What I Wish I Had Known When I Was Diagnosed with Diabetes
Being diagnosed with diabetes is hard, especially if you don’t know anyone else who is living with it. It may feel like your life has changed in an instant, and you probably don’t know the questions you should ask or the options available to you. Many people hide their diabetes from others instead of reaching out for support.
One patient shared this story of his diagnosis with type 1 diabetes.
This is the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. Imagine being a sprinter and you’ve just arrived at the track for your race. As soon as you enter the stadium locker room, you hear your race being called and the starting pistol going off. You rush to change your clothes, slip on your shoes, and run to the starting blocks to chase your competitors who’ve already left you in the dust. This is what my diabetes diagnosis felt like for the first few years.
I remember my diagnosis like it was yesterday. After I’d been feeling sick for about a month, my wife finally convinced me to go to the E.R. I left work and drove 20 miles to the nearest hospital. I told the admitting nurse that I felt fatigue, nausea, thirst, and I was urinating a lot. She checked my vital signs, height, and weight, and to my surprise, I had lost almost 30 pounds within two weeks. I was amazed! I wasn’t dieting or exercising outside of the norm. Another nurse drew my blood and asked me more questions. After a few minutes a doctor came in and told me my blood sugar (blood glucose) level was 623 and I had type 1 diabetes. I was stunned!
I was told my body needed insulin and that I was being admitted to the ICU to get my blood sugar level down and back in range. Every hour a nurse would come in and check my blood sugar and adjust my insulin I.V. I couldn’t rest or get any sleep. I was nervous, scared, and angry. I remember thinking, “Why me? I don’t understand. Why is this happening to me?”
After three days in the ICU, I was moved to a regular room. A dietitian gave me instructions on what I should eat. A nurse explained how to check my blood sugar and give myself insulin using a vial and needle. I was told I would do this for the rest of my life. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I thought to myself, this is NOT sustainable! I remember thinking about my quality of life—how long can I keep doing this? My wife and I had many nights where we cried uncontrollably. We really struggled with this new reality.
I continued to struggle for more than two years before I finally felt some relief in managing my diabetes. My wife and I had moved to Virginia, where I had a new job with new insurance and a new doctor. The doctor asked me on my very first appointment if I would rather use insulin pens or an insulin pump. When I heard the term insulin pump, I immediately thought the worst—this big, uncomfortable thing attached to me at all times, not being able to be active, and looking like a fool. I opted for pens without even asking for more information about a pump.
Another year and a half went by before my wife saw some information about a pump in a waiting room. She saw how small it was and how the pump counted carbs and delivered insulin to help easily manage blood sugar. She encouraged me to make an appointment for a consultation. I lived with diabetes for four years before I first saw a pump and learned how it worked. All the guesswork and needle injections were eliminated. I was able to have confidence in living with my diagnosis. Technology made my everyday life with diabetes easier and more sustainable.
What do I wish I had known when I was first diagnosed?
- There are many technological advances in diabetes treatment, and they’re helping people with diabetes live better lives. Get the facts about insulin pumps, “connected” or “smart” pens, and other new technologies as they become available.
- Get a second opinion from other medical professionals, do some research, and ask questions. A diabetes diagnosis is not a death sentence. If you don’t get the information you need, keep asking.
- Learn to count carbs and check your blood sugar. You can eat most of the things you’ve always eaten—but making healthy diet changes, being more active, and losing weight will help.
- Find a support group or open up with people about your diagnosis. Living with diabetes is a journey and a lifestyle adjustment. You can do it, especially with the right tools and information.
This article is sponsored by Medtronic.