Friday, January 7, 2011

diagnosis details

i have read so many stories from fellow diabetics about their diagnosis. scary stories that involve ambulances, ER visits, long stays in the hospital ... mine involves none of that. but it is one of those days in my life that i remember almost every little detail of.

about a month after my high school graduation, on june 26, 2000, i was going to the pediatrician for a standard physical that i needed before i went off to college. on my own. for the first time ever. to do my own laundry! GASP! and buy my own groceries! i was going to be a FOR REAL adult. scary enough on it's own.

when we got to the to the office, a place i hadn't been in years, i asked if i could do my urine test right then, because i really had to go (it's so funny how clearly i see all the symptoms now).

tangent: we never really went to the doctor growing up unless we were really sick. even then, usually we'd just go to the immediate care center. the only time i can remember going was when i had strep throat, and that wasn't very often. my sister and i stayed relatively healthy. the only other times i remember going to the doctor's office were the times i broke my wrist and then my arm in 7th grade. yes, both arms in one year ... that's a story for another day.

back to the story ... urine test. i did that, went in the room with my mom and waited for the doctor. he came in, and the first thing he did was pick up the urine cup. 'drink a lot today? your urine is very clear.'

17-year old nervous me, 'um, yeah, i guess.'
he did the standard check up, and then it was back to that. 'your weight is a little low. are you thirsty a lot? drink a lot of fluids?'
'i'm not really sure, i guess so.'
mom starts answering too. 'yes, she does.'
'what about eating, do you eat enough? a lot? are you hungry? not hungry?'
'i eat when i'm hungry.'
mom answered. 'she eats ALL THE TIME. and she eats a lot.'

GEEZ mom, thanks for embarrassing me! she was right though. on the drive to school every morning i would eat pop tarts. and drink a full cup of diet coke or gatorade. followed by hanging out at the water fountain before homeroom. or buying a snack at the machine in the cafeteria and inhaling it before classes started. i'd spend all the lunch money my parents gave me every day, and usually spend my own money to buy more. a grilled cheese sandwich, sometimes two. two sides of fries, a dessert and a can of coke. and then after the next class, i'd be hungry again. or running to the bathroom. or to the water fountain because i was SO thirsty. when i got home from school, i'd eat a snack. sometimes, i'd drink an entire BIG bottle of gatorade and eat a whole box of mac and cheese while i watched sally jesse raphael and oprah. then i'd eat dinner and it was likely i'd be back in the kitchen looking for something to eat later on, wake up in the middle of the night and drink 3 glasses of water in the bathroom in the dark. and i was small. 5'3" and 93 pounds small. grossly skinny to me now, but then, it didn't seem like it. i had no drastic weight loss, i had lost 12 pounds in four years. someone in my class sent me to the counselor senior year, because she thought i was anorexic. a girl i can not stand to this day. she was never my friend, she just made an outside judgement (i can't really blame her i guess, i looked like a stick). my friends were questioned before i saw the counselor, and they all told her that i ate like a horse. i was offended when she asked if i threw up after i ate. why would i do that??

party at the beginning of senior year. that's me in the middle. seriously, look at my arms! 

the doctor continued his evaluation. 'ok meredith, i'm going to get some blood drawn. i think you may have a thyroid issue, or it could be diabetes.'
i just sat there, internally freaking out because i had never had blood drawn. not outside of the standard finger prick you get when you get to the office. i wasn't freaking about the outcome, i was freaking about the needle. (hahaha, oh the irony.)
he left the room to get a nurse, and mom and i looked at each other.
'it's probably just a thyroid thing.' she said.
'no, it's diabetes.' i told her. you know how sometimes you have a gut feeling? i knew that's what it was. at that point in my life i knew absolutely nothing about diabetes, except that people took insulin, and i thought they couldn't have sugar, but i just knew that was going to be the result.  'if it's a thyroid thing, how do they fix it?'
'you just take a pill every day.'
'oh.' we waited in silence until the nurse came to take my blood.

