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A Diabetes Neophyte’s Prologue (Part 2)

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(Continued from last week’s entry.)

When I arrived at the health center, the doctor—a resident—and his attending physician came into the examination room. The attending didn’t sugarcoat it: I had diabetes. But the thing was this: They weren’t sure what type it was. They would need to run some more tests, and for the next few weeks I would exist in diabetes diagnosis limbo.

My wife and I did what most people in our circumstances would do: online research. Maybe I had LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes of adults). Maybe I was something else we’d read about—a diabetes “tweener,” or Type 1.5. Maybe I had prediabetes. Or it might be that the diagnosis was a mistake. Was it possible that my body hadn’t attacked itself and killed off most of its beta cells? Misdiagnosis was a slight possibility.

I didn’t quite know at that point what the ramifications of being unable to produce a sufficient amount of insulin meant, but I did know that if I had diabetes, then for the rest of my life my body would not be able, by itself, to get the energy it needed from the food I ate.

And this new thing, this HbA1c number the doctors were talking about, was at 14.5%. And whatever C-peptides were, mine sat in the low end of the normal range. Oh, and my blood glucose on the morning they told me that I had diabetes: upwards of 450 mg/dl.

My next step was to find an endocrinologist, and I requested a pretty well-known doctor within the University of Michigan health system. I’d heard Dr. Arno Kumagai was a phenomenal doctor, so I was dubious about my chances of becoming his patient. But he took me as a patient, and on my initial visit with him he told my wife and me that there was no doubt about it, I had Type 1 diabetes. It was a relief to finally know where I stood. I mean, I knew that I was at the beginning of something life-changing, but now I knew where to begin from.

So I am a diabetic. Or, actually—as I’ve since learned—I am a person with diabetes. I can’t count the times on the phone recently with health-care providers, pharmacies, medical supply companies, insurance companies, and diabetes education classes that I’ve spoken some variant of the following: “I am a 33-year-old newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetic.”

I am a 33-year-old newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetic, and the reason I am writing this blog, and why I’ll return to it each week, is to attempt to try and understand what it means to live my life as someone with diabetes, as someone who just three months ago thought he was only getting over a bad cold. My relationship with my body has changed drastically. My relationship to many of the joys in my life has changed as well—to food, exercise, good microbrewed beer, late nights with friends, even to simple things such as a round of golf, an afternoon working in the garden, or a mere sixty-mile road trip to a friend’s house for the evening. They haven’t changed for the worse, necessarily, but they have changed.

This is the second 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 part 3 next week.

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