I was diagnosed with diabetes on the 14/4/14, three years ago today. This is how it happened. (I don’t recommend this to anyone!)
My trip to Canada was supposed to be about getting away from home, skiing lots and having fun. I thought it would be easy. I thought I could handle everything that life threw at me. I was determined to be independent at last.
So when, I got shingles due to stress over Christmas I tried not to make a big deal of it. The things that bugged me most was that I had to call in sick, something I had never done before. The illness itself wasn’t fun but being young I got off rather lightly. When I had to move flats for the third time I just hoped I would finally be somewhere I could settle and be happy. And when I hit a bad depressive episode I allowed myself to take advice and get help.
It took me a while to settle in but eventually I was happy and settled and staring down the end of the season. I thought I had things sorted. I was working well, had made friends and had saved up a bit of money.
I went on a trip to Vancouver on the 25th of March. It was a trip to try out curling (sliding granite rocks across ice trying to score points), and I was drawn to it as I happened to be named after the island that is made of one of the two official granite that are used by the sport. It was a good day out. The people where nice, I only fell over a few times and as it was a holiday of sorts I allowed myself to eat what ever I pleased, so went on an all out sugar binge.
The next day I was off work. I was exhausted. This wasn’t unusual though, I seemed to be needing a lot of sleep. As I had no one to ski with, I stayed home to make a card for the girl I had been teaching every Sunday for the past month and a bit, as it would be her last lesson at the weekend. She was an amazing kid and I wanted to give her something to say thank-you for all the fun lessons we had had together.
I was working on her card when I started to develop a headache. I tried to ignore it but as the day worn on it got worse and worse. By the time I went to bed I was in too much pain to sleep. The night did nothing to help and after tossing and turning all night I had made the decision to call in sick. I thought it was a migraine and I had a Doctors appointment on Thursday so I thought I was best to stay at home till they told me how to fix it.
I was in a lot of pain and really tired. Watching TV hurt, as did reading. I was board and fed up, desperately trying to find something to occupy myself with. I’m really bad at just sitting still with nothing to do and I wanted to take my mind away from the pain if I could. I have always been a chronic daydreamer, but I find it hard to dream effectively with out doing something else at the same time. So I decided to have a go at writing it down instead of just thinking it. This seemed to work and I got through to Thursday by writing and resting and trying to ignore the pain best I could.
When I saw the Doctor I was confidant that she would tell me it was a migraine, give me some meds and send me on my way. But she didn’t. I explained what was going on and the one thing she was sure of was that it wasn’t a migraine. She was a bit confused so gave me some strong pain killers and told me to come back if it didn’t go away within 24 hours.
The pills helped but as soon as they started to ware off I was in pain again so I made another appointment. I saw a different Dr. she wasn’t sure what was up either so sent me to get my eyes checked and them to go back and see her and also signed me off work for the next few days as I was still in pain and was starting to find things like going from standing to crouching, was making my head spin.
When I saw her again two days later it was like my body was starting to shut down. The headache was finally leaving but I was constantly light headed and I was starting to find basic things like walking hard work as my balance seemed off. She made me do a few neurological tests where I proceeded to poke myself in the eye as I aimed for my nose numerous times and generally made a fool of myself.
I was trying to take it all in my stride. I was telling myself it would all be ok and what ever would come would come and I would be able to cope with it. I had this feeling that I couldn’t get rid of that this was serious and what ever it was, it was going to change my life. But I didn’t tell anyone I was feeling this way. I didn’t want to seem like I couldn’t cope.
The Dr mentioned that if it kept going I was going to need brain scans. She said it might be a virus but it was unlikely and as I didn’t have much money she wasn’t going to do blood tests as they were unlikely to show anything. It was scary the way money was making the decisions. I had already spent a good chunk of my savings and wasn’t working so I couldn’t afford the blood tests, just seeing the Dr cost the same as a days wages.
I went home still telling myself that I would be ok. I kept my mind distracted from what was happening with writing. But when ever I stopped I wondered what was happening inside me. I knew it was more than I could manage on my own but I had hardly been in contact with my parents for the past couple of months. I had been angry when I left home. I needed space from them. A chance to figure things out. I wanted to be independent, to prove I didn’t need them.
But I could hardly walk, my travel insurance was running out at the end of April and I could hardly walk or do anything for myself. I knew I needed to get back to the UK and the NHS. I didn’t want to phone my mum. I didn’t want to admit I needed help. But I wasn’t sleeping and I knew this was more than I could manage alone.
It took a few days umming and ahhing for me to pick up the phone. My pride told me not to. Common sense told me it was the only thing to do. It felt like giving up, admitting weakness. I was not used to asking for help, I didn’t like admitting I needed help especially help from my parents. But I called her and I cried and when she asked if I needed to come back to the UK I said I did.
By this point people where starting to do all they could to help me out. A friend with a car was driving me to the shops to get groceries as the walk took 4 times longer than it had because I needed to concentrate at every step and so was nearly impossible. I could no longer stand up long enough to cook and my flat was getting messy.
In the days before my mother came I got and offer of help from a friend in Vancouver who let my mum stay in her condo while she was in whistler. Another friend came and did all my washing up and tidied up the flat as I was unable to do much apart from sit in bed.
When my mum arrived I put on a smile and told her I was coping. Between her and my friend Alice my stuff was packed and room cleaned. I sat on my bed unable to help trying to be cheerful and optimistic.
