A Diabetes Neophyte’s Prologue (Part 1)

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When 2007 began, diabetes wasn’t on my radar screen. The statistics are something like one in fourteen people has diabetes, so, yeah, I knew people. I went to grad school with a friend who had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 21, and I work with someone who’s had diabetes since he was thirteen months old. But what did I know about diabetes?

Not enough, really, to fill even the smallest syringe. People with diabetes carried around kits, they checked monitors, and they needed to watch their sugar intake. Right?

Oh, and before I go on, let me say that a lot of great things have happened in my life in the past few years. I started a fulfilling full-time job in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. I met and married the love of my life and she and I bought our first house, a little Cape Cod that we adore, in a quiet community in southeast Michigan. We have wonderful family and great friends close by. For once—for the first time, actually—I have a car I can rely on, a steady income that allows me to make more-than-the-minimum payments on graduate-school student loans and credit card debt, and a sense of “arrival” that I felt was overrated (it wasn’t) and out of reach when I was in my teens and twenties.

But, in February, I got sick. I caught a cold that lingered for about ten days and then was gone. But something else was happening. I started having severe dry mouth and couldn’t get enough to drink. I was peeing eight or nine (or more) times a night. And tired, so tired, all of the time. Maybe this was a drug interaction. I take citalopram (brand name Celexa) for depression (which I’ve had under control for years); or maybe the NyQuil and some of the other cold meds I took had messed me up. That was probably all it was, I told myself.

I would have waited until my symptoms got really bad before doing anything about whatever illness had overtaken me, but my wife convinced me to go to the doctor for a physical and some blood tests. My last physical was in 2001, when I was 26. I figured it was time, so I called the University of Michigan health center and made an appointment. I told the doctor that my wife and I had joked that my symptoms sounded like I had diabetes. After the exam he told me he didn’t believe it was diabetes, but that I should set up a follow-up exam in six months. He gave me a blood-lab request for the next day’s blood draw—because I hadn’t fasted that morning—and told me that he would call if anything showed up on the tests.

Four days later, I received a message from the health center’s scheduler: The doctor would like to see me in two weeks.

At this point, I was a bit apprehensive. The scheduler wasn’t allowed to talk about diagnoses with me. But, I thought, if it was a critical diagnosis…if it was a major something-or-other, surely they’d have wanted to see me as soon as possible. This follow-up appointment was in two weeks. Not tomorrow. But also not in six months. What could it be? Not cancer. Not life-threatening, surely. Maybe the doctor wanted to see me about some simple precautions. You know, my blood tests showed a slight risk for this or that. You need to watch your cholesterol, Eric. Your blood pressure’s a bit high. Lower your stress.

But I had a feeling it was that thing that my wife and I had been joking about.

This is the first of Eric’s three-part prologue as he begins both his Diabetes Self-Management blog and his journey through life as a person with diabetes. Be sure to read parts 2 and 3 in the weeks that follow.

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