Caravan Sonnet: Chronicittles: Katie's Diabetes Story

3/28/13

Chronicittles: Katie's Diabetes Story

{Chronicittles Disclaimer: Those that are sharing their personal chronicittles stories are sharing just that- their stories. They are people that are struggling {or have struggled} with the ins and outs of a chronic illness and have found ways of surviving and thriving. Their stories are meant to encourage, inspire, and challenge those that are struggling but are in no way meant to be a physician's advice. Please be aware that this is a space for learning and encouraging and not a space that will allow critical comments of any persons story. A reader should consult with his/her physician regarding any information gleaned from these stories. Thank you so much for reading!}

It's with great pleasure that I share with you Katie's story! Even though I have never met her "in person" I am honored to call her a friend! She is truly inspiring and I am excited to have her share her story with y'all!
*all pictures in Katie's post are Katie's*
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Hi guys!  I’m Katie, and I struggle with a host of chronic illnesses, which – as I’m sure many of the other Chronicittles (thanks for the term, Rebecca!) out there can testify to – seem to come in batches and interact with each other like an orchestra of horribly tuned instruments.  One is bad enough… toss ‘em into an orchestra pit and have them play together, OW!  On the “confirmed” list are… type 1 diabetes, depression, anxiety, and PCOS/infertility… I’ve also had ADHD and PTSD suggested and debated by a few doctors. 

Rebecca has asked me to talk about my diabetes, which is great, because that’s the illness
I’ve known the longest and the one that I’m most comfortable discussing publicly.  (If you want to talk about experiences with any of the others, email me! I love making friends who can relate to the stuff that’s so hard to talk about.) 

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 12.  I had just started sixth grade, and my mom and grandmother had taken me back-to-school shopping a few weeks before.  I was 5 feet tall, but only weighed 74 pounds.  I didn’t look sick, but I was definitely far too skinny… especially considering the crazy food binges I’d been going on.  I was using the restroom 15-20 times a day, and drinking a gallon or more of (sugar free, even then) Kool-Aid, artificially sweetened tea or water every day.  A close friend of my mom’s had a daughter that had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a couple of years before this, so my mom was already pretty sure what was going on when she made my pediatrician appointment.  I was incredibly lucky that she caught it so early – I didn’t get as deathly ill as many kids do before diagnosis. 

I like to think I handled my diagnosis pretty well, all things considered.  During my hospital stay – Labor Day weekend, 1999 – I learned as much as the doctors could teach me about my new lifelong companion, and gave myself my second ever insulin injection.  I would’ve done the first if that nurse hadn’t been so quick and sneaky! ;-)  When I went back to school that Tuesday, I gave 45-minute presentations to my classmates, explaining the basics – no, it’s not like your grandmother’s diabetes – and what kind of symptoms they should tell a teacher about if they see them.  And diabetes and I coexisted fairly well for the rest of my k-12 career, even if it made me slightly more cautious than most kids.  I even sailed through puberty relatively unscathed – a miracle because insulin is a hormone, and when it’s goofed up while all of the OTHER hormones are goofed up… it’s lovely.

Trouble came in college.  I had been struggling with my depression and anxiety for years, but I had a particularly disturbing run-in with a professor that shook my belief in the one trait I had always taken pride in: my intelligence.  I hadn’t been taking excellent care of myself, what with the whole college thing and all (easy mac at 3am, anyone?), but diabetes is greatly affected by stress, and BOY was I stressed.  I went home for the weekend to work my part-time job, planning to work Saturday and Sunday and head back to campus for the last two days before Thanksgiving break.  By the time I left work on Saturday, I was feeling pretty lousy.  I tested my blood sugar –which was sky high – and took a big dose of insulin before collapsing into bed.  I woke up about 3am, violently sick.  Between trips to the barf bucket, I managed to wake my dad up and ask him to take me to the emergency room.  We hung out there for a while, and they did a lot of blood work, hooked me up to fluids and an insulin drip, and medicated my nausea away.  At about noon on Sunday, we were told I was being admitted to the ICU, my last coherent memory.  I vaguely remember being wheeled up there, and I have flashes of memory – mostly of pain when central lines were being placed in deep veins.  I woke up Tuesday evening. 

