood on the fingertip looks dark yet shiny. You tap it to the end of the small and incredibly expensive strip. 29 mg/dL. Then you understand.
And then you battle the ravenous hunger after such a low. Candy fruit slices, an explosion of sweetness. How many? Only really need 5 at most. But more than 10 are devoured along with a dozen jelly beans. Oooh, a bottle of regular cola gets guzzled. Then there is the want for something thicker, even more solid. That gets solved with peanut butter and a spoon. It won’t be until the next morning that you’re able to finally knock the glucose levels back under 200 mg/dL.
Guilt and failure. How did you mess up the day before? How did you take too much insulin for too few carbs? Why? What happened?
Then later you think you still don’t really understand this, even after 30 years of living with it every day.
I have set myself a longterm goal. To run as many miles as days I have lived with type 1 diabetes. I’m currently up close to 5700 miles of running lifetime, so I’m about 5400 miles behind.
If you’ve read this and are able to, please consider giving money to help fund research into a cure for type 1 diabetes. There is a link on the sidebar of the blog to my fundraising page, but I’m also going to put a link right here.