In Which We Have a Pancreatic Setback
How health can change like the seasons.
By Kathryn Foss
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
February 2011 — I've not had the best fall season, health-wise. Year after year, it's the same story here in Norway. Never mind that I have been here seven years now, somehow the ferocity of fall and winter takes me by surprise each year. An okay fall day here is high in the 40's; in my past life, this was a brutal winter day in Houston. When I moved to Norway, along with the shocking change in climate, I developed an annoying penchant of picking up every germ and bug that wends its way through the unsuspecting Norwegian public.
Since my little girl started daycare in August, I've also been thoroughly warned by well meaning friends to prepare myself to be the sickest I have ever been in my life. And they always give the warning with a half laugh, coupled with a slightly crazed look that only comes from the exhaustion of cleaning up a vomiting two year old all through the night. So, it's an understatement to say that I approached this fall with a healthy dose of trepidation.
Turns out it was not without merit. I got sick in September and then just never got well. After several rounds of ineffective antibiotics, I finally landed myself in the hospital and, after having what seemed like gallons of blood drawn, it was determined that I had acute sinusitis. Great! Problem solved. The right antibiotics were then prescribed and after a horrible draining of the sinuses, I was on my way to recovery. About a week later, I had my follow-up appointment with my doctor, and all of the aforementioned blood samples were back from the lab. My levels looked fine, with the exception of my c-peptide levels. Since my last full blood workup about a year ago, my c-peptide production had dropped about 60 percent. I was gutted.
When I was first diagnosed, I didn't fit the normal profile for adult onset type 2 diabetes. I was tested extensively for type 1 and type 1.5, but my pancreas always seemed normal. This time, however, I was hovering on the edge of the type 1 cliff. My c-peptide production is still in the normal range, but it is right at the bottom of normal, dangerously close to plummeting off that safe, normal cliff.
On one hand, I'm thankful that I'm still in the normal range. On the other hand, I couldn't help but be really upset by this. I mean, this year has been my year of self-improvement. I've worked so hard for my health, to lose weight and create good eating and exercising habits. And through it all, always at the back of my mind, was that small hope that by doing all of these things, by putting in the hard work, I would reverse the symptoms of diabetes. That I would be one of those people who could be overheard saying, "Yes, I was a type 2 diabetic for five years, but I changed my diet, lost weight and my symptoms disappeared!"
Yes, that was my little fantasy. So where do my real life, non-fantasy test results leave me? They leave me trying not to get discouraged. I think deep down I've always thought this whole diabetes thing was fixable, but the possibility of my pancreas failing me is terrifying. In my journey, I've considered the type 1's as the real diabetics, the heroes of this disease. And quite frankly, I am not sure I could handle it.
But that's life, isn't it? None of us ever really know what we can handle until it's given to us, and more often than not, we soar. So, whatever the outcome, I have peace. I have another blood test at the beginning of next year and then we will know more about my health. For now, I will enjoy the holidays with my family and wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season, full of joy and magical moments.
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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James Joyce said that “mistakes are the portals of discovery.” I wonder if insulin levels have been our mistake. Could it be that this hellish week of blood sugars were somehow meant to be? Drastic times call for drastic measures, right? Maybe we were too afraid in the past to take the plunge into drastic measures. Maybe this is oddly what we needed. We had to be truly frightened in order to make bigger, bolder changes. ...