A Diabetes Neophyte’s Prologue (Part 1)

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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  • DbRaj709

    Great story. I myself have to thank my wife, but for a different reason. I kept having to pee and drink every hour (haven’t slept well for a month), my arms and legs have been burning, I’ve been tired and nauseous..but I kept finding “excuses.” Well, my wife’s friend’s husband sells life insurance, so I decided to see about getting some. But they rejected me because my “glucose was a little high, and I should see a doctor.”

    So, I went to see the doc on Monday..My sugar was 528! Next thing you know, I’m getting an insulin shot and a testing meter, plus I kiss goodbye my “big eating” lifestyle. We’re still working on the right meds, becuase it’s all over the place and won’t stay down..today before lunch..341). I’m taling Lantus, Humulin, Metformin.

    I’m 38 years old, 5’8″, 165 lbs, and I run 8 miles 2-3 times/week. This all seems so surreal. I keep asking, “how can this be?” Now I can’t read enough about this disease. Can’t wait to read more of your blog…

  • Florian

    Hello Eric,
    Welcome to the Team. Your story is a familiar one. In 1967 I just started my first job in Massachusetts after finishing a Post-doc at SUNY Buffalo. I had the same symptoms and was diagnosed on the day after Thanksgiving at age 30. What a way to start a new job, get settled in a new house, raise a family, and now learn to manage juvenile diabetes aka (Type 1).
    I had one advantage, I was working in the Biomedical Research field and was always around people who I could talk to and learn from about diabetes. I tried my best to do the things suggested and recommended. It must have paid off because almost 40 years later I am in good health with no major complications other than some numbness and tingling sensation in my feet. I started MDI in the early 80’s when the glucose meter first came out. Hypoglycemia was my greatest enemy. The analog insulins made it much better and easier. Five weeks ago I started Insulin Pump Therapy which I will do until a CURE comes along.

  • Eric Lagergren

    Thanks for the comments thus far (I’ve read DbRaj709’s and Florian’s comments).

    I’m excited about the blog and the dialogue that this format can bring about. The weekly blog, for me, will be a great way to push myself into thinking about diabetes in a deeper way, a way that daily management (while necessary) doesn’t. And while I know other people have gone through what I’m going through, it’s always nice to share my p.o.v., experience, inexperience, concerns, and questions with the readers of this blog.

    The next few weeks will be a continuation of my diagnosis story (I tend to have difficulty being succinct), and then I’ll probably talk about my new insulin pump (which I just started on Monday), as well as many other items I’ve been journaling about which’ll no doubt see the light of day on The Diabetes Self-Management Blog.

    I’m on vacation right now (up in Toronto), new pump and all. So it’s time to get out of the hotel room and go wander around downtown.