The End, Part 1

Last night’s #canDOC tweetchat has me waxing nostalgic. In case you missed it, the topic was diagnosis and the events that surrounded yours.
I woke up this morning thinking about what I would be having for breakfast in the days before my diagnosis, and I realized that I have never actually told my story in any kind of detail.

Mostly because no one ever asked…

I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at age 18. The experience has left me feeling a mix of things, good and bad. I am a stronger person and I pay far more attention to my health than I thought was humanly possible, but I am also left with a body that at times feels as though it has aged 30 years in only 3.

I look back upon those days before diabetes with a mixture of longing and bewilderment. I had many of the classic symptoms yet remained in the dark until May of 2009, where entirely by accident I discovered what I had always feared would happen had finally come to pass. I had inherited the “family disease”.

I started freshman year of college full of hope and fresh excitement about the life I would soon lead. I had escaped a high school experience that rendered me emotionally and physically unrecognizable from when I started four years prior (I had reached my highest weight during my senior year of high school). I finally left a home which had been a breeding ground of chaos and tension for as long as I could remember.

I was free.

I remember that feeling of pure anticipation while unpacking my suitcase and rearranging the generic, dorm-issue furniture. I had so many expectations. I didn’t realize that this year would meet so few of them.

About a month into my college experience I was thriving. I had good grades in chemistry, I had made friends, I was settling in and finding my way.

It was October.

My high school boyfriend of 3 years was coming to visit me. I was excited. I had planned an entire day full of D.C. fun. At that time the Sant Ocean Hall exhibit of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History had just recently been unveiled, opening only a few weeks prior to our date. Being a huge marine biology enthusiast I just had to see it and I couldn’t imagine seeing it with anyone other than him. Unfortunately the day took an unexpected turn once we returned to my dorm and he told me, quite simply, that I no longer was the object of his affection. In his words, I had become more like a sister than a girlfriend. I was devastated.

Say what you will about teenage love. Yes, it is immature, ill-advised at times, and often lacking practicality and common sense. But it is passionate and it is real.

Two weeks after this happened, I turned on my computer. What I saw made my heart sink and the room swim as my eyes welled with tears. He was in a relationship? Damn you Facebook, bearer of bad news. I couldn’t believe it. I knew then that I was not the only one he had been seeing during that first month at school.

For the next several months I floundered. Emotionally, I was wrecked over this break up. I was 17 when I started college, everything seems so earth shattering at that age. On the bright side, Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” was taking the radio by storm right around that time.

With my self esteem hitting a new low (my ex’s new flame was considerably smaller than my hulking 180-something pound frame) I decided that the only thing to do was take charge of my body. I began religiously going to the gym.

One of many late-night visits to the campus diner for fried foods and gossip my freshman year. I’m hiding behind a scarf. I wasn’t much for pictures back then.

I remember my feet furiously pounding the treadmill belt as “Single Ladies” blared in my ears. At the gym I could let my rage at the situation manifest itself into something productive.

I was so consumed with counting calories and perfecting my exercise routine and trying desperately to claw my way out of an emotional hole that I failed to notice the protest my body was launching. It was ill, it was dying, and I didn’t know.

I remember crushing lows after each workout. I have been hypoglycemic my entire life, so I always kept a Luna Bar or a banana in my gym bag to combat the blood sugar drops. But I was unaware of the highs.

I remember not being physically able to stay awake for Cell Biology. It was a class right after lunch. If you have ever lived on a college campus you know what type of food is available. Diabetic-friendly? You might as well ask for a gourmet 3-Michelin star restaurant in the food court while you’re at it.

A typical lunch included a 24 oz. lemonade, white rice, and Szechuan string beans. In retrospect I’m surprised I didn’t just slip into a coma at the table.

I remember stocking up on 1 liter bottles of Evian water from the school convenience stores. I went through a lot of Evian that year. I remember having to pee all the time, especially in the middle of the night. I slept a lot. When I say a lot, I mean a LOT. On the weekend I would wake up around 1PM, eat lunch and have a nap that lasted until 6PM or later. I’d hazily try to study with my friends but could never concentrate. Those delicious strawberry smoothies we thought were fueling our brains were actually just poison to my already overspent system.

During the week wasn’t much better. I’d sleep through classes after dozing off in my dorm, or just couldn’t muster the strength to leave my bed to trek out to the lecture hall.

You’re probably wondering, how the hell did you fail to notice something was wrong?

I still ask myself that question.


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