New Year, New Start

First checkup of 2012 with the endocrinologist tomorrow. 

And I’m not exactly excited about it.

Last visit was at the end of October, right before the wedding and honeymoon. Needless to say, I was a tad frazzled what with the pre-wedding jitters and mountain of details to tie up before the event of my young adult life. The last thing I wanted to worry about was my A1C results. Or thinking about how much insulin to bring on my honeymoon. Having enough needles to last the whole two-week trip. How the hell am I supposed to inject myself through a wedding gown?, I pondered. Not very romantic thoughts.

The stress of work and wedding planning had been driving me to eat, well, whatever was around. Regularly checking my glucose and counting carbs were not especially high on my to-do list. The mere thought of seeing a 200+ reading just added to my anxiety. I preferred to be ignorant. Alas, a visit to the endo is always a reality check. Nurse comes in and performs her routine: checks my weight; asks what medications and supplements I’m taking; takes my blood pressure (usually “corpse-like,” from what I hear…I guess I’m better under pressure than I think!); makes small talk, then leaves. A fidgety45 minutes waiting for the Physician’s Assistant to arrive (I only see my actually endo about once a year), and I finally get the news. My A1C that day is pretty good, as usual: a 5.8.

Phew. Crisis averted. Right?

Yes, crisis averted…for now. But 5.8 is higher than it’s been since I was diagnosed in 2009 with an A1C of 7. Lucky me, my diabetes was caught early while I still had some natural insulin production, so my sugars have never been extremely high (e.g. in the teens). But for a borderline control freak accustomed to having results in the low 5’s, approaching the 6’s made me very uncomfortable. It started to make me worry that perhaps I was not taking care of myself as best I should. As a bride-to-be, I had been spending the past several months preoccupied by many other things. My last concern was how well I was going to measure up on checkup day.

Maybe I am too hard on myself, but as the PA sent me off with a doctor’s note for the plane trip and prescriptions to cover me through the honeymoon, I felt defeated. A type 1 diabetic for over two years, and I’m still taking my relative health for granted. I should have been glad that my results can be considered “normal,” but instead I just felt disappointment and frustration. How could it be possible for me to put my health at the bottom of my list of priorities, feel like crap and get recurrent infections, and still be considered “normal” by my doctor? He might be impressed that my pathetic little pancreas can still squeeze out enough basal insulin to keep me from passing out from a blood sugar of 400, but I can’t help feeling a tinge of worry. If I’m not making radical life changes right now to prepare myself for the day when (not if) my pancreas eventually can’t keep up with my diet and stress – then when? When it’s too late? I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not ungrateful for being healthy enough to only have to take fast-acting insulin at meals. I am so thankful that my average sugars are so excellent. But I still see every victory as a reminder that I should be doing more. Other T1s don’t always have such a relatively easy transition with this disease. In some ways, having unusually good circumstances  has made it harder to celebrate victories…when you’re used to near-perfect results, the slightest upset can get you down. Also, having a good overall track record makes it more perplexing when annoying hiccups come along seemingly out of the blue to disrupt your day-to-day. Like recurrent infections. Increased susceptibility to colds and other viruses. Feeling tired and irritable during highs, and shaky and nauseous during lows. Just when I’m feeling like my old, healthy-as-a-horse, invincible self – the self I had known for 21 years before I was diagnosed – something hits me. Not just a blow to my health, but a blow to my confidence.

And so, tomorrow, I am taking a different approach. My purview is much clearer now with the wedding over. I don’t care how “healthy” my doctor insists I am. He might be right, but I know I have to do better for me. Because I spent 21 years of my life thinking I was immune to all danger, and then diabetes appeared. Diabetes, no matter how severe, changes everything. I am determined not to let it scare me anymore. Instead, I will take my health into my own hands as much as I can, taking nothing for granted.

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2 thoughts on “New Year, New Start

  1. “I will take my health into my own hands as much as I can, taking nothing for granted.”

    That’s awesome. I keep trying to tell myself that my health is what I need to be focusing on, before anything else – even in order to be successful in other things – but it’s so hard for me to keep that focus when I’m feeling good. Then I have problems and all over again and I kick myself for not taking care of myself as well as I should have.

    And the things I need to do are often pretty simple. My main problem right now is chronic pain and it doesn’t require the constant maintenance and attention that something like diabetes does, because it’s not life-threatening and there is no specific treatment for it. In order to be fully functional I need to have a regular schedule – get enough sleep, go to bed at a reasonable time, and eat regular meals. And exercise. Exercise is the single thing that can probably help me the most. But I continually sink back into old habits (which, needless to say, usually don’t include very much exercise).

    It’s easy to get distracted by the things that seem to be important in the midst of daily life but are actually superficial and much less important than my health. And I think a lot of people make their health secondary to things like career goals, etc. And maybe some people are able to do that. But I have to stop pretending to be one of those people.

    And I think, in the end, those of us with health issues can end up wiser (and sometimes even healthier and happier) than people who aren’t forced by their bodies to pay attention to what they’re doing. They’ll go on doing it until it kills them. But I’ve got a head start on taking control of my life. I just need to be determined and resist distractions. It seems like a tall order sometimes, but I think I can do it. Seeing other people do it really helps me stay hopeful and keep trying.

    • Kayla,

      Thanks for your comment. I think the failure to meet one’s goals (health or otherwise) is a really defeating feeling, but things do get better. We might have to confront new and different challenges at different stages in our lives, which adds another layer of complexity to the daily management of chronic illness. Example: I cannot imagine handling diabetes and raising children one day – at this stage in my life, the mere thought is totally overwhelming. Think of all the new challenges that would bring and how long it might take to figure out the delicate balance between caring for yourself and caring for kids. Yikes!

      One wise piece of advice I received from a friend just after being diagnosed was that “you have to make friends with your disease.” At the time I thought this friend was just saying that to make me feel better, but the more I live with diabetes the more I think that makes sense. Right now, diabetes and I butt heads a lot…I want to live one way, but because of diabetes, I have to accept that I can’t live that way. Not that I can’t LIVE at all, or live happily for that matter, but that I just simply can’t be careless and put my own health on the backburner for work, school, my social life, or anything else. So, in a way, maybe having diabetes and “making friends with it” or coming to understand how to live with it is really better than what I imagine to be a happier, more carefree life. After all, to be a healthy diabetic you have to do some common sense things like what you mentioned…eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, attempt to keep your stress level low (that’s another one I really struggle with). But aren’t those things ALL people should be trying to do to live healthfully? It’s a daily struggle, but I think sometimes chronic illness is like that one friend who is actually a good influence on you, reminding you not to do stupid things or worry too much about the trivial matters in life. Don’t get me wrong – if there was a cure on the market right now, I would be in line for it. I don’t wish this disease, or any disease, on anybody. But I do recognize that it has brought some unique blessings to my life, and I’m continually seeing more and more good things come out of it. Hang in there!

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