a glimmer of hope for diabetics

Monday was my mental health day and I didn't go to work. I slept in until 11am (!) and then headed out to run some errands, one of which was to get my blood work done for my endocrinology appointment next Monday. It was a quick visit, just one vial for my HbA1C test to see how my diabetic report card will fare this time. The nurse took my blood and looked at my chart.

Nurse: "You've been diabetic for a while. When were you diagnosed?"

Me: "When I was seven, so over 20 years. Yeah, it's been a while now."

Nurse: "You look really healthy. Is it hard being diabetic for that long? I mean ... I'm sorry ... my little girl was just diagnosed recently and she's only four."

She looked tired and worried and expectant waiting for me to answer.

Me: "I always say that getting diagnosed as a young kid was the best situation. I was young enough to not know any other way to live but old enough to be able to communicate and take an active role in my own diabetes management."

Nurse (smiling): "Yeah, she's very excited because she can check her own blood. She tells me, 'Look Mommy, I pricked my finger all by myself and didn't get scared!'"

Me: "Yeah. It's not so bad. I really love my insulin pump. It makes everything a lot easier."

I showed her my infusion site, 42" of tubing and the pump. She nodded approvingly during my show and tell. As I gathered my things, I smiled at her and said, "Your little girl will be fine. She's young and she'll adapt to it all."

She smiled brightly, looked relieved and thanked me for my kind words, but her eyes were misty. And by the time I got to the car and had time to think about another visit with an unknown HbA1C number in my future, I was a little misty-eyed myself.

My mother said the night I was diagnosed, she cried all night. She was worried I would never be able to have children, I would never be "healthy" and if I were stranded without my life-saving insulin on a shipwreck, I wouldn't survive. But by morning, she said that she couldn't tell what the future would hold. There were lots of reasons why people couldn't have children or wouldn't survive a shipwreck and being all weepy about it wouldn't help anything. By the end of that week, my parents knew more about diabetes than most of the hospital staff (and this was before Al Gore invented the Internet) and they were nothing but supportive to me. As a child, I never knew there was a reason to be upset about any of this, but just to chalk it up to another day in the life.

Now I'm that "healthy" adult talking to a nurse who is also a fretful mother worried about her daughter, trying to give her some comfort.

Of course, today, my blood sugar has been ALL over the place - high for no reason and fighting back against anything I do. It started at 4am when I woke up to the cat on my chest having just chewed through my tubing, mistaking it for a cat toy. I had to wake up enough to get out of bed and change my entire site in the middle of the night (and throw the cat across the bed in disgust). This was in contrast to 3am the night before when I woke up with a blood sugar of 53mg/dL and immediately starting sweating and shaking Rich telling him "baby, I need help - NOW." So it's been less than a textbook week for this diabetic.

CNN had an article yesterday stating that stem cells may help Type I diabetics and that 13 teenagers were living without insulin injections. I hope that my nurse saw the story and knows there's always hope, but in the meantime, her little girl and I are making it okay.