First Day of a Late Bloomer Type One Diabetic

Always difficult to know where to begin when approaching a completely new subject. Especially one you never thought you would have to write about.

I am 29 years old living in Leeds and I have recently been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Not the lifestyle, bad diet, no exercise and overweight diabetes, but the my immune system got bored and didn’t like the way the pancreas was looking at it kind of diabetes.

Love Haidee Merritt’s diabetic humour cartoons —

Up until now I had been proud of my immune system and my genes. No allergies, high metabolism and rarely getting ill (even when surrounded by sick people). This is probably the reason why even when presented with the classic symptoms for diabetes I put off seeing the Dr, I half expected my body to undo the damage it was causing to itself.

30th of November 2016 — I have never been good with dates (just ask my soon to be wife) but this is a date that will forever be etched in my mind. The day my whole life was rocked by the words “you have Type 1 diabetes”.

From about early October I had minor symptoms of not feeling refreshed, fatigue, blurred vision and a massive lack of concentration. It wasn’t until the last couple of weeks did the symptoms increase to such severity that I was struggling to just go about my daily life.

In the last two weeks I lost 7.2kg. I was downing pint after pint of water yet feeling a constant thirst (not just feeling thirsty — but gasping thirst). I was struggling to focus my eyes on what was right in front of me. My brain just didn’t seem to be functioning how it used to. I felt like shit.

I went to the walk-in at my Drs at 07:00 on 30th November 2016 to beat the big line that always forms before 08:00 when the doors open. I went to the walk-in mainly because I couldn’t wait the 3 weeks for an appointment the receptionist gave me on the phone a week earlier, even after explaining that I suspected I had diabetes. At this point I had come to the conclusion that it was likely going to be Type 2 diabetes due to my high sugar intake, even though I am a fairly slim guy. I suspected I would be in store for a change in diet and some exercise and in a year I will have reversed it (clearly I hadn’t read too much about diabetes at this point — still an element of denial)

Reasons I was in denial and took so long to see a Dr:

  • I had always been very healthy and these things never happened to me
  • I have an 18 month old son at home and wanted him to only see his strong flawless father (oxymoron I know — stay strong by not seeking medical help!)
  • The worry that I could have something that would pass to my child (ignorance really was bliss)
  • Fear. My knowledge of diabetes was limited and based on the media stories about increased obesity related diabetes, I didn’t want to accept my legs would drop off, I would get overly fat or just die early!
  • Up until this point I had spent my life with an anxiety of needles. No way was I going to accept or even consider I might have a condition that requires multiple needles a day. Nope. Not happening! *shudder*

08:30 I had a finger prick for blood sugar (24mmol/L after 12–14 hours fasting), blood tests, urine tested for ketones (++++) and asked a bunch of questions about my medical history.

09:00 I was being told by my GP that I have diabetes and that she suspected Type 1 based on my results and answers to her questions. She wanted me to go to the hospital to get sorted straight away. I wasn’t even allowed to pop into work round the corner and charge my battery on my phone! It was only on 7%, come on Dr… priorities!

Between 10:00 and 17:45 I was in the Acute Diagnostic Wing at St James Hospital.

This day was a blur (probably due to high blood sugar, fear and exhaustion) but are only a few points I remember quite clearly during this my time at the hospital:

  • Being terrified to eat a yogurt at 11:00 because I didn’t know what was going to happen if I did. I was still undergoing tests and multiple times waiting long periods in the waiting room for test results to come back. A nice nurse said I was allowed as I had to ask, was feeling weak. No yogurt ever tasted as good as that one!
  • Sitting in the waiting room nearly in tears a couple of times through the day. I had been told I had Type 1 and what they were testing for ketoacidosis (high ketone levels) to find out whether I needed to go to a ward with IV drip, or be sent home with insulin. But nobody had yet spent the time to explain what this diagnosis meant for me, for my family, my work, my way of life or anything. The thing that was upsetting me the most was when I thought about my son and the life he would see me lead. A father who couldn’t walk due to massive sores over feet and legs. A father who would die early and not be there for him to buy his first home, get married or have his own children. Looking back it was silly, but these were things I thought would happen as I didn’t know any better.
  • SO many needles! I had 3 vials of blood taken while at Drs. I had 8 vials taken while at hospital. My god did I hate needles!
  • Meeting my diabetes nurse Claire towards the end of the day who sat down and went through everything with me. She was fantastic. By the end of our long sit down I understood the difference between Type 1 and Type 2. I understood what had happened to my pancreas. I understood what I had to do each day to manage this diagnosis. I understood what it meant to be a ‘good diabetic’ compared to a ‘bad diabetic’. I understood that this was not a death sentence, but a life sentence. Because I still had a life. I actually left that discussion feeling alright about what had happened to me and that I would be ok.

Cue the next day, me standing in the bathroom of my house jumping up and down on the spot grunting loudly to pump myself up mentally to be able to inject my first dose of insulin myself in my STOMACH! For the guy with the needle anxiety, this was literally the worst thing ever for me. I would rather have gone through 6 months of severe life threatening illness and come out the other side than this life long FOREVER condition.

Diabetes Type 1 is a condition of definitives.

  • I will inject myself FOREVER
  • I can NEVER get drunk
  • I will ALWAYS have to monitor my levels closely

I wasn’t used to definitives that related to me. I always had choices, always in control and always made the decisions in my life. This felt like this had been taken away from me.

(Just wanted to add, it has been 2.5 months at the point of writing this since my diagnosis and I have injected close to 350 times… safe to say I no longer have anxiety around needles!)

My life now:

I have a pack that I carry with me 24/7, it consists of:

  • 1 pen of NovoRapid insulin
  • 1 pen of Abasaglar insulin
  • 4 needle heads
  • 1 finger pricker
  • 2 lancet heads
  • 1 blood sugar meter
  • 1 pot of testing strips
  • 1 pack of Dextrose

This is fine for the cold months as the leather case fits in my coat pocket, not sure about the look I will go for in the Summer…. Maybe a fanny pack?

The routine that goes into me having a meal:

  • Prep meter with a testing strip
  • Prep finger pricker with lancet
  • Prick finger to make it bleed
  • Check blood on the testing strip
  • Calculate the amount of carbs/sugars in my incoming meal
  • Work out 0.5 units of insulin per 10g of carbs/sugars
  • Calculate whether I need to increase/decrease my units based on blood sugar reading
  • Attach needle head to insulin pen
  • Twist the insulin pen dosage to correct amount
  • Inject in stomach or upper leg
  • Remove needles and pack everything away back in the case
  • Eat!

Safe to say it is a bit of a hassle. Going to be looking for ways to make this more efficient in the weeks/months to come.

This was the first 24hrs. My feelings about my life as a diabetic are a mixed bag currently. Some days I feel like I am smashing it and doing really well (seeing a stable graph of blood sugars helps with this). Other days I wake up feeling horrendous, fed up, lonely and self loathing at the pressure I put upon myself and my loved ones.

If you have any questions, thoughts, feedback or even want to share your experiences please do get in contact. I have found a lot of support in strangers with Type 1 Diabetes and if I can lend an ear to anyone else I will help where I can.

(or if something I have written is ill-informed from a diabetic newbie — do please contact me and correct me)

I intend to keep writing about my experiences as they happen.

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