“Webbie, you don’t understand I NEED to find a fruit smoothie. I don’t care where we have to drive to find one”. This was me talking with my fellow graduate student and research partner in August 2013 while we were in the field conducting our thesis research on halibut parasitology and growth (random huh?). I was having horrible cravings for sweets, carbs, and fruit. You would think that a fruit smoothie would not be that difficult to find but when you are in the fishing town of Homer, Alaska that is not the case. Webbie was a trooper, though, and walked all over with me until we found something that resembled a fruit smoothie. I literally cannot describe how excited I was about this. As soon as the barista handed over the 16-ounce strawberry banana cup of frozen heaven I received a phone call from my doctor.
Now, why would I be getting a personal call from my doctor? Well, a week before this call I was at my parent’s house and while walking down the stairs randomly got blurry vision and almost stumbled the whole way day. I walked into the kitchen and finally admitted to my mom that I needed to go to the doctor. There was something very wrong with me. I had been having symptoms for months up until that point but as a graduate student working two jobs I thought it was just stress. I had lost about 35 pounds rapidly without trying, was drinking gallons of water a day but could not get satiated, peeing an insane amount throughout the day and night, muscle cramps, sleeping as much as I possibly could but still was exhausted, blurry vision, slurring of speech, and cravings like none other. Looking back I just have to shake my head about how obvious it was. At that time I was a vet tech and would have easily been able to diagnosis an animal with diabetes by hearing these symptoms but I never thought that it would happen to me. Not only have I always been an athlete and in good shape but diabetes does not run in my family, type one or type two. I tease that I won the genetic lottery.
Back to the smoothie in Homer, Alaska though. I had just taken my first glorious satisfying sip when my doctor said “Well, we got your blood work back and it looks like you are diabetic. You need to stay away from carbs like bread, sugar, and fruit”. My face went completely blank, I put the smoothie down, and reluctantly slid it across the table to Webbie who at that point was incredibly confused and rightly so. “Girl, we just spent an hour and a half looking for that and you are giving it to me??” I was in shock. I was in denial. I was not ready to hear that.
I just kept thinking that this had to be temporary and that it would go away with more exercise, better nutrition, supplements, vitamins, anything. I was so convinced and determined to FIX this. My primary care physician (PCP) referred me to an endocrinologist in town and when I sat down in his office a week later I got a dose of reality. He started talking about test results and told me that I would have to start taking insulin. Due to my mindset I asked him “Ok, how long will I have to be on insulin for?”. I kid you not, he laughed at me and said forever. I absolutely broke down. I was not ready to hear that or comprehend what life would be like now. Thank god my mom was with me to help me through this process. I still remember that doctor visit vividly and more than likely will never forget it.
After I left the endocrinologists office I was sent to speak with the nurse to learn how to give myself insulin shots….. in the stomach….. yay! However, I do need to say that throughout that whole visit I am incredibly grateful for that nurse. She was empathetic, compassionate, and allowed me to ask as many questions without judgement. She explained how to properly give yourself an insulin shot (see this post) and that she needed me to do it in the office to prove to her, and myself really, that I could do it. She said that she has had some of the biggest toughest looking guys in her office before and when they needed to take an injection they couldn’t do it and passed out. Now, as a vet tech, I was very comfortable around needles, giving shots, taking blood, catheters etc. but if you turned that needle around on me I would freak. Oh the irony!! I am happy to say that I did not pass out and was able to take the initial injection. I will never forget that day but it also happen to fall on my nephews birthday so I REALLY cant forget it.
Insulin is my lifetime partner now. We go through the typical partner phases. I love it. I hate it. I get frustrated and irritated with it. Although, like the any good relationship I have an immense appreciation and respect for it! I am stuck with it for life so I might as well make the most of it and Party Like A Diabetic.