Today’s post is a little different from what I normally post here, but I thought I’d get it written down anyway. Today, 14th February 2017, isn’t Valentines Day to me – although I’ve gotten my partner a cheesy card – it’s the anniversary of the day I was diagnosed as Type 1 diabetic. Twenty one years ago today, I was rushed to hospital on death’s door, and my life changed forever.
I can remember the first part of it all very clearly – I was only eight years old and had been feeling poorly for a long time. I’d been losing weight at a rate of knots, drinking anything I could get my hands on in order to quench a thirst that just wouldn’t leave me alone and I’d been constantly on the toilet. Then, whilst I was at school, everything sort of just…happened. I can clearly remember sitting in a group around the TV in class, watching Oliver Twist – all of a sudden I felt really really sick.
And I projectile vomited all over my classmates.
Now, that may be a little TMI, but it’s what happened. School phoned my Nana, as Mum was at work and she came to pick me up. But by that point I was a mess – I didn’t know it at the time but I was in the grip of severe diabetic ketoacidosis. Nana took me back to her house, a massive Georgian coaching Inn on the outskirts of the village where we lived, and whilst we waited for my Mum to get to us from work I curled up on the sofa. It felt like I was dying.
Once Mum got to us, I was taken to the doctors. This is where things get a little bit blurry – I remember begging for a drink of water as we waited to be seen by the doctor. And as soon as the doctor saw me, he told my Mum and Nana straight. I had to get to the hospital. I was type 1 diabetic and if I didn’t get to the hospital ASAP then I probably wouldn’t make it.
When we reached the hospital’s A&E department, I was rushed into a room and placed immediately on a drip. Apparently I was so out of it that I asked for chicken soup – because chicken soup cures everything when you’re poorly, right? The doctors and nurses who were flitting around me told me that the drip they’d put in was chicken soup. It was enough to calm me down.
I woke up in the children’s ward, in a little room away from the main bulk of beds. I can vividly remember it, the commode sat against the wall, the sink with the gross water jug next to it. And I can clearly remember how uncomfortable the bed was. But therein started my diabetes training – I was visited by the children’s diabetes nurse, a lady named Francois (I’m surprised I can still remember her name) came to me with a whole bunch of scary looking stuff including a blood glucose machine and insulin pens.
I was taught how to inject, how to test my blood sugars. And after a couple of weeks in the hospital I was sent on my merry way.
One thing I do remember from when I started feeling better was being taken to the Kings Lynn Mart by my Mum. The doctors had let me out for the evening so off we went to the local fair. As we were walking around the fairground, I spotted a candy floss stand and I begged my mum for some – I didn’t understand at that point that I couldn’t have it. It was bad for me and it would make me sick. I burst into tears in the middle of the crowded fairground. It wasn’t fair. Why couldn’t I have it?
It was a steep learning curve, not only for me but for my Mum as well. She had to learn to do my injections for me despite a phobia of needles and it took me years to be able to do my own injections. But we got there.
During my time at University, I have to admit that I let things slide a little. Many people tell me that rebellion is a normal part of being diabetic – that’s what I went through. I wanted to be just like my friends at Uni. I wanted to go out and have fun, get stinking drunk and eat what I wanted. I didn’t want to be injecting myself in public and be judged for it. So I pretended it didn’t exist. Thankfully I got out of that hole, but it came with a price. I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy in 2010 which I now take medication for – it’s under control, thankfully, since my blood sugars have been much better controlled.
In 2010 as well, I was given an insulin pump. This was a huge step up from the two times a day injections during my early days of being diabetic, and a bigger step from the four times a day injections I’d gone on to once I was considered ‘adult’ enough to do so. When I got my pump, I was experiencing a lot of low blood sugar levels to the point where I couldn’t feel then any more. The argument was that an insulin pump would help to stabilise my blood sugars and help me feel more normal. Oh GOD did it make me feel more normal – to start with it was weird, getting used to having this machine attached to me all the time. But now I couldn’t live without it. I feel lost if I even have to take it off to have a bath.
It’s been a tough twenty-one years, living with type 1 diabetes. It’s a disease that is always there, always at the back of my mind. I may look normal to the outside world, but I’m not. I fight every single day with this disease, this condition, that can so easily be a killer. But you know what? I haven’t let it hold me back. And I never will.
Here’s to another twenty-one years!