Wednesday, August 15, 2007

32 years and still going strong!!

32 years ago today I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

My mom took me to my pediatrician for my “entrance to first grade” physical. They did a urine test. The doctor told my mom that she needed to take me to Minneapolis Children’s Hospital so that the diagnosis could be confirmed with a blood test. The clinic that I went to was so small that it didn’t have it’s own lab.

I remember riding in the car, and my mom telling me “…if you’re good for the blood test, we’ll stop on the way home for a chocolate ice cream cone” at the local drugstore. (a big treat!) They did the blood draw and we waited for the results. I don’t remember much after that. I guess they told my mom that I had diabetes and that I would be admitted to the hospital for education, etc. (for 5 days! Imagine that.) My mom called my dad to tell him, and later that night, he punched a hole in our bathroom door out of frustration and sadness. I don’t know what my blood sugar was upon admittance. I’m sure that it wasn’t much higher than 200. I didn’t feel sick. I hadn’t been losing weight. It was caught early. I didn’t actually start taking insulin for about a month after diagnosis. I must have been in the “honeymoon” phase. Too bad this was so long ago, or the honeymoon period could have been lengthened. For a six year old, this was pretty crazy. I was hospitalized and taught to check my urine; my parents learned how to give injections, and how to help me follow a meal plan. But I felt FINE!

I never got the chocolate ice cream cone.

When I finally started taking insulin, I took one injection each day, in the morning. I didn’t start taking a second injection until a year or two after my diagnosis. I tested my urine four times a day, attempting to void ½ hour before the actual test. I learned to pee on command.

I remember my mom packing my lunch and snacks for school. She sewed little pockets in all of my shorts and pants so that I could carry a pack of lifesavers wherever I went. (this was WAY before glucose tabs and gel) Sometimes I would come home from school with a couple missing lifesavers. My mom would ask what happened and I would tell her that I had “a little reaction.” (the rule was to eat 7 lifesavers when I felt low. Sometimes I just wanted a lifesaver or two, so I came up with the “little reactions.”) I went to the nurse’s office every day before lunch so that I could pee in a cup and the health aide could test it. She would write the test value (Negative, Trace, +1, +2, +3, +4) on a little sheet of paper for me to put in my backpack. I followed a “meal plan.” I still remember the plan. Breakfast was 2 breads, 1 fruit, 0-1 fat, 0 vegetables, and 1 milk. There was no exchanging—if I was supposed to have 1 milk, I couldn’t switch and have an extra “bread exchange.” I put Sweet -10 liquid saccharin on my breakfast cereal and used it to mix with unsweetened kool-aid. If I was hungry between meals, I could choose a snack from the list of “free foods.” All those foods sucked. Rhubarb (raw), pickles, raw veggies, 1-tablespoon ketchup, or 1 tablespoon whipped topping. Seriously. Can you imagine telling your hungry 6 year old to choose one of those yummy snacks?! Does a picture of a little kid chomping on a stalk of raw rhubarb fill your head?! As you might imagine, I came to love pickles.

I started going to Camp Needlepoint. The counselors and medical team used to carry pouches of sugar cubes. You would get 4 big ones, or 6 small ones if you were low. (I don’t know how they checked if you were low…I don’t think I ran off to the bathroom and tested my pee every time I felt low…) I learned to give my own shot there when I was 8 years old. The last day of camp that summer, they called my name and I got to stand on a bench while the entire group in the dining hall clapped for my accomplishment. I remember that. I was one of the few kids that were taking two shots a day. Most were still only taking one. I was pissed about that. I remember standing in line at the bathroom before meals waiting to urine test. My friends and I used to just dip our diastix in the toilet water at bedtime snack time, (to ensure a negative reading) so that we would get to have more smunchies. (a favorite bedtime snack. Sugar free Chocolate pudding mixed with peanut butter, a dollop of whipped cream on top, then frozen between graham crackers. They were the bomb—at least back then they were. Compared to the rhubarb, smunchies were the Taj Mahal.) I remember the introduction of glucose tabs. You know the ones. Those big, white BD suckers. I still gag at the thought of those. I choked down more than I care to remember. I was a camper, a counselor, and an administrative member. I spent 20 of my summers at camp. I grew up there.

Diabetes is part of who I am. I don’t remember living without it. I got an email from my mom last week.

“Oh how I admire you, Molly, for all the years of everything you have had to are my inspiration. No words can say how proud of you I am.”

I don’t feel like I “endure.” If I had been diagnosed later, perhaps I would have a different feeling. Maybe I’d remember how much easier life was before my diagnosis. But I was just a little kid, and this just seems like the way life is to me.

I’ve met many cool people because I have diabetes. I have a really awesome dog because I have diabetes.

So raise your glass today (a diet soda or calorie free beverage will do, although I’ll certainly be having a cocktail!) to celebrate.

32 years with diabetes, with only a little hypoglycemia unawareness to show for it, is a pretty DAM good reason to celebrate.


Today, Dixie is secretly thinking that how happy she is that I have diabetes, or she would not be in my life. And secretly, I’m thinking the same thing too. ☺


cesnh said...

Wow! I think you should have that ice cream cone, finally.

wendy said...

Molly, It is my great fortune to have you as a friend. My life is better because of you. Wendy

Paige said...

Here's to you, Molly!

Bernard said...


This is a great reason to celebrate. I wish you the best for the years ahead.

Bams said...

**Clink Clink** That is awesome!

Jonah said...

Happy anniversary

Scott K. Johnson said...

Great post Molly!

A big toast to you and your 32 years! You've seen a lot of change!

Sandra Miller said...

Thank you for leading me to this beautifully-written post.

32 years living with diabetes-- and you've done so with strength, humor and grace.

Your mom is right, Molly-- you are an inspiration.

Minnesota Nice said...

Ding dang, I swear this is my third attempt to comment - they seem to "take" and then disappear.

You and I are only a little more than a year in diagnosis, and I am thankful that we made it through the "dark ages".

Stay the course. You have a good attitude. And, yeah, go have that ice cream cone!!

Molly said...

Thanks Paige, Bernard, Scott, Bams, and Jonah!

Cesnh and MN Nice.. I've had that ice cream cone. (probably more than once!)

Wendy - right back at you! You rock!

Sandra - thanks! :-)

I had a great celebration complete with chocolate cake (yes, I bolused accurately for it!) and beer.

Here's to another 32!!!!

Allison said...

Thank you for sharing and congratulations on going 32 years with no major complications. You are doing the right things to keep you healthy! I got diagnosed when I was 18 and still go back and forth as to which scenario is the toughest to deal with: early diagnosis and learning to live with diabetes at a young age, but having to go through the turbulence of adolescence with another large factor to face on a daily basis or diagnosis at a later age when you are already fairly set in your ways and eating habits but you are past the huge hormonal fluctuations more confident in yourself.

Your story gives me hope that if I can continue to remain vigilant each day over my diabetes that I will be able to live a long and healthy life. Thank you.


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Allison said...
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Allison said...
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Donna said...

Molly, I was diagnosed 37 years ago, but I think you and I have been through much of the same things. I was 7 when I was diagnosed & don't remember much before diabetes either. I definitely remember those nasty urine tests, blood draws, not getting to eat ice cream, etc, etc, etc. I'm so glad things have gotten better in our treatment since then.

Congratulations on your 32 years of dealing with diabetes successfully!