after that was over, the doctor came back in. 'meredith, it looks like you have diabetes.'
'ok,' i gulped. 'what does that mean?'
'well, you have type 1 diabetes. you're going to have to take insulin every day, and i am going to send you to an endocrinologist to learn everything you need to know. i'm going to send in a nurse to give you an insulin shot, and while she does that i'm going to call the endocrinologist's office and get you an appointment tomorrow. i want you set up to see him before you leave my office.'
'um, how did i get it?'
'well, it's hard to say. have you been sick recently? sinus infections, strep throat, flu, anything like that?'
i remembered the pink eye. 'i had pink eye earlier this year. but other than that i haven't had strep in a few years or anything.'
'it could possibly be that. your body likely attacked the wrong cells when you were sick, and it made your pancreas weaker and less able to do its job.' ...standard pediatric explanation?
'oh, ok.' i just sat silently, staring at the floor. i couldn't look at mom. or anyone. i didn't really know what to do. it seemed like a lot, and i didn't understand any of it.

the nurse came in to give me insulin. i think it was probably long-lasting insulin, they didn't say. i do remember that my arm felt so weird after she did it. by then, the doctor was back. 'okay, we got you all set up for tomorrow. don't worry about doing anything different tonight, eat what you want, drink what you want, and you'll learn more tomorrow, ok?' he sounded reassuring. i was confused. 'ok.'

it was almost 6:00 by the time we left from my 3:30 appointment. we rode in silence, until mom stopped for gas. 'it's my fault. i should have taken you to the doctor when you were sick.'
'it's not your fault! we couldn't have stopped it, he said that.' i didn't understand why it would be mom's fault.

she got out to pump gas, and i felt like i was in another world. everything around me seemed so fuzzy, confusing, and overwhelming. and i didn't even know how my life was about to change.

when we got home, my dad was walking down the hall as i was coming in the kitchen. 'i have diabetes!' i said ... not sad, or scared, i kind of just stated it, like that. 'what??' he looked really confused and turned to my mom. 'yep, she has diabetes. she has an appointment at the endocrinologist tomorrow.'

i disappeared to my room for a while, left them in the kitchen. i called my best friend and told her. neither of us really knew what all that meant. mom and dad must have called lots of family, because i don't remember telling them but i remember everyone knowing. and i got lots of sympathy calls, people making sure i was okay, telling me they were so sorry ... and i just didn't get it. why was everyone so sad and upset about it?

another tangent: when i was a senior in college, at my sorority's alumnae ceremony, we read letters from our parents. my dad's talked my diagnosis, about how impressed he and all his friends were when he told them how i stated that i was diabetic that afternoon in the kitchen. no tears, no self-pity, no sob story. it wasn't til i read that letter from him saying how i treated it so maturely, as a part of life, just the next step and something that i was going to have to learn and live with, that i realized that. he was right. i didn't see it as a curse, or get depressed or cry for days. i had diabetes, i had to take insulin and learn new things to live healthy. so i did. it didn't seem to me like something to be upset over. diabetes wasn't all i was, but it was a part of me.

my senior picture, i was the only one skinny enough to sit on the 2000. my idea too :)

that night at dinner, i worried about what to eat. 'he said eat what you want!' mom told me as i looked at nutrition labels, confused. 'ok, you're right.' i dug into my meal and post-dinner cookies. and my late night snack. and my middle of the night cups of water.

the next day, my endocrinologist met me with a friendly smile and a blood glucose meter. 'let's see where you are.' i watched, fascinated, as he almost painlessly pricked my finger and let the strip suck up my blood.
he looked at me kindly, he made eye contact.
'is that bad?' 

...and my journey began.


  1. awesome post. everyone's story is different. i was completely fascinated reading yours. thanks so much for sharing with us!

  2. Love your blog title!
    I'm going to start using that line - "with a side of insulin." Makes me smile:)

  3. i remember you coming to my house and standing on my front porch saying "i have diabetes." and i was SHOCKED that you were just, like, walking around b/c angela was in the hospital for a week when she was diagnosed. haha.

  4. I was diagnosed my freshmen year at college but holy cow! I was a 2000 grad too! Seriously, it looks like your parents were really awesome and such a big help during that time!