On Sunday, I will celebrate (if that's the right word to use?) my seven-year diabetes diagnosis anniversary.
I'm always very uneasy the entire month of March. Usually I start the month off feeling overwhelmed and anxious and I can't figure out why...then I remember...
I remember during Thanksgiving of 2004. It was my first break from my first semester of grad school: teaching my first section of composition, working in a tutoring center, and taking my first two grad school classes. The break offered a breath of fresh air). Steve and I headed up north to visit family in the Chicago area. The day after Thanksgiving, I ventured out with my mom, sister, aunt, and cousins. We went to store after store, fighting crowds, laughing at the most outrageous items, snacking. A headache crept up. First mild, then severe. I had to sit on a mannequin display in Target. (It takes a lot for this girl to sit down during a shopping trip.) My mom bought some Tylenol and gave me two. It didn't help. After we got back to my aunt and uncle's, I began to experience chills and throbbing stomach pain that intensified greatly overnight and continued through the next day as we traveled home. My stomach spasmed so painfully I couldn't catch my breath. I couldn't eat for a few days, dropping a few pounds, which usually is every girl's dream.
A few days later I was feeling better and jumped right back into my usual routine. Immediately after Christmas break, I propelled into my second semester of grad school, teaching two classes this time. All I did was grade papers, prep for class, read, study, and write. I spent hours locked up in my home office, books and papers scattered all over the floor.
Then summer came. Steve and I went to Disney World in May. It was a lovely trip. But looking back on photos, I cannot believe how sick I looked.
Gradually, I began to get sicker and sicker. It started with chronic sinus infections, weight loss, and fatigue. In the later months, I was going to the bathroom constantly (even not making it sometimes in the middle of the night), losing more and more weight (down to a size 0 which was too big), extreme fatigue, and consuming an extraordinary amount of food and drink every day.
It was a very desperate time for me. I had seen five medical professionals over the 1.5 years I was sick. I was diagnosed with anorexia, sinus issues, vision problems. No one could help me.
I was drowning in my own body. And no one was helping me.
March 24, 2006 was the day that changed the course of my life.
After arriving home from a medical appointment and having guzzled an orange drink, at ten-ish in the morning, I curled up on the couch for another one of my naps.
I didn't hear my phone ring and ring and ring.
Finally, somehow, I woke up out of my fog and picked up my phone. It was my husband. He knew something was wrong.
I remember him asking me if I wanted him to call an ambulance. I said no. He said, "I'm coming home."
I awoke to him at my side, handing me my gym shoes. We got in the car. I didn't fight him as we drove to the ER. I was panicked. I couldn't catch my breath. Must be my childhood asthma flaring up.
Nurses in and out in and out. I begged for drinks. They invaded my veins again and again. I was so cold. I had every warm blanket available covering me. The fluorescent lights were shining down upon me, angry and harsh.
A doctor burst into my room and said, "We know why you've been so sick. You have a blood sugar of 700. You have diabetes." He left.
Wheeled up to the ICU. Hooked up. It's quiet in there and calm. I get my own nurse.
"You could have died," she said.
The visiting doctor tells me the same thing.
So does the nurse educator two days later.
I should have been dead.
Who survives 1.5 years of her body eating itself alive? Sugar tearing through every vein, every organ, destroying, deteriorating, drowning.
Despite the blood pressure cuff squeezing my arm every thirty minutes, reminding me I was now in a forever-prison of disease. Despite blood test after blood test. Despite the ugly as hell hospital gowns that were four sizes too big. Despite the heart monitors that beeped and beeped and beeped and wouldn't leave me alone. Despite two horrible roommates who robbed me of sleep for nights on end. Despite having to learn to befriend needles and syringes and looks of disgust and shame. Despite people telling me "at least it's not cancer" and saying if anyone could handle this beast of disease it was me.
Beat the odds.
I was relieved. I was relieved. I had an answer. I had a name to give the madness. I had management options.
Three days after my diagnosis, while curled up in the fetal position in a hospital bed while listening to my diabetes educator talk about insulin and carb counting and syringes...I heard God tell me one word loud and clear:
It's what I now realize I was able to cling to, unknowingly, during those hellish nights when my blood sugar would plummet to 36 or days when people all around me would be happily bustling from place to place, sipping grande Starbucks drinks or chomping on greasy fries, while I saw another 300-something reading on my glucose meter. I was able to cling to it when I organized glossy brochures entitled "Your Sick Day Plan" and "Counting Carbohydrates." I was able to cling to it while I sat in sterile doctors' offices, surrounded by elderly people with oxygen tanks and baggies full of prescription pill bottles. I was able to cling to it when lab reports arrived in the mail. Each finger stick, each injection, each drop of insulin. Each time I heard someone call me a "diabetic" or asked, for the 100th time, "Is your disease under control?"
I tackled diabetes with all I had.
I want to win. I don't every day.
But occasionally a "100" will appear on my glucose monitor. Or I'll spend a day eating so healthy that Dr. Oz might just show up and give me an award. Or my energy level is so high, the sun is shining, and my kids are smiling.
This disease SUCKS. It's a prison. I'm never free. I always have a heavy, heavy weight on my chest and a cloud over my head. A storm is always brewing. I'm never without worry. I'm never certain if the flutter in my chest is because my sugar is going up or down or because I'm simply nervous or excited. I see specialists. I sit in waiting rooms with people three times my age. Whiel everyone around me guzzles sodas and seemingly swallows donuts and burgers whole, I am trying to eat the organic salad.
Every day is a fight. Every day I tread water, desperate to stay afloat.
And the one and only thing that keeps me sane is the fact that I had and still have hope.
To call my disease a blessing is a joke most days. But deep down, I know it's true.
Without diabetes, without my 1.5 years in medical hell and the climb up from that valley, I wouldn't have adopted my children.
I cannot imagine my life without them.
My disease reminds me how precious life is. And how desperately I need God. And how there's no way I ever could of planned a life this incredible.
I wouldn't have chosen diabetes, and I don't wish it upon my worst enemy.
But I wouldn't trade my journey for anything.
It's a pretty sweet life.