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Happy (?) Anniversary


Feb 26, 2010

My four-year-diabetes-diagnosis anniversary is almost here.   It falls on March 24th, a day just like any other to most people, but a day full of sadness, loss, and victory for me.  Will I celebrate?  I'm not sure if reflection is a form of celebration.  I'd much prefer a birthday-like affair featuring balloons, cards, and, of course, something sweet to eat. But I also feel as if the impending date is much like a funeral on the calendar, a time for mourning as well as reflection.

Many people who have suffered or are suffering from chronic medical conditions never forget their D-day, the anniversary of diagnosis.   I remember exactly what the doctor said to me as I lay bone-thin, dehydrated, and freezing in an emergency room bed:  "No wonder you don't feel well.  Your blood sugar is 700.  You have diabetes."  Those words changed my life.

The remainder of that day was spent in the ICU, where I was pumped full of insulin, fluids, and potassium.   I couldn't use the bathroom without supervision, wearing a hospital gown made for someone ten times my size.  I had to sleep on my back (not pleasant for a stomach sleeper), wake up every hour for a blood sugar and blood pressure check, and meet a dozen doctors and nurses who asked me the same questions over and over.   I was looked upon with fear or pity by every person who entered my room. But despite the sterile surroundings, the lack of sleep, and my paper-thin gown that couldn't disguise all the wires stuck to my body, I was surprisingly calm and, dare I say, happy.  I had an answer to my year-and-a-half journey of pure illness:  chronic thirst, unbelievable fatigue, drastic weight loss, and, naturally, devastating depression. I had already hit rock bottom, and the only place left to go was up.

My diagnosis day was the beginning of a long, slow, and difficult crawl out of my grave.  I am reminded of the first visit I had with a diabetes nurse educator.  I was lying angrily in a hospital bed with my arms crossed and my eyes full of tears.  The nurse educator said to me, "You realize that you could have died.  Your A1c of 16.9% and your DKA condition was life-threatening.  The nurses couldn't believe you weren't comatose."   It started to sink in that my diagnosis wasn't just a victory, but an answer that had saved my life. 

Knowing that I have conquered something as serious and scary as a death sentence is empowering.   Now, four years later, I feel that anything is possible with enough determination, prayer, and conviction.  I am passionate about saying "yes" to the right things and "no" to what isn't healthy or beneficial.  I live my life with careful control but also with a newfound sense of freedom.   I am no longer held captive to an unknown ailment that tried to take my life.  I have a diagnosis, an answer, and a hope.

March 24th is a day I dread and a day I celebrate. Yes, I have an insulin pump clipped to my jeans and calluses on my fingers.  But the pump is a symbol of control, and the calluses are battle wounds that remind me how far I have come.   The test strips sprinkled at the bottom of my purse, the glucose tablets on my nightstand, and my medical bracelet say that I'm a warrior, not a victim.  

I'm not sure what the next year, or twenty, or fifty, will bring.  But I hope that no matter how long I live with this disease, I will never stop congratulating myself on another year of surviving, fighting, and pressing on.


Categories: A1c Test, Blood Sugar, Community, Diabetes, Diabetes, Insulin, Insulin Pumps, Motivation, Type 1 Issues



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Comments

Posted by Anonymous on 26 February 2010

Awesome article. It's so true. I know my husband has T1 diabetes and while we don't celebrate it, Thanksgiving is always a reminder because he was diagnosed on Thanksgiving Day when he was 16. He too has an insulin pump and it's amazing the control he has over the disease. I am proud of him and you!

Posted by Anonymous on 26 February 2010

Truly inspiring article. Your positive outlook gives all of us hope. Thank you for sharing such a passionate reflection.

Posted by Anonymous on 26 February 2010

What an awesome reflection! You are definately a mighty warrior! I am so proud of your positive outlook and how much you have accomplished. Way to go Rachel!

Love,

Your favorite RD- Michelle

Posted by Anonymous on 26 February 2010

Great article and great attitude. You are a fighter and have come a long way to grow into a strong, passionate, loving mother, wife and friend.

Posted by Anonymous on 26 February 2010

Such a moving and emotional story! Thank you for sharing Rachel. God is Good, All the Time

Posted by Anonymous on 26 February 2010

Beautiful post. I'm going to hit 2 years next month... "It started to sink in that my diagnosis wasn't just a victory, but an answer that had saved my life." Something I lose track of - thanks for reminding all of us!

Posted by Anonymous on 26 February 2010

As the author's mother, I am also well aware of THE anniversary date of Rachel's diagnosis. Yes, I reflect on seeing her thin small body laying in an ocean of white sheets, her face almost as white as her coverings. And, yet, just like the Easter story-she threw off her grave clothes and rose to live again. I am brought back to the place of fear, initial diagnosis, and the beginning of a journey that educated a family and community into a more knowledgeable medical arena accompanied by a yet all too common disease. I am so proud of my daughter for her strength, her victory and her tenacity. I will also celebrate this day with her and will continue to share our (her) experience with others. And as I look at the spring calendar, may it be a new beginning of fresh insights, renewed energy, and filled with days to celebrate life. May each reader find encouragement in her words, her example, and come to a place where they can also look at their D-day with bittersweet victory!

