If I Could Take One Day Off From Diabetes
I’m worn down from a fun, but exhausting day of teaching. I’ve already stayed up way too late, but I’ve finally decided it’s time to get to sleep before doing it all again tomorrow. Then just like clockwork, I hear the “buzz” of my continuous glucose monitor. At first I pretend I didn’t hear it, but then the sweating and the shaking starts to kick in. I check my monitor, 39 with double down arrows. I slowly drag myself out of bed and begin my normal low blood sugar routine, the same one that I’ve had for almost 18 years.
It’s just another all too familiar night where I’m up later than I had planned because of my diabetes. I’m crunching down glucose tablets while my blood sugar begins to stabilize, and my mind begins to wander. I try to stay away from the thoughts of “what if,” because one a.m. is no time for a pity-party, especially with an alarm clock set for 5:30 a.m.
But my mind wanders down the path of “what if” and “why me” anyway. Suddenly, my mind is flooded with thoughts I often try so hard to forget. My thoughts lead me back to my first few hours as a type 1 diabetic.
I hadn’t felt like myself for a few days, but we all assumed it was just an average cold I had picked up from school. When I didn’t snap out of it, we made an appointment with my family doctor. I will never forget sitting in the small room at the doctor’s office. I had sat in this same room many times before, with scraped knees, sniffles, and coughs, but this time felt different.
The normal cheery face of my doctor did not seem as smiley this day. I kept waiting for some sort of friendly conversation, but the room stayed silent as he leafed through my paperwork. I looked around the room, hoping to find comfort in the face of my mom and dad, but their faces, too, seemed less playful than usual.
After what felt like hours, my doctor set the paper aside, and placed his hands on the shoulders of my parents. “Get this girl to the hospital as soon as you can,” I heard him say. Without a word, we left his office and piled into the family van.
“We’ll still celebrate your birthday,” my mom told me once we reached the hospital parking lot, “We just have to get some things taken care of first.”
On my 7th birthday, I sat in a hospital bed in the ICU with my family. Instead of being surrounded by presents and laughter, I was surrounded by doctors and medical machinery.
Type 1 diabetes did not care it was my birthday, it did not care that up until this point I was healthy, it did not care that it didn’t run in my family. Diabetes had found me, and my life would be forever changed.
Now, at age 25, it’s hard for me to remember a time without diabetes. It seems as though it was something I always had, although I know I lived seven years without it. I often find myself wondering on nights like this, what if I could take one day off from being a diabetic?
What if I could survive a day without needles? What if I could have just 24 hours without insulin injections, without any blood sugar checks, without the “buzz” of a glucose monitor keeping me up, without the constant worry and fear that comes along with being a type 1 diabetic?
During a day without needles, I would hike un-mapped trails. I wouldn’t worry about how many snacks I brought, or if my insulin would be staying at the right temperature. I would pick the trail that looked the most adventurous, and would be on my way.
During a day without needles, I would go swimming in a lake. My mind wouldn’t be focused on if my continuous glucose monitor port had been submerged too long. My mind, instead, would be focused on the soft waves of water and the warms rays from the sun.
During a day without needles, I would try new foods. I would take a bite of this, and a bite of that, without a second thought. I would enjoy my entire meal without any mathematical calculations. There is something so freeing about the idea of sitting in front of a delicious looking meal and being able to dig right in.
During a day without needles, I would make spontaneous plans with friends. I wouldn’t have to stop and pack a bag before heading out to adventures unknown. I would stay out for as long as I wanted to, and wouldn’t think twice about it.
During a day without needles, I would stop living my “double-life.” I wouldn’t feel obligated to hide myself away because of the parts of me that make me “different” and that make some people uncomfortable. I wouldn’t cover up my scars before leaving my house. I wouldn’t feel embarrassed about having to cancel plans due to suddenly not feeling well.
During a day without needles, I would fall asleep peacefully at night. There would be no worries about whether or not my blood sugar would stay high enough to keep me from dropping too low throughout the night. The fear of waking up to a dangerous low, or a seizure, or even worse, not waking at all, would be gone. I would simply crawl into bed, and wake up refreshed in the morning.
Although right now, a day without needles feels impossible, I remind myself that one day it could happen. One day I could tell people about how I use to have diabetes, and about the shots I use to have to give myself. I could talk about my diabetes in the past tense, instead of present.
But for now, I will be thankful for my needles. Although it may be hard to love my injections and my blood sugar checks, without them, I would not be here today. Without my monitor and my glucose tablets, I may not have been able to bounce back tonight from a low. As for now, I will look at each injection scar and past needle mark as a symbol of strength. I will do my best to fill my days with needles up with remarkable adventures and memories, but I will always keep my fingers crossed in hopes of experiencing a day with no needles.
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