A week from Wednesday will be May 20th - which marks one year since I was diagnosed with type one diabetes. Next week I'll share some reflections on the difficulties I've faced, things I've learned, and things I've learned to love during this first year living with t1d.
Before getting to that though I thought I'd share a little bit about some of my pre-diagnosis experiences. I was looking through some photos from my Europe trip last year (which, I still have yet to go through/edit but that's my big project for Summer, promise!) and couldn't help but spend a good amount of time reflecting after I saw these photos of me that we took during an visit to a tucked-away natural hot spring in Iceland. I strongly debated whether or not I wanted to share these but then realized it's an important part of my story.
This is what an un-diagnosed type one diabetic looks like.
Every single bone in my body was visible. At the time though, I didn't pay any attention to it at all. Sure I glanced at myself in the mirror here and there during the trip and I gradually felt that I was looking thinner. For example, when I saw these particular photos that day we took them I remember feeling annoyed that my body looked grossly thin and so I wasn't comfortable sharing any photos on social media but frankly, that was just a feeling of annoyance rather than being alarmed by how I looked. Anthony says that he noticed I was getting really thin too. But, it was never something we explicitly stated or were concerned about. Honestly, neither of us really thought anything of it at all.
I was annoyed that my body looked so grossly thin but I was convinced that once I got
home from my adventurous travels I'd be able to put back on my weight no problem,
work out, and look normal again and besides that, I never gave it a second thought or felt at the time that something was wrong.
Looking back now at these photos however, I can't even believe that I didn't take more notice of how scary it really was. I guess I was just living in the moment trying to get the absolute most out of the trip that I could - taking in everything around me; I didn't even occur to me that I should have paid more attention to what was happening to my health. Looking back now I can see the girl that was clinging to life, I see the struggle to keep up.
Looking back now, I remember all the times I was so insanely thirsty, getting water every second I could. Having to go pee everywhere we went and multiple times during the night. Eating tons of food but never feeling full. My heart racing like I've ran a marathon when I've just walked up a couple flights of stairs. Feeling so, soo, soo indescribably tired. Growing weaker by the day. Having some days (thankfully this horrible part of it all happened later on in the trip when we were living in Sweden) where I would wake up and not be able to do anything or go anywhere at all and would end up going back to bed and falling into the strangest, deepest sleep that was always somehow so unsettling; I would honestly feel like I just could not get up, I couldn't wake up at all.
But how did the red flags and danger alarms not go off in my head?!
I guess I was just so wrapped up in the bliss of traveling and to be honest, in a way, I'm actually sort of glad I didn't think anything of it at the time. I got to experience so many beautiful places and I somehow miraculously pushed myself through it all. I remember how long it took me to climb the crazy amount of steps up to the top of the Skógafoss waterfall - I had to stop so many times (Anthony was so patient with me!) and I remember saying "phew, I'm so out of shape, can't wait to get back home and get back into shape". Now that moment is sort of a funny (okay maybe not funny, but I like to make light of a scary thing) moment for me because I thought I had just lost my endurance but really my body was dying, it was shutting down.
A little over a week after we returned home I was no longer jet-lagged, I caught up on sleep, I was eating tons of healthy foods, I was basically back to normal everyday life. But, I continued to feel worse. My heart still couldn't even handle the one small flight of stairs in my apartment without racing like crazy. I still fell into those unsettling deep sleeps that I couldn't shake off. And finally I realized that something was just really, really wrong.
Late afternoon of May 20th is when my sister took my to the hospital and after some time in the E.R, being weighed in at 82lbs, a blood glucose reading of 763, and being told I was in Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) they quickly got me over to the ICU.
That whole first day and night was both a blur and an intense graphic nightmare at the same time. I had several IV's going, I was hooked up to what felt like a million machines, vial after vial of blood were taken, I couldn't sleep because someone had to come in every hour to prick my finger and test my blood. But yet, aside from the overall madness it also felt like such a blur. I remember being in so much pain from all the poking and prodding and the most intense headache I've ever felt in my life but aside from the physical pain I also sort of felt numb.
After a couple days in the ICU though I started to feel like a semi-functioning human being again and was able to start asking questions and begin learning all I could about this autoimmune disease that I had previously known absolutely nothing about.
I remember when they told me to give myself my insulin injection for the first time I felt like screaming and crying at the same time. (oh and when I got home from the hospital and had to check my blood for the first time I couldn't get my finger to bleed enough and basically had a full-blown melt down!)
But aside from all the madness, the numbness, and the shock of the diagnosis, I remember feeling so lucky to be alive.
I think back to all those times when my body just couldn't wake up, but somehow, I always did. And I'll never stop feeling thankful for that.
And now, nearly a year later I am feeling more alive than ever.