This time on Inside the Mind of Someone with Diabetes, I’ve taken a different route. Instead of asking my participant questions, I’m allowing them to tell their own story of what it is like to live with diabetes, to help provide you with a better understanding of what it’s like to live this life. So here it goes…
My name is Diana Vestal and I have Type 1 diabetes. I was diagnosed in 2005 at the age of 41. I have been living with diabetes for 11 years.
There has never been a history of diabetes in my family. So my diagnosis came as a complete shock and I didn’t know anything about the disease.
My diagnosis began when I injured my back. I had a ruptured disc in my lower back and I was put on some pain medication and physical therapy to avoid spinal fusion surgery. During this time, I was constantly thirsty and had to go to the bathroom all the time. I was very sleepy also and lethargic and I thought that it had to do with the pain medication that I had been taking. I lost 30 pounds in three weeks but continued to believe it was the pain medication. I also had bouts of vomiting as well.
I went in for pre-op testing before surgery on a Friday and I was scheduled to have my back surgery on Monday morning. Sunday night, as you know with surgeries, you are unable to eat or drink after midnight and I felt I was actually going to die of thirst I was so extremely thirsty. I was at the hospital at 5:00 am and had an IV already hooked to my hand when the surgeon and anesthesiologist came into my room and asked me if I was a diabetic. I answered no, I am not a diabetic and they said they believed that I was and told me my glucose number was 645.
I did not understand what that number meant since I did not know anything about glucose or diabetes. The doctors explained to me that they were unable to perform the surgery on me because of the dangers of infection and not being able to heal properly. They were surprised I was still conscious and functioning. I was then advised to go to my primary care physician and get my diabetes under control before I could have this surgery performed. Since my surgery was canceled, my very first response was can I have a drink of water now?!!!
My first reaction to diabetes was flippant. For months I did not take this diagnoses seriously. When I began to hear all the different stories from well-meaning do-gooders, i.e., my relative lost his foot, cinnamon will cure your diabetes, is that the bad kind? why did you eat so many sweets? you don’t look diabetic, etc. I began to do my own research and realized that this disease is not going away and there is no cure.
To someone newly diagnosed, this is a serious disease that must be taken seriously. If you want a long healthy life, changes must be made. It isn’t easy and every day is different.
I started on Humalog and Humulin insulin mixture with Lantus in the evening. I injected 7 to 10 times daily and tested a lot. The more research I did, the more I learned. I then went to the Novolog pen and Levemir pen injections. I am currently on an Animas Vibe insulin pump and a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor. The pump and the sensor have made my life much easier!
Before the pump and CGM (continuous glucose monitor), I was experiencing hypoglycemia unawareness. I was unable to feel the symptoms of the deep drop in blood sugar levels, i.e., sweating, palpitations, anxiety. Traveling to visit my father, I was in the airport when this happened to me. My gate had changed and flight delayed. I was on my cell phone telling my father about the delay. I started to get confused where I was. I went to ticketing counter and tried to explain to agent that I needed help and I needed medical attention. I wanted the agent to speak to him so he could explain but the agent just kept telling me to step aside and wouldn’t talk to my Dad.
I was unable to get the needed attention and a kind person in line behind me managed to see my frustration and calmly helped me test my blood sugar. I began eating glucose tablets, my low was 39, and the kind person got me on a cart to deliver me to my gate on time and stayed with me until I had my wits about me again. This was scary, life threatening and embarrassing to me. It’s hard to explain to other people who don’t have the education to see the warning signs of a diabetic. I wrote a letter to that airline detailing the events. I received an apology and a voucher for a round trip ticket.
Diabetes is a constant daily struggle. My brain never stops thinking about diabetes. When I leave the house I have to remember do I have everything I need. I must test my blood sugar before I drive. Is it low, is it high, can I drive to work yet? Do I have something in the car to eat in case I go low etc. I make sure my pump has insulin, is the infusion site connected, is my CGM secure on my skin? Did I take too much insulin before exercise? Did I eat enough? I can eat the same thing every day at the same time and my blood sugars will be all different. Stress has played a significant role in my fluctuations in glucose levels. When something in my body is happening, i.e., getting a cold, or pain, or infection, my glucose numbers tell me. I used to be able to sleep! I have difficulty sleeping now. I have tried different sleep aids; I take an antidepressant as well. Diabetes has drastically changed my life. Emotionally and financially.
The support I receive has been from the support group on Facebook. ” You know you are a Type 1 diabetic when….” Listening and talking to people just like me, who experience the same daily challenges is overwhelming support.
It has been difficult with my family. I don’t live in close proximity to my immediate family and don’t get to see them as much as I would like. They have only lived and grew up with me as a non-diabetic. When I talk on the phone, or visit, they have a difficult time understanding what all my challenges are. I don’t say too much to them or anyone else for that matter. I will talk about my diabetes when asked, or in an emergency situation, or if I feel an educational moment. At one point in my life, a loved one expressed knowing everything about diabetes already and didn’t feel the need to read articles or let me vent, but living with the emotional roller coaster of highs and lows can be very difficult for a spouse, or parent of a diabetic. I’m forever grateful for my family’s patience. Financially, I am thankful that I have had decent insurance coverage and that I have been able to purchase the pump and my diabetic supplies. I realize others aren’t quite as fortunate and struggle just for their insulin.
Mostly, I keep diabetes to myself. I take care of myself and do everything for myself concerning diabetes. I try to eat healthy and exercise regularly. This does not always happen! I fear the consequences of poor diabetes management and know that this is REAL. I think about moderation and I don’t deprive myself of a carbohydrate indulgent occasionally.
I had concerns about revealing my diabetes when I started a new job. During my probation period, I thought if they knew I was a diabetic they might not hire me as a permanent employee. I realize this is against the law, but it’s still in your thoughts. It has since turned out fine. I was asked about my medical ID bracelet by a coworker and the conversation turned into how many other employees were diabetic too!
I can do anything I want as a diabetic. It can be challenging to do certain activities spontaneously, but it can be done! Being prepared and having supplies, I have found to be the key in my diabetes management.