I will never forget the moment I was told I have diabetes. It was a Thursday afternoon and I was at work, sitting at my desk when the phone rang. It was my doctor. She said, "Eileen, you have diabetes. You need to come see me first thing tomorrow morning." It was that simple. And yet, it wasn't simple at all. I was 43, thin, healthy, and active. Many people would say to me over the coming years, "How can you have diabetes? You are the healthiest person I know!" Yep, I was the healthiest person I knew! Only now I was the healthiest person with DIABETES. As if this weren't complicated enough, like most adults, I was misdiagnosed as a Type 2, by my first two doctors. I did everything right and my A1C continued to rise. I tried a third doctor. The nurse advised me that because I was thin, I didn't need any medication at all. And she argued with me when I insisted that type 2 treatment wasn't working and I really thought there was something else going on. The final straw was when she said to me "you sound like you want to be type 1." Really? Does anyone WANT to have diabetes? of any kind? Really?
Nearly a year into this lifelong journey, I hit rock bottom. I was severely depressed. I had lost so much weight I cried when I looked in the mirror. And my A1C just kept climbing. And then two things happened. I found DiabetesSisters and attended one of its Weekend for Women Conferences, and I tried a fourth doctor. Both of these things changed my life. At the conference, I met women who had stories like mine, women who had lived with diabetes for 50+ years, women who struggled and triumphed with diabetes, and most importantly, I met regular women who lived regular lives and just happened to have diabetes. For the first time in my life, in a way I could have never imagined, I belonged. I had something in common with every woman at that conference. And they were incredibly generous, showing me their pumps and their CGMs, trading tips for living with diabetes, and sharing their thoughts and feelings honestly and openly. Two weeks later I had my first appointment with my new doctor. He really listened to my story, did all the right tests, and worked with me. And yes, finally gave me a proper diagnosis. Type 1. And no, I wasn't happy about it, as the previous nurse thought I would be, but I was relieved to know the truth and to be able to treat the disease appropriately.
My life is now divided into before and after diabetes. Before Diabetes = There were 43 blissful years when I took food for granted, ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and rarely gave it a second thought. Truth be told, I was never that into food. I was one of those folks who simply forgot to eat because I didn't think much about food. I enjoyed a good meal now and then, but I never (and I mean never) finished the food on my plate. I just didn't have much of an appetite or interest in food. I really wish I could go back in time and relive that, and not take it for granted. I had no idea how blessed I was to be able to treat food with such indifference. After Diabetes = There have been four and a half years of thinking about food 24/7. I now have this crazy love/hate relationship with food. I hate it because I can't take it for granted anymore. It is my mortal enemy, that thing which raises my blood sugar when I eat it, and makes my blood sugar fall when I don't eat it. I have to eat to stay alive. This is now a very real, tangible reality for me. It's not a cliché. I can't afford to skip a meal now. I can't afford to eat two artichokes or a bowl of broccoli for dinner because that's what I feel like eating. Food saves my life now, every day, every few hours. So I have to love it. But I still hate it.
When I started on insulin, I left the doctor's office, went straight to the mall and bought myself a beautiful dress to mark the day. It was a milestone. Before and After. From that point onward, every day for the rest of my life, I would be dependent on insulin. That first shot in the belly was hard, especially the moment I actually pushed the needle into my body. Now, giving myself injections is the easiest part of my diabetes management. Funny how things change with time. A few weeks ago, I started using a CGM. And yes, I immediately loved it (ok, the first insertion was horrible, but now I know - do it quickly!). Another milestone. Before diabetes, I whizzed through airport security. Last week, I travelled abroad and got bomb swabbed and physically examined a half dozen times. It took extra time, creative packing, and some frayed nerves. As I watched people whizzing by me, looking suspiciously at me surrounded by security, I thought, "you have no idea how good you have it folks." That was me too, before diabetes. Now this is my life after diabetes.