Caitlin’s Diagnosis Story

November 2014. I was 12 years old, fresh and rested from a week off of school for Thanksgiving break. It’s customary for my family to have two Thanksgiving dinners, one at my dad’s house, and one at my mom’s. Everything was fine after the first feast, although I was quite a bit more lethargic than usual after eating. Nobody took any notice of it because it subsided pretty quickly after the conclusion of the meal. When someone realized how much I was sleeping, no one thought it could be a symptom of something bigger. They attributed it to the amount of stress I was under from school; late nights spent poring over homework, and general lack of a sleep schedule.

The pace started to pick up when I was home again, having Thanksgiving dinner with my mom. The table was always filled with the most carb-dense foods, the things most people enjoy on Thanksgiving like macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes, which I blissfully chose to partake in.

The next morning, at what I recall to be about 3am, I woke up, ran to the bathroom, and threw up. Everything I ate the day before now stared up at me from its new home of porcelain. I went back to bed, having so lovingly emptied my stomach of all its contents, but I don’t remember getting much more sleep that night. I woke up again around 8am, at which point I had a panic attack over something school related, but that subsided and the morning continued on. Around 11am, I hadn’t done much of anything apart from watch television and drink apple juice, trying to ignore the constant pounding of the headache that had dragged on for most of the morning. I ran to the bathroom and threw up again, and my mom dragged me to the urgent care, where we waited for quite a while to be seen. The doctor I saw sat me up on the table, asked me a few questions, and said something to my mom about how my breath smelled. The situation was clear, so they called an ambulance and drove semi-comatose me to the hospital.

I don’t remember much of the ambulance ride itself except occasionally opening my eyes, being terrified of what I saw, and closing them again, trying so hard to ignore the reality of what I was facing. When we got to the hospital, they had a particularly difficult time trying to get IV access, and because of that I went back to school a week later with an enormous purple bruise on the crease of my arm. They had me on IV hydration for days, and my A1C at this time was around 13. No one bothered to tell me what was going on until 2 days later, when they finally decided I was strong enough to hear the news. They told me I’d been in what was called DKA, and that I had Type 1 Diabetes. Now, 12-year-old me was naïve. 12-Year-old me thought I’d done something wrong, and I didn’t understand why this was happening. They told me that I’d have to test and inject daily, and I struggled for the first few weeks to do it on my own. Lantus was particularly difficult because it burned, and if you’re a fellow Type 1 you can probably relate to that.

It took me a long time to understand what was happening and really come to terms with it. For probably two years after the initial diagnosis, I never talked about Type 1 unless I had to.

The word Diabetes disgusted me and infuriated me to no end. It frustrated me and it made me feel different. I’ve grown a lot since then, though, and now it’s less difficult to talk about my story and my struggles, though I don’t imagine it’ll ever be something that comes easily. I remember going back to school after my stint at the hospital, and having to explain to all my teachers the gravity of this situation. Certainly not an easy task, but I did it. Now, almost four years later, I’m living my best Type 1 life. Every day is a new challenge, but I’m incredibly lucky to have my life and chase my dreams. Type 1 is quite a hurdle, but as miserable as I felt in the beginning, and still feel on the more difficult days, having Type 1 has impacted my character in ways I don’t think are possible otherwise.

– Caitlin

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