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March 2008 — They say that every picture tells a story, but sometimes you need video to see reality. Recently, Greg's father digitized video taken in the 1980's and 1990's. The first of these videos just happened to be the spring break road trip to New Mexico that the family took shortly after Greg was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in March 1986. Although I had seen pictures from this vacation, it took watching the video to really see the damage that was done to this suddenly emaciated eleven-year-old boy in the weeks leading up to the diagnosis. Greg and his parents have discussed that time with me before, but I felt the need to put all the events together once again.
You see, the month of March brings with it both of the anniversaries of diabetes diagnoses in our household. We are both quite aware of the circumstances surrounding my type 2 diabetes diagnosis in March 2005. Undiagnosed hypothyroidism, poor exercise habits, and a love of soda laden with high fructose corn syrup had pushed my weight into the obese category. Coupled with a genetic predisposition to type 2 diabetes, I was facing the condition shortly before my twenty-ninth birthday.
I wasn't around to witness the development of type 1 diabetes in my husband, though it is still very clear in his mind. Besides his recollection of events twenty-two years ago, there are pictures, videos, and the memories of his parents.
Hindsight shows that his mother had been annoyed about cutting a day trip to the ski slopes after Greg complained about being too tired about a month before the diagnosis. It wasn't until she noticed the insatiable thirst and constant urination that she slowly became concerned. As someone with nursing education and experience, she knew the symptoms were suspect.
The first instinct for his mother was to drive over to the medical complex where Greg's father and uncle practiced surgery together. When the first test came back high at the office, his mother and father assumed the test strips were bad and went to a local pharmacy to get more. Once again, they showed high blood glucose levels. There was no more denying that something was wrong with their son. After consulting with one of the area's endocrinologists, Greg was taken to the emergency room. Not only were Greg's father and the endocrinologists professional colleagues, but they were also good friends outside of the hospital (and still are to this day, I might add).
From there, the story is all very familiar to anyone who has type 1 or knows someone with it. A blood glucose level of 600, 800, or 1069 – depending on who you ask. (His dad remembers it as around 600, his mother 800, and Greg 1069.) An overnight stay in the hospital where Greg was given IV fluids, where he learned (with some resistance) to give himself insulin injections, and where his dad stayed by his side while his mother stayed with his then four-year-old brother at home.
At one point, when emotions came over them during the hospital stay, Greg's mom explained that she and his father "both agreed that we would have taken the disease from Greg and given it to ourselves if we had had the choice". (As an aside, Greg's humor about his condition showed through during the recent e-mail conversation when he responded to that comment with "No way, it's mine! Mine, mine, mine, all mine! And you can't have it!")
After the diagnosis, his parents were determined to show him that he could live a full life and still maintain good diabetes control. They chose to eschew the recommended American Diabetes Association exchange diet in favor of adjusting insulin doses to accommodate food intake. Traveling out of the country was not out of reach for him and neither was going to college a thousand miles from home. Meanwhile, the endocrinologist friend, more accustomed to type 2 patients, took a special interest in the latest research about type 1 because of Greg's experience.
Perhaps it is counter-productive, but we choose to honor the diagnosis month by indulging in deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza for dinner at some point during March. (Again, this is one way to live a full life in spite of diabetes.) Aw well, I can at least say Greg and I have a unique life together with our dueling diabetes.
Disclaimer 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.
Last Modified Date: June 03, 2013
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Janis Roszler MSFT, RD, CDE, LDN
Janis Roszler, MSFT, RD, CDE, LD/N is the American Association of Diabetes Educators' 2008-2009 Diabetes Educator of the Year. She is a certified diabetes educator, marriage and family therapist, and registered dietitian. Her books include Sex and Diabetes (ADA) Diabetes on your OWN Terms (Marlowe & Co) and The Secrets of Living and Loving with Diabetes (Surrey books).
Donna Rice MSW, BSN, RN, CDE
Donna Rice MBA,RN,CDE,FAADE is the 2007 Past President of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. She is a registered nurse, diabetes educator and has developed numerous educational programs on sexual health and wellness. She is the co-author of Sex and Diabetes (ADA) and Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction - A Quick ‘n' Easy Handbook For the Diabetes Educator (Bella Vita). Her newest publication is a children's book, The Magic is Me (Searchlight Press).