A New Normal

A New Diabetes Normal for Keith Carroll

| Jul 12, 2011

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on June 25, 2009. At the time, I was a few weeks shy of my nineteenth birthday and had just finished my first year of college at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

I'd always been relatively healthy apart from the occasional flu or stomach bug, but in the weeks leading up to my diagnosis, I gradually started noticing that something was wrong.

It started with frequent urination. I wasn't one to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, but one night I got up six times, starting an unpleasant, sleepless trend. I assumed that I kept having to go because of all the water I was drinking. I was constantly thirsty, and no matter how much I drank, it was never enough.

Then my weight became an issue. I came home for the summer weighing 160 pounds. I dropped to 145 pounds, after having spent much of the previous weeks lounging around my house eating junk food.

I finally decided to go to the doctor after my vision started to blur. It got to the point that I couldn't drive and had to strain to read large text. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't convince myself that all of my symptoms were a coincidence.

On the day I was diagnosed, my blood glucose level was 580 mg/dL. My doctor immediately injected me with insulin and threatened to send me to the hospital if it didn't rapidly improve.  I saw an endocrinologist early the next morning and have been using insulin pens ever since.

I adjusted my lifestyle quickly; I didn't have a choice. I learned how to inject myself, how to check my blood sugar, and what the warning signs of high/low blood sugar are. I began drinking diet soda, and Splenda became my friend. I started carrying a bag of Skittles with me for emergency purposes.

But even as my health improved, I was still miserable. I'd spent 19 years being able to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, without a second thought. Raspberry Snapple was my drink of choice, and I ate pasta like it was my job.

My favorite part was explaining to people that I have type 1, which means that the copious amounts of Taco Bell I eat had nothing to do with my getting sick. Even now, that conversation never gets old.

Two years later, I still struggle with it sometimes. I get jealous when I see someone eating cotton candy, and I miss the taste of grape soda. I still don't know why it happened. The strangest part is that diabetes doesn't run in my family, although autoimmune conditions do, so there may be some connection.

All things considered, I'm pretty lucky. I didn't have to go to the hospital, and I got things under control pretty quickly. My family was a huge help in helping me adjust to my new normal.

And that's what diabetes has become for me: normal.


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Categories: Autoimmune Condition, Blood Sugar, Blury Vision, Diabetes, Diabetes, Eating, Food, Frequent Urination, High/Low Blood Sugar, Soda, Type 1 Issues

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Posted by chanson3633 on 14 July 2011

Thank you for your story, Keith. I was diagnosed at age 20 - home from college for the summer. But that was 36 years ago. Welcome to the new normal.

Posted by olefart2 on 14 July 2011

Please do whatever it takes to get the insulin pump. I used to feel likr you until I got mine. Was diagnosed in 2005 as type 1 at age 45 . Now that I have the pump ( mini med) I CAN eat whatever I want as long as I cover the carbs. It's a bit tricky but I love to be able to go out for icecream and not worry about it. The pump is a godsend GET ONE good luck and best wishes

Posted by Richard157 on 14 July 2011

Hello in New Paltz. I live in Kingston, about 30 minutes north of you. I was diagnosed in 1945, when I was 6, and am very healthy. It sounds like you are managing your type 1 very well. I went to college for 6 years and became a college level math teacher. I taught at Ulster County Community College, not far from your university. I hope your diabetes does not interfere with your college education and your future. If we take good care of ourselves, we can have long, healthy lives.

Oh, the Hannaford grocery stores in Kingston sell diet grape soda. It is very good, no carbs and no calories.

Posted by Anonymous on 15 July 2011

In response to the comment encouraging you to get a pump....I have had Type 1 for 32 years. I have had a Hgb A1c in the 6's since starting on Humalog/Novolog ~ 18 years ago. I have never used a pump but I feel like I can eat what I want when I want because of the insulins that are now available. Lantus is far superior to its predecessor just as Humalog is far superior to Regular insulin. These insulins allow great flexibility without a pump. Furthermore the insulin pens are so easy and discreet to use compared to a bottle and syringe. At this point I can think of no reason to go through the hassle of wearing a pump.

Posted by Anonymous on 21 July 2011

I feel "your pain". It is tough at times. I was diagnosed at age 25, and have type 1 for 33 years. The good news is I don't have any complications and I live a good life. The trick is to do your best with the cards you were dealt and an occassional "pity party" is okay.

Posted by Anonymous on 13 August 2011

I have been on an insulin pump for 14 years, a type 1 for 30. I'm on the pump because it's the lesser of two evils and my doctor at the time made me feel guilty, if I didn't go on it I wasn't doing enough to manage the disease. I am now contemplating going back on syringes because the pump has also exacerbated what I believe to be an eating disorder because rather than saying no, you just dial up some insulin and eat what you want when you want and more insulin intake feeds the fat cells causing unwanted weight gain. The pump is not for everyone and you need to really think about the kind of eating habits you have, which nobody seems to talk about, your lifestyle (couch potato or active). There's this attitude by doctors saying get on the pump if you want to avoid any complications. There's a massive push for an artificial pancreas and I fear insulin pumps will become the standard treatment and we won't have a choice using lantus or insulin pens.

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