From there, finishing college was a truly grueling battle.  Any little stressor could send me back to the hospital – and did, at least a dozen times – which would cause me to miss class.  Which would set me behind.  Which would stress me out.  Sensing a pattern?  I did finally finish my degree, and on time, an accomplishment I am fiercely proud of.  That summer, I married my wonderful, patient and supportive husband (and we adopted our first baby – a red maltipoo we named Charlemagne.  Charley for short).  That fall, I started grad school. 

Four years later, I am in reasonably good health.  I haven’t had another DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis – the nasty complication that was always the culprit behind my ER and ICU visits) since the month I met my husband (coincidence? Doubt it!  He calms me down and encourages me so much… believes in me SO much more than I believe in myself).  My eyes are in non-diabetic shape, as are the nerve endings in my feet and fingers.  My blood sugars run higher than the medical community prefers, but if I press, I can get doctors to admit that at least I’m stable!  Part of the reason for the trouble keeping my blood sugar down is the PCOS, too, so even my best efforts are going to fall a little short (the cacophonic orchestra, again).  Most days, I’m tired.  Sometimes so tired that doing the dishes requires a nap, sometimes just a little draggy.  That could be the depression or the diabetes… it’s hard to say.  My default setting is ever-so-slightly nauseated.  Again, probably the depression? 

The upside and downside to a diabetes diagnosis are the same, in my opinion.  It is a lifelong, incurable illness.  I will never get rid of it (unless that cure that has been five years away since I was diagnosed 13 years ago pans out), but I have a normal or near-normal life expectancy.  Frankly, some days, another 50-60+ years with this disease sounds like too much to handle, but I know that I WILL handle it.  Because the other option is to give up – give into the complications, the frustration and fear, the constant nagging of the beeping devices attached to me (a pump, and sometimes, a continuous glucose monitor).  I am so blessed to have the technology to help me stay healthy, and the support of friends and family who patiently listen to me gripe about stuff that makes me sound like I’m 90.

My advice to really anybody with a chronic illness is to accept help.  There’s not much your loved ones can do to ease the physical effects, but there are probably little things they can do to make self-care easier.  My husband fills my insulin pump reservoirs, so that there is always one handy if I need to refill the pump.  If you’re on multiple pills, let someone fill your pillbox every week.  A suggestion my nurse practitioner made years ago was to let my mom count my carbs and program my pump for a meal every once in a while so I didn’t have to think about what I was eating.  Don’t let your illness be isolating.  People who love you REALLY do want to help.
My other advice is to seek out people who can relate to your struggles.  My husband lives with diabetes ALMOST as much as I do, thanks to my tendency to (over?)share, but other type 1 diabetics can provide great sounding boards for me when I’m not sure if my feelings (physical or emotional) are normal.  I have NEVER shared anything with a group of diabetics that someone in the group didn’t echo.  Fortunately, the Diabetes Online Community is huge and active and fun J  Check out Type 1 Diabetes Memes (on Facebook and Tumblr) for a good laugh… I also love reading the archives on Six Until Me, written by a girl who documented her pregnancy with pre-existing diabetes really well.  These are some of my favorites, because they cater to MY personality and current interests (read: babies!), so do some google searching because there are blogs for every diabetic’s tastes and interests.  The internet is such a cool tool!

Best of luck to all the other Chronic Littles out there!  Please feel free to email me or stop by my (admittedly, rather sporadic) blog… I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do have 13 years of experience with chronic illness, love to make friends and am a pretty good listener :-)

Katie R. Hodge
Always, Katie {Jewelry and Accessories}{etsy shop}
{blog}
{on Facebook}
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Thank you so much Katie for sharing your story with us! Stay tuned next Thursday for thoughts about the importance of pets while having a chronic illness!

3 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for linking up with us over at The POP! I'm excited to be your newest follower! :)

    Thank you, Katie, for sharing your story. My mom was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (I know..very different) a few years ago, and it has definitely affected my family in so many ways. I'm glad to hear you have such a wonderful support system. Praying for you, friend!

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  2. What a story! Thank you so much for sharing.

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  3. Thank you so much for your comments ladies! I have passed on your sweet comments to Katie!!
    :) Rebecca

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