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 endure...you 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. ☺