Today we’re speaking with Melinda Smith Wilcox, who has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 48 years. This is quite an accomplishment and Melinda is proof that having diabetes doesn’t stop you from living your life to the fullest. Let’s take a look inside Melinda’s mind.
First off, what type of diabetes do you have? We have readers with all types, so it’s important to talk about this first.
I have Type 1.
How were you made aware that you had diabetes? Please share your diagnosis story with our readers.
I was in the third grade and my teacher had noticed that I was falling asleep in class. She had a nephew that was diabetic and she explained to my mother that was a symptom of diabetes. My grandmother had also been telling my mother that I was sleeping too much so my mother took me to the doctor to prove everyone wrong, but they were not!
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We’re all curious, even if we live the life, everyone is different, what is a typical day like for you?
I have been Type 1 for 48 years, so I don’t really notice anything anymore. I check my sugar when I get up, get ready for work; when I get to work I check my sugar again and I am on an insulin pump, so I bolus for my breakfast and eat. I check my sugar before every meal and at bed time and anytime that I feel like my sugar might be low or high. I don’t let my diabetes stop me from doing what I want to do.
Describe the one scariest moment since your diagnosis.
In 1990 I went into DKA at 30 years old, the only time I have. I was living by myself and couldn’t sleep because my heart was racing and I was nauseated. When I finally vomited, I had projectile vomiting so that scared me, I had never experienced anything like that. I called my sister to come take me to the hospital at 4 a.m.
The doctors had my sister and parents call in anyone who I would want to see because they did not know if I would make it or not. At midnight they finally told my family that I would be ok. I never lost consciousness but I really didn’t know how sick I was. The next day a nurse came in and asked what I was doing there. I explained what I had been through and he said he knew all that because he was there when they brought me in but he wasn’t expecting to see me there the next day. That was when I got scared and became aware of how bad I had been.
Living with a chronic illness can be overwhelming, how do you cope with the constant battle of trying to maintain a proper balance with your blood sugars?
I have lived with it so long; it really is the only thing I know. I just try to keep a close check on my sugars and try not to get crazy with what I eat. I try to always look at the positive
If you could give one tip to someone newly diagnosed what would it be?
Get a pump and learn carb counting right away. When I was diagnosed, the only test we had to check our blood sugar at home was a urine test and it was not very accurate. There is a lot more information available now about eating and blood sugar and all of that is very helpful. The pump changed my life, it is much easier to keep my sugars at a better level with it.
What is the most challenging aspect to you, in living with diabetes?
Always having to be aware and on guard for anything that might go wrong. Sometimes, I would just like to not have to worry about if I have insulin, glucose tabs, replacement pump supplies and all the other equipment I need on a daily basis.
What was your reaction when you found out you had diabetes?
I was really too young to understand what was going on. My parents just explained that I couldn’t eat sugar and I would have to take insulin shots every day for the rest of my life. They explained that there was medicine and I had all my fingers, toes, eyes, arm, legs and everything else, and we would just do what we had to keep me healthy. They never let me see their fear about the disease, so I had no fear and no less expectations for my life that anyone else.
What was hardest for you and your family — emotionally? Or financially?
I’m sure it was both for my parents. I can’t imagine what they must have gone through when we found out. I was their perfect little baby girl and how could this have happened? I’m sure it was also hard on them financially too. My father had a good job and insurance, but I’m sure it was still a lot of money. As I became a young adult and got out on my own, it was financially hard on me. I had no idea how much everything was until I had to purchase it.
How often do you have to test your glucose levels?
I check about 6 times a day, more if I am not feeling well.
What insulins have you used or do you currently use?
Started with the old ones made from animals, Regular, NPH, Humalog and now I use Novolog in my pump.
What would you like people who have diabetes to know?
That you can live a successful, happy life with this disease. You can be married, have children, have a career or anything else you want. You are in charge, so take charge and live your life!!
Who do you get support from? Who treats you?
Husband, sister, friends.
Let’s conclude on a positive note. I know it can be difficult to find the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you thought really hard, what is one positive thing that diabetes has brought to your life?
Gratefulness. As long as I have had diabetes, I feel like I am reasonably healthy, with no serious side effects. I am grateful for every day I have on this beautiful planet.
I know there are other diabetics who have had a very hard time with this disease, so I am grateful that I have been able to do pretty well with my fight against diabetes.