A Diabetes Neophyte’s Prologue (Part 2)

(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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  • Margi


    I’m really enjoying your blog! My diagnosis was an extended version of yours, in a way. I was 33, always thirsty and hungry, frequenting the bathroom, tired every day, had a suspicion, and finally was diagnosed with diabetes. However, I was lumped into the Type 2 category by default. It didn’t feel right, tho. At my first diab ed class, Mary Lou and Cecilia both agreed that I didn’t look like a Type 2. Off to the endo I went. She said I couldn’t be Type 1. No tests were run and I was told to continue what I was doing (which was taking more pills, eating less, and exercising my butt off). After losing 50 lbs and watching my sugar go higher and higher, I asked my Dr about insulin. Back to the now-contrite endo and on insulin I went. Wrong regimen. Gained 30 lbs in 6 months and sugars were still wacky. A second diab ed class and a trip to Dr Kumagai (he’s the best, isn’t he?) and I was finally diagnosed Type 1. I’m 36 now and doing much better – best of luck to you!

  • kristonian10

    It is so comforting to read your blog. I am also 33 years old. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes this March. I had a roomate in college who was diabetic since a little kid. So, when I started having symptoms (lost 15 pds in a month, thirsty all the time, tired, couldn’t get rid of a simple cold, etc), I knew something was wrong. I was in denial & put off going to the doctor. When I finally went, yup, you guessed it. I am surprised to find out that more people are being diagnosed with what they used to call Juvenile Diabetes at such a later time in life. My endicronologist told me that she diagnosed someone in their 40’s the same week as me. Thanks for writing…I will keep reading. ūüôā

  • Sharon

    I’m identifying totally with what you said about your relationship to your body changing. Mar 2006, my pancreas was removed (along with a bunch of other things) and I instantly became insulin dependent. I recovered well from the surgery but understanding how insulin worked in my body was another thing. I’m still working at it and learning all the time. Classes,reading, and visits with diabetic educators helped but now it’s down to experience and keeping track of what I did when so I can go back to it later. I’m still having trouble getting my sugar level to be below 180 two hours after eating. Probably need to have another session with the educator. It’s a journey, for sure.

    The good that’s come from it (and there always is a silver lining) is that I’ll not be overweight again, because I walk two miles every day I have the energy and stamina I need to do whatever I need, and my family no longer takes me for granted!

    I’ll keep reading. Welcome!

  • Sue

    My comment is about the term diabetic. It does not matter who I talk to in the medical field they all call me by my new name diabetic. I no longer am called by my name Sue but now am defined by the term diabetic. I somehow have lost my identity as a person and have become something else. Did I morph into someone else? Is this just me or does anyone else out there not like their new name as a “diabetic”. I would prefer the medical field to identify me by my name first and then we can refer to condition I have which is diabetes. Respectfully, Sue

  • sarah

    hi, my name’s sarah. i’m almost 15 years old. my mom thinks i might have type 1 diabetes but i don’t know because some of the symptoms i’ve had for a long time but my family is just noticing. so i wanted to know if you could help me out. i’ve been CONSTANTLY thirsty and hungry, i’m tired even if i’ve slept 12 hours, i lose weight quickly, and i’ve had the same cold for about a month now. diabetes runs in my family so i’ll probably get it eventually, but nobody in my family got it until they were at least 35. so i don’t think i have it. what do you think?

  • Tara Dairman, Web Editor

    Dear Sarah,

    It’s not possible to diagnose diabetes just based on a list of symptoms–you need to see a doctor, who can check your blood sugar level and perform other tests to find out what’s going on. Since the symptoms you list could come from diabetes and you say it runs in your family, we suggest you see a doctor as soon as possible, because if you do have Type 1 diabetes that is not being treated, your blood sugar levels may become dangerously high. This can possibly cause a seizure or coma and even be life-threatening.

  • Eric


    This is not really a diagnosis that I would make (I’m not a doctor and wouldn’t begin to say to me that what you’re describing sounds like this or that, because, as I said, I’m not a doctor). However, I would say that if your mothers concerned and if you are constantly thirsty and tired all of the time, lost weight quickly, etc… these symptoms don’t seem healthy to me and I would urge you to have your mother make a doctor’s appointment or go to a clinic as soon as possible and let them know what’s going on.

    Take care of yourself.