Many diabetics celebrate the anniversary of their diagnosis, their ‘diaversary’. As we should, we’ve survived! Balanced 365 days of highs and lows, handled over 1825 finger pricks and injections, more than 121 insulin pump site changes, ongoing blood tests, managed to avoid hospital, complications and the biggest hurdle – slept through the night and woke each morning. No deadly hypo stopping us in our tracks (unfortunately this can be a morbid reality for insulin dependent diabetics).
I was 15 when I was diagnosed with diabetes and I can’t actually tell you what day. Sometime in June 1999. Now that I think about it that means I was 14 (almost 15) when I was diagnosed. How did I not remember this? The five to seven years that followed are all a little hazy. Being diagnosed with diabetes is life-changing, but to be honest it didn’t really feel like much changed. Or did it? I wonder if that means we, my family and I, managed to ensure diabetes didn’t control my life OR were we simply muddling through doing the best we could, with the information we had? I’m still here almost 17 years on, so we must have been doing something right, thank goodness.
I might not remember the date of my diagnosis, but I certainly remember the months leading up to it. The drastic weight loss, dropping to 38kgs, the constant thirst and falling asleep during class. In an attempt to gain weight I would have a meal replacement shake between meals. Unfortunately they’re so full of sugar it had the opposite effect. I was wasting away.
A girl in my class asked if she could take my photo because she was doing a project on anorexia. My jaw dropped to the floor and I simply walked away. You can imagine the effect that has on a 14 year old’s confidence.
We knew something wasn’t right. Luckily a visit to the doctor and a simple finger prick meant we had a diagnosis. Diabetes. I had Ketones in my blood and the doctor said if I’d left it much longer there was a good chance I would’ve slipped into a coma. I spent the next week in hospital, connected to two drips (getting to the toilet was a mission). I put on weight and received a crash course on diabetes management.
The week was long… The ketones in my blood had affected my eye sight, so I was unable to read and as a 14 year old in an adult ward, the conversation was limited. I left the hospital at the end of the week convinced I was the only child with Diabetes in New Zealand. This was reinforced every time I visited the hospital. Sharing the outpatient’s waiting room with diabetics 40+ years older than me. I finally discovered years later when I attended a youth diabetic clinic, that I wasn’t the only child/teenager with diabetes. So excited! It’s the little things :)
Having diabetes doesn’t mean life stops. With a bit of preparation we too can do the same things as everyone else. Armed with a supply of barley sugars, jelly beans and hot Raro I managed to complete a ten day Spirit of New Zealand voyage, an Outdoor pursuits programme, work part-time at the local supermarket (hypos were a challenge, especially as I didn’t truly understand what they were or how to fix them quickly) and backpacked around Europe. (Thank you Hayden for ‘rescuing’ me when my blood sugars plummeted while exploring the back streets of Croatia and pulling the tent down in Paris. The bus waits for no one!)
It’s no accident I’m still here, or any diabetic for that matter. With sheer determination, access to medication, a maths degree (that’s for the carb counting), mental strength and resilience we battle through each day. The highs and the lows.
With that in mind, perhaps I will find out when my ‘diaversary’ is. Another reason to celebrate.