Posted by Anonymous on 26 February 2010

Great article, inspiring story and a call for victory against the things that ail us! Go warrior girl!

Posted by Anonymous on 26 February 2010

Excellent article Rachel. As a disease management nurse, I find your attitude refreshing. I love that you've found more freedom even as you live a more controlled life. I'll remember you and your articles as I'm counseling my patients on diabetes from now on.

Posted by Anonymous on 26 February 2010

you r a survivor

Posted by Anonymous on 27 February 2010

Rachel, you are wonderfully living proof that we may not get to choose our battles, but we can choose our weapons. You have thrown down the gauntlet to the "ailment that tried to take[your]life" and inspired us all! Your mother has also lifted me today by easing my fear of my own daughter's struggles. Thank you both! B. James

Posted by Anonymous on 27 February 2010

I wonder how often this condition goes undiagnosed for years by medical personel, because we hear this story more than occasionally.
An A1c test may not catch all the cases, but would be a step in the right direction, especially in cases where people talk about running out of steam.
Then again, lots of people never get tested until it is too late, because insurance may not pay for a screening test until indications break into consciousness.

Glad you found out, too. Best wishes

Posted by Janiegantt@yahoo.com on 27 February 2010

What a wonderful article! Our family has celebrated our oldest daughter's "D Day" for 24 years now! She was diagnosed when she was 11, very very sick just like you~ she was in a diabetic coma for 24 hours, with blood sugars over 800. A terrifying time for her as well as her family. She has lived remarkably well with this disease for 24 years now- so yes, D Day is definitely a day to celebrate her life and reflect on how far she has come! Thanks for sharing this article and being so open and honest about your feelings.

Posted by Anonymous on 27 February 2010

Don't whine. You'll get and learn how to live with it. I've had type 1 for forty years. It doesn't get better, but you will live with it.

Posted by shosty on 28 February 2010

I don't understand how people become this sick before diagnosis. Didn't any doctor think to check you blood sugar during those years (incredible that it was years) before you got this answer.

The other thing I would like to say is that everything is relative. Our daughter was 4 when she was diagnosed 16 years ago. Type 1 diabetes certainly seemed like a big deal.

However, over the years, she has developed 3 other serious illnesses which have a much greater impact on her daily life, and are often obstacles to doing what she needs to do, such as school or work.

These other illnesses are so difficult that both my daughter and her doctors sometimes forget to list the diabetes in her problem list. Her blood sugars are hard to manage, but she does it without thinking much about it: this is just normal life to her.

I would give anything to go back to her only having type 1 diabetes.

Maybe thinking this way will be helpful to others.

Posted by Anonymous on 28 February 2010

Rachel, you reminded me of my D-day on March 26 26 years back. I was then in ICU with blood sugar of 1314. The meter showed ERR (to high a reading) for days. I could still remember that. I lost 7 kg in the 7 days in hospital. D-day reminds us the need to be always in a healthy and fighting state. Keep Going!!

Posted by Anonymous on 28 February 2010

April 2010 will be my 33rd "Anniversary" of my diagnosis of Type 1. For my 30th, I planned and hosted a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. We called it "30 Years, No Fears: Pam's Defeating Diabetes". The 4-hour event that about 200 people attended raised $12,000 for our local office of ADA. I have chosen to LIVE with my diabetes, not suffer with it! As you all know, it is not an easy disease to live with, and their are daily struggles, but at this point, there is no alternative. As someone else pointed out-their are worse conditions/diseases out there.

Posted by Anonymous on 28 February 2010

This article brings me bad memories of 46yrs ago. After a few months of marriage I developed the "T1",my wife was my back bone, I`ll not go into details,,,,but psychologicaly I was defastated. It took me quiet some time before I realised that unless I pick up my self, put behind me this very scary period, (I was afraid of the dark future)I put all my courage together,,adjusted to the new live, and started living day by day.
With the help of GOD (that I always believed in Him) I succeded.
After all these years I look back,,and in a way, I`m proud of myself,,because I`m in a position to encourage others, like Rachel to keep your head up high and stay positive.
Frankly speaking what irritated me was how come it took so long for the Doctors to find out what was wrong with her.

Posted by Anonymous on 28 February 2010

I was diagnosed about 12 yrs ago with type I. I was 32 yrs old. Go figure. Your article gives me a new way to think. I always did and still do feel "punished" for have this disease. I am still so angry that my eatting habits had to change. I used to be able to eat ANYTHING and never gain weight. (yes, i know i was blessed)Never getting to just eat out of the chip bag or the cookie jar just gets to me. I miss my OLD life so bad. I know that i should be happy that it can be controlled,hey, it could have been cancer! I DO realize this.I still struggle everyday not to cheat, and i still cheat alot, but your article was uplifting and makes me realize again, how lucky we all are. Thank you.

