What if you're dealing with multiple health conditions?
By Kerri Sparling
June 2010 — I'm not able to remember much of the "before" when it comes to diabetes. For the most part, every memory I have has been within the confines of diabetes. I guess that's what happens when you're diagnosed as a little kid – there's way more "after."
But when you grow up with diabetes, it just becomes part of the routine. Life has always included orange-capped syringes and bottles of insulin instead of sticks of butter stashed in the butter compartment of the fridge.
The tricky part, as I've gotten older, is accepting that multiple health conditions--not just diabetes--will affect my life. Because behind Door Number One are some free gifts from this chronic illness, like hypertension and anxiety.
I was diagnosed with mild high blood pressure when I was twenty-five years old, after a cotton wool spot was discovered in my eye. My retinologist and my endocrinologist decided that my blood pressure readings of 130/74 were just high enough to potentially have triggered this issue, and they mutually decided to put me on a low dose ACE inhibitor called Altace. Was it diabetes that contributed to this mild hypertension, or could it be inherited from my beloved grandmother, who lived with high blood pressure almost all of her adult life? Either way, I was 25 years old and another box was checked on my health profile now.
Anxiety seems to be another issue that people with diabetes are often affected by, myself included. Managing anxiety, no matter how you slice it. Somehow, diabetes is flagged as a disease you should be able to "control," even though the tools we use to replace a non-functioning pancreas are remedial at best when compared to the homeostasis that a fully-functioning organ would provide. Some people with diabetes have it in their head that they should be able to control their disease no matter what, and not being able to hit that lofty, ever-shifting goal can make you downright jittery. (Here's where my doctor checks the "anxiety" box on my health profile.)
And in a turn of events that had nothing at all to do with diabetes, a third condition has decided to join the party: Factor V Leiden disease. Basically, this is a clotting disorder that isn't a huge panic, but makes my body significantly more prone to blood clots. This doesn't impact my life daily, but instead leaves me sporting some sexy compression stockings when I fly, keeping me off of birth control pills, and taking Heparin injections for a few months after my baby is born. Honestly, if it remains controlled and respected, Factor V doesn't affect my life significantly, but it is another "checked" box on my health profile.
So what do you do when there's more than just "diabetes" to be grappled with? And living with a chronic illness like type 1 diabetes, how do I prepare myself for the potential "gifts" that may come along down the line? I think it's a matter of perspective, a lot of the time, and when things are tough, a matter of patience. I need to remember that though there are a number of boxes checked, I'm still young. And I feel healthy. When I look in the mirror, I don't see someone who is "sick," but instead someone who battles hard to be healthy – and wins, most of the day. There are days when fighting multiple health issues feels overwhelming, but it's at those times that I need to remember to be patient, and to remember that even though I don't remember a lot of the "before," these moments of "after" have been so worth it.
Visit Kerri's website.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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