Beginnings…

Beginnings

I have written of my diagnosis before but recently there have been several “welcomings” to the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) of newly diagnosed T1s. Whenever I remember those very early days I often gloss over the real impact my diagnosis had on me. I am a little dismissive of those very painful times. These new diagnosis strike me a little deeper 29 years later. The thing I remember most that I talk about least is the fear I experienced quietly in my hospital room after my diagnosis. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the steep learning curve. Fear for my long-term health. Fear that my year of wedded bliss would never be blissful again. Fear. Fear can be a great motivator.

 

Once I took a moment to realize that my life had just changed forever, I vowed that I would learn as much as I could as fast as I could. This was my new reality and, as my dad used to say, “you play the hand you’re dealt.” So the attitude was “tell me what to do and I will do it.” I was diligent about the routine. I became a sponge for information about diabetes. The support of my wife and her family could not have been any better, ever. My parents, separated by distance, worried from afar but everyone gave me all the support they could muster.

I decided to face the fear, what did I do?

 

First and foremost, the CDE(Certified Diabetes Educator) is the reason I developed the attitude toward diabetes that I have until this day. She was wonderful; warm, receptive, understanding and tough. My first days were spent trying to get my Blood Sugar down from the high 300s using periodic injections of Regular Insulin. I did not enjoy this. It was my introduction to the “pin cushion” aspect of diabetes. I was doing finger-sticks every two hours and nurses were drawing blood every four hours and I was getting insulin injections every 4 hours. This is what I feared. I always hated needles, really hated them. I would come close to passing out if I watched myself get an injection. Drawing blood? Forget about it! Suddenly, I was in this whirlwind of trying to understand what this was and how I incorporate it into my life while trying not to pass out from the over-exposure to all these sharp objects. Then there was the food pyramid and calculating insulin doses. Talk about head-spinning!

 

After two days of practice injecting on an orange my nurse asked me if I was ready to do it to myself. I hesitated and she spoke, “you’re gonna be injectin’ yourself for the rest of your life so you might as well start now.” I hit the syringe plunger and never looked back! I still hate injections, whether from the rare syringe or the every couple of days insulin pump site change. People say you get used to it and you do. That doesn’t make me hate it any less.

 

Having these new medical supplies that help me survive is also something that generated fear. What if the supply is compromised in some way? What if I could not get my insulin or syringes? Now I don’t worry as much because after 29 years I’ve accumulated some pad in supplies but, that fear remains at some level. Now the fear is more about forgetting my glucometer, forgetting food or running out of insulin in my pump. Now it is a daily passing occurrence. Making sure I have my supplies for a day and a little more in case there’s another 9/11. I work in NYC so there is always a pang of fear when I forget something. There is a level of impromptu that has left my life.

 

The fear of dietary change is one that worried me a great deal. I loved fat and sugar. Who doesn’t? I ate Jelly doughnuts, cheeseburgers with French fries, hot dogs and plenty of red meat. Today, I couldn’t be happier with my diet. I will never call it a diabetes diet. I would call it a diet for life. Lay off the processed foods, count carbs if you have T1 and incorporate real vegetables, actual fruit, whole grains and lean proteins into your everyday life, period. Stay away from refined sugar. All people everywhere would benefit from that kind of a diet. I still eat ice cream and the occasional cake, cookies and pie but I am very aware of the unknown carbs and hidden fat in these treats. I do extra blood tests and try to compensate using my pump. Generally I try not to eat white rice, white potatoes or white bread. These have a high glycemic index and always spike my blood sugar. I know which foods give me trouble; Pizza, Chinese and Mexican. Actually, eating out is an obstacle course of great dietary challenges. Paying attention to what I eat and how it affects my blood sugar has been incorporated into my daily process and it can be exhausting but it is another one of those necessary evils.

 

Fear of exercise. This isn’t really a fear. I was always involved in sports and I do love running around and getting active. It is the fact that this is a requirement for good blood sugar control. Then I thought about it. Everyone should exercise. So while this aspect of my dance with diabetes is the most difficult because I don’t stay on an exercise routine regularly even though I do try to stay active and get some exercise. There are always a million reasons why I can’t do it but I know how important it is so I try and I do alright.

 

There are many underlying fears that capture my imagination as my journey with diabetes continues. Too many to list here but at the end of the day I try to face those fears. I do what I can to assuage those fears and I work tirelessly to stay as healthy as can reasonably be expected of family guy living life in the first half of the twenty-first century! Schedules, dietary needs, exercise and proper medication all add up to a ride through a course filled with peaks, valleys and untold hurdles. I wake up each day knowing one thing for sure; another challenge of good blood glucose lay before me! My blood sugar control won’t be perfect every day; because of me, because of stress, because of my schedule, because of a hundred different reasons. The best I can do is do the best I can and usually, the best I can is pretty good!

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