Posted by Rick on 28 February 2010

it sounds like rachel is starting to get a handly on this disease. i don't think you mentioned your age but it takes time to get past feeling "different." especially when you're young. although she is making great strides i would remind her of one thing. if you're going to contract type 1 diabetes, this is a great time. in a way you're lucky. my d-day was 44 years ago and although i have complications with the advent of meters, insulin pumps, a1c test,etc. i am doing better now. without the advances they've made i don't know that i'd still be here but i am, i have 3 beautiful grandkids and life is good. so, my dear, continue to deal with this as bravely as you are, use all the tools you have been given and i think you'll see that it's not really all that bad. not at this time. and i believe they are VERY close to a cure. so stay positive and keep your chin up. God bless you.

Posted by RoxMcK51 on 28 February 2010

My 10 D-Day anniversary was February 11. I was in the hospital 5 days & wasn't expected to live at first when my blood sugar was 1197 & I was 27 liters low on fluids. I'm Type II. Still they told me I would be on medication for the rest of my life. That was hard as I even had reactions to the insullin they gave me. However, by making drastic changes to my lifestyle, I was able to get off all my medications in 6 months. I still have neuropathy in my toes. Life will never be the same, but that's a blessing as my other life was killing me!

Posted by Rick on 28 February 2010

to all diabetics. this is a disease you can CONTROL. educate yourselves. use the tools you've been given. there's many conditions you have no control over. YOU ARE IN CHARGE!! you set the rules. take advantage of all the tools at you disposal and you WILL be alright. you set the rules.

Posted by Anonymous on 28 February 2010

I would like to commend Rachael on what is happening to her. Her bravery is very important right now and has been. I am a diabetic, T2, turned to T1, for 20 years. I don't remember anniversaries because my son at age 2 1/2 had diabetes and is 41 now. He is juvenile diabetic, but is an adult now. I thank God that through my son, I was prepared for me getting it much later on. It is a very tough and jealous disease to adjust to. The saying eat right, exercise, sleep good, is good. I also am battleing cancer and have been in remission 2 years. That disease really scares me. I still give the entire credit to my son and myself doing so well is God. I pray almost constantly and Rachael, there is Power in Prayer. I gave my son's diabetes and mine, plus the cancer and every thing that is afflicting to me to the Lord and never went back to get it. It doesn't mean I don't have some awful days, but they are easier to bare. I hope you continue to get stronger and I hope my little comment has helped some. Days will be brighter. I meant to tell you that at this time, I take pills, and insulin (4 shots) a day. You can do it. Sounds like you are doing a good job and when you feel bad, call your doctor too. The diabetes magazines are all wonderful. May God Bless you and keep you held in His Arms always.

Posted by Anonymous on 1 March 2010

10/19/79 is my anniversary. I was nine and yes I acknowledged that day every year. It will be the longest anniversary that I will ever have. Since I will have diabetes forever and no marriage, or job experience will las longer than I've had diabetes. Yes I have diabetes, it does NOT have me. The disease will behave the way i choose it to behave by my actions. It is completely up to me.

Posted by Anonymous on 1 March 2010

Another great example of piss-poor health care in the U.S. A year-and-a-half journey??? Every single doctor who touched you before your diagnosis should be slapped around and then locked up. T1 Diabetes is one of the simplest diseases to recognize. It should have been less than 18 hours...not 18 months.
...All T1s should rise as one and slay the greed-driven, inept medical/inudstrial complex. (Speaking figurately, of course.)

Posted by Anonymous on 1 March 2010

I wonder how often this condition goes undiagnosed for years by medical personel, because we hear this story more than occasionally.
An A1c test may not catch all the cases, but would be a step in the right direction, especially in cases where people talk about running out of steam.
Then again, lots of people never get tested until it is too late, because insurance may not pay for a screening test until indications break into consciousness.

Glad you found out, too. Best wishes

Posted by Anonymous on 1 March 2010

Rachel-
You are a strong, resiliant warrior! Illness anniversaries can either bring you down or give you hope- you have chosen hope. What a great role model for all of us!
From one survivor to another-
Becca (lovebug!)

Posted by Anonymous on 3 March 2010

Rachael,
You are blessed to know your diagnosis!
Diabetes is an overwhleming diagnosis and you can be in control of this with pattern management and close contact with your diabetes team.
I am sure when your hospital nurse told you that your "A1c was and tour BG was, and it's lucky you didn't die..." you had no idea what she/he was talking about.
Please follow up with your diabetes educator to sort all your patterns out and God Bless you with the best outcomes!


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