Friday, April 27, 2012

Re-Birthday

Today is my 28th birthday. Which each passing birthday, that same old question gets thrown around: "Do you feel any different?" The answer is usually no, unless it is a particularly special year that brings along much anticipated privileges such as driving, voting, drinking, etc. Turning 28 doesn't bring along any special perks, but I do feel different today.
Today, I am more in control and feel more like myself than I ever have. I woke up today and gave myself a minute to appreciate that. For years and years I harbored the burden of uncontrolled diabetes all by myself, unwilling to share or open up to anyone, ashamed of the person I was. It was easier to ignore and deny it than to face it or to force the heaviness of it onto people I loved. I maintained a happy and controlled facade, but was spiraling out of control on the inside. As I blew out my candles on each birthday, I secretly wished that the coming year would be different. That I would find the strength to get a grip on something, anything, diabetes-related. But each year, I let myself down.
Except this year. A new doctor reached out to me 6 months ago. She helped me find help and she helped me help myself. It has been a long, bumpy road and I'm still walking it. But I don't walk it alone anymore and I know I won't ever have to go back to being the girl that uses bright birthday candles for such dark wishes.
Today, I will blow out my candles and send off strength to others who are still fighting my old fight. I will do a blood sugar reading, I will carb count, and I will bolus. I will enjoy every bite of that piece of cake, as it is no longer sprinkled with guilt. I am a born-again diabetic :) And I'm planning an even bigger celebration on May 5th, the 19th anniversary of my diagnosis.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Patiently Doctoring

Today is day 17 of the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge and the prompt is: Learned the hard way.


I have been reading these HAWMC posts this past week and finally decided to jump on the bandwagon. Better late than never, right? This prompt is loaded, and I could take off running in many different directions. But it didn't take long for me land on the topic I most wanted to settle on.
I knew for a long time that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, as most physicians do.  Perhaps it was my early exposure to medicine, being diagnosed with T1 in elementary school. Perhaps I was always destined to be in the field, regardless of my own personal health roller-coaster. A lot of doctors will tell you that earning those two little letters behind their name is no easy task, and they're right. Sacrifices are made on a daily basis for the benefit of the patient. Long hours in the library, unhealthy habits, neglected family members, a mountain of debt. I batted my way through those things, but they do not comprise "the hard way." 
The hard way of learning how to be a doctor was to be the patient. It still is, as I'm learning every day. I ended up choosing the specialty of Pediatric Endocrinology because I know, beyond the books and the lectures, what it means to be diabetic. I learned by hospitalizations (not just rotating through the ward), injections (not just administering them to others), and despair (as the nonadherent patient, not the frustrated physician).
And in the future, when I have the most difficult, hard-to-reach diabetic patients out there, I might not be equipped with all of the solutions or a cure. But I will be armed with one phrase that I believe is immensely poignant and has the power to reach people:


"I understand exactly what you're going through." 


I may have learned to be a physician the hard way, but I wouldn't have it any other way.



Not Diabetic Enough

For the past week I have been mildly obsessed with Twitter and the Diabetic Online Community (DOC). I did not know it even existed before then, and I completely jumped into the deep-end, cannon-ball style. I check the site throughout the day, following people and reading their blogs. Clicking their links that take me on a meandering course through the internet. I cannot stop and have little desire to do much else.
Perhaps I am making up for lost time...all of those years that I completely ignored my diabetes. I couldn't even call it MY diabetes because I took zero ownership of it. Complete submerged in this denial, I floated through years of my life blissfully unaware of what it was really like to live with the condition. I took my insulin, sure, but guessed my way through boluses and could go over a month (!) without ever checking a blood sugar. I am embarrassed to even type that, but I refuse to hide anymore.
Though the whole time I thought ignorance was bliss, I was simply fooling myself. I harbored a deep-seeded guilt that reared it's ugly head before Endo appointments that I desperately tried to cancel and re-schedule. And floating my way through the years is a bad description; I mainly trudged my way, feeling tried and grumpy and bogged down by sky-high sugars.
So over the past 7 months I've been slowly walking from those dark days into the light. And many days it felt blinding, overpowering, intimidating and I was tempted to hide again under the sweet, soft, dark comforter that is denial. But with each blood sugar I tested and each number I forced myself to face, I changed a little part of me. I learned that they're just numbers, and they can be corrected. Each day I got a little bit stronger and a little bit more determined to beat this thing into submission.
I always hid from my diabetes because I thought it was freeing me from the burden of it all, but the truth is that by owning it, I finally became free. No more overwhelming, ugly, shameful guilt. No more hiding who I really am.
So in my silent stalking of all of these online people with diabetes/type 1 diabetics, or whatever they choose to be called, I feel inadequate. For the first time in my life, I do not feel inadequate BECAUSE I am diabetic, but because I do not feel diabetic ENOUGH. These people seem to have such amazing control over their numbers, such openness with their issues the times that they do not, and such confidence in how they conquer the everyday, monotonous tasks. They know about CGM's, and fancy pump settings, and strategies to cover the craziness that ensues after eating pizza. They throw around puns and funny t-shirt designs. They are cool, knowledgeable people with diabetes. I feel so behind and so desperate to be a real part of it all, like a little sister stepping on the heels of her old sibling, trying to keep up and imitate all that she does.
Despite being diabetic for 19 years, the shedding of my denial phase has made me feel like I've gone through a diagnosis all over again. I'm not sure I even really went through it the first time around, the way many do when they are diagnosed at an older age. I also feel like an extreme newbie because I have only been on the pump for 1 week. The entire process is foreign and a constant adjustment.
So I'll keep looking to these sweet strangers for input, experience, and opinion and weigh it against my own as I build more of it. What a fantastic resource - and despite feeling so "little sister" about it all, I sure am grateful to be able to look up to all of these people.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Presence of the Pump

It's been a while since I've written and SO MUCH has transpired. My pump delivery was held up because Animas experienced a glitch with some pumps on leap year day (2/29/12) that messed up some pumpers' date/time. This delay stretched on and on, but I finally got my very own pump on 4/03/12! Still pondering a good pet-name for my pump!
I attended my first pump class the very next day and spent the following week pumping saline. I had a few highs and lows during that time (emotional, not BG), mostly grappling with getting used to something "attached" to me 24/7. After 19 years of shots, I am happy to see them go but am taking a while getting used to the presence of the pump. I find myself waking up every hour or so, slightly panicked that I broke it in my sleep.
My second challenge came on 4/11/12, when I replaced the saline with insulin. I felt so excited and confident in the second pump class, and then as soon as the crowd cleared and my husband left me to go back to work, I suddenly felt so alone, so tiny, and so enveloped in my anxiety. But I talked to myself and reminded myself that beginnings are scary, but I'll get used to it with time. How many new beginnings have I gone through these past 19 years concerning my diabetes? So many. I got through them all, and this will be no exception. And after my pep talk, I started feeling pure confidence. I also felt so much pride that I thought I might burst unless I shared that I was now a pumper! I went back to work, proudly told several close colleagues, and felt like a certified super woman.
I can do this - and I'll do it well!