My Diaversary – How I Became Diabetic and How it Changed My Life

Posted November 15, 2019 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines

November 14th is World Diabetes Day and is ironically the same day of my type 1 diabetes diagnosis in 2013. Those in the diabetic community will call this my diaversary (the anniversary of my diagnosis). How did it fall on the same day as World Diabetes Day? Only God knows.

So, once a year around November I try to “celebrate” my diaversary. This year I am choosing to reflect back and write about my story. Along the way I’ll share with you what I was experiencing physically and mentally, and where I stand with it all now.

When I was Diagnosed with Diabetes

As mentioned above, I was diagnosed on November 14, 2013. I was 18 years old and in my first semester of college. This is typically rare to see, as most type 1 diabetes diagnoses occur earlier in life when your a kid or young teenager.

I had just left home months earlier and was in another state. Thankfully I had quality friends that stood by my side through this whole process, as it was difficult having family farther away.

How did I develop Type 1?

Simply put, I don’t know.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, meaning your body’s immune system turns on itself. The immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells. These types of diseases often run in one’s family history, but not all the time.

However, in my case, no one in my family has type 1. I was never given any clear answers as to what caused my body to attack itself in this way. Type 1 diabetes is often confused with type 2. So, many have the misconception that all types of diabetes are caused by poor diet and lifestyle, which is not the case. I was a fairly healthy individual, always active, and keeping a balanced diet.

Some people believe that type 1 can be caused by extreme stress. I am pretty confident this was not the cause of my diagnosis, though. Yes, I was new to college and taking on large projects, but never would I say that I was experiencing a lot of stress.

My parents and I have our beliefs as to what caused this, but we have no solid proof to back that up. I was taking acne medication in my later high school years that was known to have a lot of side effects. Perhaps, this medication caused my immune system to attack itself. Again though, we have no proof of that.

The Symptoms I Experienced

Before heading off to college I weighed about 175 pounds. About 2 weeks prior to being diagnosed I went to the gym and weighed myself. I was 156 pounds. Keep in mind I was 6 feet 2 inches tall at the time, and I was trying to gain weight. I was stumped as to why this was happening. So, like the bright young adult I was, I went to the college dining hall and ate as much as I could. Little did I know this was just digging a hole for myself.

During this time, I was experiencing extreme dehydration, even though I was drinking more than a gallon of water a day. My calves would cramp up in the middle of the night. My mouth would be extremely dry upon waking up. And I was peeing just about nonstop. I would wake up 4 to 5 times a night just to use the bathroom.

On top of all of this, I was extremely exhausted. I remember falling asleep in all of my classes. All I wanted to do was go back to my dorm and sleep. I remember my roommate asking me if I was legitimately okay, probably because I looked like a zombie.

Another symptom I was having was blurry vision. It became difficult for me to see PowerPoints in class, and everything just became more difficult to see clearly. This is due to the eyes containing very small blood vessels. When your blood sugar gets as high as mine was, it greatly impacts and affects these small blood vessels causing vision problems.

diaversaryMy Trip to the Hospital

After experiencing these symptoms for about 2 or 3 weeks, I finally went to the clinic at my college. I requested to have some blood drawn after telling them my symptoms. That night around 11 p.m. I got a call from a doctor.

I don’t remember specifically what the conversation completely entailed with the doctor, because I was in shock. I do remember him telling me that my blood sugar was 750 mg/dL and that I could go into a coma if I fell asleep. For those of you that don’t know normal blood sugar is between 70 and 120 mg/dL. That gives you a little perspective of how bad my situation was. He told me that I need to have someone take me to the hospital as soon as possible. So, that’s what I did.

I got admitted to the ER around midnight was in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). I proceeded to spend 2 nights in the ICU and one more night in a step-down unit. On my last day in the hospital, a diabetic educator came to see me. She proceeded to break down diabetes as a whole and explain the in’s and out’s of this disease that I was going to have to live with for the rest of my life.

Life Following My Diabetes Diagnosis

Honestly, diabetes is extremely hard to deal with. But I wouldn’t trade my type 1 diabetes diagnosis for anything because it has shaped me into the man I am today. At the same time, I would never wish this upon anyone.

For about a year following my diagnosis, I gave myself at least 5-7 shots a day. This consisted of one short-acting insulin shot after each meal/snack, and one long-acting shot each night. I pricked my finger close to 10 times a day.

Type 1 is a nonstop disease that requires around the clock monitoring. You can’t eat or drink something without thinking about how it will affect you. You can’t go to sleep without thinking about what you will do if you wake up with bad low blood sugar at 2 a.m.

On top of that, other things affect your blood sugar. Emotional and physical factors also have to be taken into consideration. Anything that can put stress on the body, such as feelings of anger or physical injuries can cause a spike in blood sugar.

The Worries

Following my type 1 diabetes diagnosis, I noticed I began to worry more. I began to worry about the “what if’s” of my life and my illness.

What if my blood sugar drops, I pass out, and no one is there to help me?

What if when I travel, I don’t bring enough supplies?

What if I get stuck somewhere without access to glucose?

What if when I have a kid, they develop type 1 diabetes?

These questions still roll through my mind just about every day. I’ve learned to plan ahead and take into account the worst. But there will always be that thought in the back of my head clinging to the “what if.”

Let me clarify why this illness can cause so much worry. This is one of the only illnesses where you have to self-dose your medication needs multiple times a day, every day, for the rest of your life. One mistake in your dosing of medication can be a matter of life or death. If I give myself so much as 1 or 2 units of insulin more than what I need, it can be a disaster.

This is a lifelong illness with no cure as of right now. Maybe one day my diaversary won’t be the anniversary of my diagnosis but my anniversary of being cured. The thought of living with this for the rest of my life only adds to the worries.

My Current Situation

DiaversaryMost type 1 diabetic patients need to see their endocrinologist every 3-6 months to get blood work done. The blood work allows you to see where you are headed overall and what needs to change, as well as if there are any other concerns with your health.

I currently wear a tubeless insulin pump that I change out every three days. This covers all of my shots which makes life a little easier. I have a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that I wear on my arm as well which means fewer finger sticks.

I am about 50 pounds heavier than I was at the time of my diagnosis. I work out about 5 days a week but try to perform some sort of physical activity every day. This may include rock climbing, a hike, or just a walk outside.

If I am being honest, I have struggled to live my life normally ever since my type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Every year, around the time of my diaversary, I try to spend some time reflecting back. After reflecting back this year I realized that I have often chosen the safe route and avoided activities I used to love. It goes back to the worries and not wanting to be in a situation where something bad can happen.

But that’s not really living. It’s only over the past year or so that I’ve had to make a conscious effort not to be tied down by what others see as a disability. It only becomes a disability if you let it.

Closing Thoughts

Regardless of the disability you have, you can still live. It just might take extra planning and preparation, but it’s worth it. Prescription Hope is here to help you with that. It can become difficult to live life to the fullest or to plan properly when medications are so expensive. It causes a burden to not just the individual that needs them but to the family. Enroll with us and pay only $50 a month for each of your medications.