The flight back to the UK was passed with the painkillers the DR had given me and my emotions only ran wild for a short while. Landing in the UK felt like failing an exam. I had been independent for 9 short months and I had failed. I couldn’t manage on my own and had needed help. Everything I had thought would happened when I left home had come crashing down around me. I resented the smile on my Fathers face when he saw me, the mattress on the floor of the spare room laid out for me and the reassuring quips sent my way.
I didn’t sleep much that night and the next day I got and appointment with the local GP. He repeated the neurological tests I had done several times by that point and I continued to poke my eye as I tried to go from my nose to the Dr’s finger held out in front of me. After he assessed me he looked to me and then my mum and said I needed to go to A and E and not to leave until I had had my brain scanned. He said he didn’t know what was wrong but he didn’t feel comfortable putting me on a waiting list.
As A and E can be busy and it was almost lunch time we headed back to the house to eat before heading back out to the hospital. Standing in the quew waiting to see the triage nurse my mum fretted that we wouldn’t be taken seriously. By this point I knew I was in more emotional control than she was so I pointed out we had been sent by a GP and I had almost 3 weeks worth of medical notes explaining why I should be here.
In the end she had nothing to worry about. I saw and experienced nurse who quickly assessed me and sent me though to reception to wait. Another nurse came and took my blood and we hadn’t been there and hour when a Dr came to take me through to a bed. She asked the many questions I had got used to by this point, re did the neuro tests and whet to see her superior. At this point mum was fretting again because we had been told not to let a young Dr tell us I was ok and refused to leave until I had been scanned and she was worried that this young Dr might do just that.
But she had nothing to worry about. The consultant came and assessed me again and ordered some more tests. I sent mum off to get me a drink as I was thirsty and had finished the one she had got me earlier. A nurse came and took more blood and fitted me with a canula and I went to the toilet.
The nurse came back to hook me up to fluids as I was dehydrated, which was odd seeing as I was on my 3rd liter of liquid that day. My mum asked what was going on but all the nurse could say was that I needed fluids. I had to get them to disconnect me so I could pee again and on my was too the toilet I hear the two Dr’s I had seen talking bent over a computer screen, all I heard was ‘young woman her blood sugars are 30, clearly diabetic’. But I knew they were talking about me so it was no surprise when the young Dr came in to welcome me to the club of Type 1 diabetics of which she was also a member.
I shrugged at the news, diabetes is better than a Brain tumor which was what I had been fearing it might be. My cousin is also diabetic so I knew a bit about it and knew I would still have a normal life just with added injections. But mum cried. I was admitted to hospital and later transferred to a ward where I got my first lesson in injecting.
This felt pretty surreal. Less than 2 days ago I had been in Canada and now I was being taught the correct way to stab myself. I listened carefully to the instructions I was given before taking the needle myself. Holding a syringe pointing at my tummy was weird but I knew I was going to be doing it for the rest of my life so I took a breath and stuck it in. Turns out once you have done it once its not that hard but it made mum cry again.
In the end I spent a week in hospital getting my blood sugars under control. My diagnose was a little on the weird side as I was missing several type 1 marker but I had to be started straight on insulin so they stuck with that diagnose. Talking things through with the Dr’s and nurse we worked out I had been ill for a while.
Before I had flown to Canada I had stayed with my parents in London for a week. I had come down stairs one day to fill my water bottle when mum said I was drinking a lot and did I know it was a symptom of diabetes. I had reasons that I was just thirsty but I went back up stairs and check the symptoms online and found out I had all of them. I told mum but we decided I couldn’t possibly be ill as I was so fit and that was the end of it.
But I had also been needing to drink about 5-6 liters of liquid a day and was eating about 4000 calories a day by the time I got back, without being able to put on weight. So it wasn’t really much of a surprise once it had been figured out. The important thing was there was no problems in my brain.
I don’t regret the way things happened in the end. I’m glad I went to Canada and had that experience, although I got very ill. In those few weeks I grew up. I learnt that the strong thing to do was accept that sometimes you need help and to ask for it. I ended up writing a short novel like thing, which ended up being my intro in to novel writing and I don;t think I would be doing what I am doing now without it.
The experience changed me. It seems to be a dividing point in my life but in some ways I’m glad of it. While I would never wish diabetes on anyone, I know it could of been worse. Getting ill showed me what was important. When I left to go to Canada I wasn’t sure I wanted a relationship with my father at all but a few months after coming back I made the first step to forgiving our past and I’m so glad I did.
I don’t believe in fate or anything like that. The world is unpredictable if you ask me but I do believe that no matter what happens you have to make the best of it. I feel like I have done this with the diabetes and I wound’t change it for the world.
inukshuk at the top of whistler mountian
Good times in whistler before I got ill
my friend Alice who helped so much
Kimanda, who let my mum stay in her condo
Back in the UK, having put on a lot of insulin weight
And please is you have the following symptoms go to a Dr not a different continent.
The common symptoms of diabetes
- Going to the toilet a lot, especially at night.
- Being really thirsty.
- Feeling more tired than usual.
- Losing weight without trying to.
- Genital itching or thrush.
- Cuts and wounds take longer to heal.
- Blurred vision.
I hope you have enjoyed this post and congrats on getting to the end it was a long one! But please don’t try this yourself!
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The girl with the braid in her hair xxx