My Type 1 story

I always felt I led a blessed life.

I did well in school, had great friends, landed a steady job right out of university, and had purchased a home with my wonderful fiancé. Sounds almost like a fairy tale, right?

We got engaged on June 13, 2015 and decided to get married in October of the following year. That meant I had lots of time to plan and prep for the big day. Things were going smoothly and everything was falling into place. The first time I started noticing that my energy levels were low was probably around February, 2016. After work, I would barely have the energy to do much else than sit on the couch and watch Netflix or nap. Household chores fell on the wayside, wedding planning stalled, and I was also struggling to focus at work.

As many couples do, we set weight loss goals for the wedding in order to look and feel our best for the big day. I chalked up my tiredness to my diet and work out regime. I was also finding it incredibly easy to lose weight during this time, even if I ate like crap or was lazy about going to the gym (amazing, right!?). This trend of tiredness and weight loss continued, but I never felt alarmed because I thought it was just a normal reaction to eating less and working out more.

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Taken 3 days before my diagnosis. I was already feeling sick, tired, and weighed just 79 kg (I am 6’2″).

During the first week of August, 2016, we took a trip to visit my family in my home town. We decided to take a short break from our diets and enjoyed eating my grandmother’s baking, drinking beer by the river, and snacking on chips. By mid-week, I woke up feeling really sick. I was exhausted, my throat was dry and sore, and my stomach felt very acidic. I figured I was coming down with the flu. By the day we were leaving to make the 18 hour drive home, I was having stomach pains and felt very nauseous, but I tend to get car sick if I haven’t eaten enough and just tried to sleep it off in the car.

In hindsight, I definitely should have gone to see my doctor sooner, but I can be stubborn and tend to shrug things off as “Oh, I’ll get over it!”.

I took the Monday off of work to go to my doctor’s office. I explained my symptoms, but the doctor was puzzled and decided to run some blood tests. She agreed that it sounded like I had picked up some sort of viral infection while on my trip.

On Tuesday, I still was not feeling great, so I decided to stay home one more day from work. When I say my mouth was dry, I mean dry like my tongue was sandpaper and my mouth was coated with natural peanut butter and I was trying to chew on 10 soda crackers at once dry. It was so dry my tongue would make a sound when I tried to peel it off the roof of my mouth! I’m talking DRY. Because my mouth was so dry, I was also drinking a ton of juice and water and therefore peeing like crazy. I was in the washroom probably 5 times an hour.

On Wednesday, I forced myself to go back to work, but I was still feeling terrible. At around two that afternoon, my doctor called saying that one of my tests had come back abnormal, but because I hadn’t been fasting she asked if I would rather come for a second test or just go straight to the hospital. I opted to take the second blood test and went back to her office that afternoon. I was still in denial that anything was seriously wrong.

At around 10 that evening, I got a call from the doctor who ran the test lab. He said he was calling to advise me that my blood glucose levels were dangerously high and that I should go to an emergency room immediately in order to avoid possible complications. I didn’t really understand what he was talking about, but I called my fiancé right away to come and take me to the hospital. The nurse at the triage station tested my sugars and got a reading of 25 mmol/L. From there, I was rushed into the intensive care and another nurse put three IV’s into my arms. They drew countless blood samples and the nurse came by every 30 minutes to take a blood sugar reading.

After a few hours, a doctor straight out of Grey’s Anatomy came to explain what was happening to me. He explained that I was diabetic and was currently in Diabetic Ketoacidosis. The medical team asked me a lot of questions about my medical history and was very interested to know that I had hyperthyroidism as a teenager (but I hadn’t experienced any symptoms in years). Hyperthyroidism also falls into the family of autoimmune diseases and it is apparently common for people with this disease to develop diabetes later in life (a fact that I was completely unaware of).

At about 4 am, I was admitted to the hospital and moved to a wing that had 24 hour surveillance by a team of wonderful nurses. They continued to wake me up every 30 minutes to poke my fingers and test my blood sugars. My fiancé barely left my side this whole time and only went home to get a few hours of sleep when he knew I was sound asleep and the nurses were watching me.

The next day is a bit foggy, as I was pretty sleep-deprived by this point. I was woken up dozens of times by doctors asking how I was feeling, the diabetes educator, the endocrinologist, and my family doctor even called to make sure I was okay. It was a lot to take in all at once and I didn’t fully understand the consequences of what I had been diagnosed with. I just wanted to sleep! My face was all swollen from the hydrating fluids they were pumping into my arm and my eyes were super puffy from not sleeping. I felt like hell, but I managed to stay positive.

By that evening, they had stabilized my blood sugars and I was feeling completely better. I even went to Tim Hortons and ate a grilled cheese sandwich. It was like night and day: I had entered the hospital feeling like I was going to die and in just a few hours I was energetic and even hungry! My medical team felt I needed to spend one more night under observation as there were a few things they were still wanted to stabilize, but they were happy with the progress I had made.

The next day, my mother- and sister-in-law came to visit me so that my fiancé could go home and rest. When he returned to the hospital he brought me real food (Lebanese pies, my favourite!) and flowers, but it was almost time to go home. I was so happy when they finally removed the last IV and I was able to change my shirt which I had been wearing for three days and two nights by that point. My diabetes educator came by one last time to make sure I would be able to inject myself with insulin and that I had enough information to survive until my appointment with the diabetes nurse on the following Monday. The last thing she told me was: “Try not to Google things over the weekend.” I failed to follow this advice.

I remember walking out of the hospital in a daze, going home, and just sobbing in my fiancé’s arms as the weight of everything that had just happened finally came crashing down.

I always felt I led a blessed life.

I DO lead a blessed life. I am blessed that my diagnosis was not something much more serious, unmanageable, or fatal. I am blessed to live in a country with free health care and access to medical professionals. I am blessed that I managed to find a career with excellent health benefits. I am blessed to have my husband by my side to support me. I am blessed to have wonderful supportive friends and family. I am blessed that medical advancements allow diabetics to lead long, healthy lives. I am blessed that I was given the strength, patience and perseverance needed to cope with a chronic illness.

Even though my life was turned upside down, I managed to finish planning my wedding and it was a very special day. We even decided to get a puppy two weeks before the big day! With the support of my husband and my amazing diabetes team I have been able to manage my diabetes so far and am learning more every day.

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My husband and I on our wedding day. Photo credit: Mark Cooper Photography

If I can leave you with anything from my story, it would be this:

  1. Type 1 diabetes can happen to anyone at any age
  2. Listen to your body and see your doctor if something feels “off”
  3. Puppies fix everything!

As of this moment, I am the only person I know who has Type 1 diabetes and I would love to hear some of your stories. Share them in the comment section below!

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Hershey, the Bernese mountain dog when he was just 10 weeks old. He has been such a good distraction for me and helps me get outside for walks everyday!
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