I stayed in the hospital about nine days while they stabilized me and taught me and family how to care for myself. I was still somewhat in shock at the idea of having an “incurable” disease. I was 13 years old, had never been sick more than one day, and considered myself strong and getting stronger. Now I had to take this medicine called “insulin” twice a day for the rest of my life. I HATED needles, and lets not talk about getting shots. Even getting up the nerve to “stick” my fingers to test my blood sugar took more courage than I felt I could muster. For the next month, I along with my family sought to learn all we could about diabetes and for me it was most important to see if any cure was on the horizon. I had a good doctor who was patient and understanding because I was not very cooperative. My sugars were like the Texas Giant at Six Flaggs, up, down, all around. My weight was not stable. I was eating whatever I wanted. He suggested I attend a diabetic camp in Gainesville, Tx and with the blessing of my mother I was able to do so. I learned more about diabetes and myself during those two weeks, than at any other point in my life. I left that camp with optimism and confidence to deal with my diabetes. I understood what I was required to do and what I needed to do to keep myself out of trouble. But you know, those old temptations and habits were back at home, waiting for me. Not soon after my return, I was not sticking to my diet, not eating right and not checking my sugar as I was advised to do. My mother did all she could to keep me on tract, and I look back now and realize I relied heavily on her to do what I should have. I also started noticing changes in my body. Young people know that change… its called “puberty”. I was soon to discover how my diabetes would affect me physically and psychologically during this stage of life.
As the title indicates, the times we live in are significant for anyone living with diabetes. We have access to better medical information, better medicines, better treatment and a longer life expectancy. Great advances on all these fronts have made dealing with diabetes easier for me. But there remains that one common denominator, one caveat which makes anyone with this disease have cautious optimism in the face of such great progress. ME. I am my own worse enemy; the antagonist, the Green Bay Packer to my Pittsburg Steeler desire to conquer this disease and live my life on my terms. Oh yes folks, I have allowed my disease to hold me hostage. And the reasons for this are as complicated to me as nuclear fusion. I know what ,when,why and how to treat this killer. But deep inside of me is a desire to live a normal life. Normal defined as eating all the bean burritos I want. Drink all the cola, tea and juice I want. Test my blood sugar when I feel a hypoglycemic attach coming on, and exercise should I feel the need to bust some suds on my SUV. Yes these are struggles I deal with daily. What can one do, in an age of pancreatic cell injections and quick acting insulin to treat this disease? Lets journey together as I share my daily victories, defeats, smiles and tears in my transformation to a champion who “deals with Diabetes“.
I awoke one morning feeling very ill. Something was wrong with me. My body felt like it was shutting down. I was weak, unlike anything I had felt before. I was dehydrated, suffering from a condition known as “hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome, because my blood sugar level had gotten dangerously high. If left untreated, this can cause seizures, coma, and even death. I also had diabetic ketoacidosis, in which acidic waste products called ketones had built up in my blood. Hormones (unopposed by insulin due to the insulin deficiency) began to break down my muscle fat, and liver cells into glucose (sugar) and fatty acids for use as fuel. These hormones include glucagon, growth hormone, and adrenaline. These fatty acids were converted to ketones by a process called oxidation. Remember when I said I had lost weight and was very fatigue? My body was consuming its own muscle,fat and liver cells for food. I was rushed to the hospital and doctors questioned and examined me, diagnosing my condition as either kidney disease or diabetes. I did not know what diabetes was, but I do remember the doctor telling my mother that it was “incurable”. What news for a 12-year-old to ponder. I thought to myself, “Please God, let it be my kidney.” They would just give me some medicine and send me home and I would be back to my old self in days. More testing confirmed it as “juvenile onset diabetes” or “insulin-dependent diabetes“. This type of diabetes typically appears during adolescence, but it can develop at any age.
I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 12. I first noticed my eye sight getting blurry. It was weird since I was an athletic kid and use to seeing the football thrown to me, or the basket as I shot my deadly long-range jumper. Next I started losing weight. Those two symptoms paired together weren’t a total shock as I and my medically uneducated family associated them to “natural progression of aging”. You know, going from adolescent to teenager. I knew other kids that had lost their baby fat as they transitioned to that all power stage of life-TEENHOOD. Some of my friends even started wearing glasses at 12 and 13. We assumed what was happening to me was normal. A week later I was urinating a lot. I mean going to the restroom often. In addition to that I was very dehydrated though I did not understand that. I was drinking up everything in sight. Water, juice, milk, soda, whatever I could get my hands on. My thirst and appetite were insatiable. It seemed I could not eat enough, though I indulged myself on anything and everything much to the dismay of my siblings. I also noticed that my strength was not as acute as it once was. I was fatigued. I knew my body was changing, but I refused to accept it. I kept on wishing that it would soon “pass”, that it was temporary like a cold or even the flu. Then one morning it happened. The point where my life would change forever.
Great question. Let me share some knowledge. Diabetes is chronic disease in which there are high levels of sugar in the blood. These levels are high because little or no “Insulin” is being produced. Insulin is a hormone that helps sugar we receive from food, aka glucose, enter the body’s cells. This glucose is converted to energy. We know we all need plenty of energy to do what we do daily. Without insulin, the cells become starved of glucose energy despite the presence of abundant glucose in the bloodstream. The unutilized glucose is excreted in urine. What a waste!
Insulin is produced in the “pancreas”. The pancreas is a deep-seated organ in the abdomen located behind the stomach. It releases insulin into the blood stream when glucose levels are increased. When these levels are decreased, the pancreas lowers the level of insulin it outputs. Kinda cool huh? Even when we call ourselves “fasting” there is a low steady release of insulin to help keep blood sugar levels steady.
In patients with diabetes, the pancreatic output of insulin is either absent or so small, that the body cannot use the glucose that is produced. That excess glucose remains in the blood and raises one’s “sugar” level. This condition is known as hyperglycemia. As you can see, one has a formidable foe in dealing with diabetes.