It was 1969, and I was 13 years old, rushing to the hospital with the life-threatening condition diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). I spent two days in and out of a coma, and when I woke up, the doctor told me I had type 1 diabetes.
While my friends were enjoying pizza and sugary snacks, I spent my teenage years sterilizing reusable syringes, preparing for home visits from a nurse (who I suspect was looking for hidden candy bar wrappers), and fasting before early-morning doctor appointments to monitor before- and after-breakfast glucose levels.
As the years went by, I became more self-sufficient, monitoring my glucose with urine tests and, later, a blood glucose meter.
As most of us do, I attempted to ignore my diabetes at times. It never lasted long. After side-swiping a parked car, passing out occasionally, and being hospitalized because of low glucose levels, I realized I had to control my diabetes or it would control me.
I evolved from using a vial and syringe to using an insulin pen, and I focused on eating immediately after taking my rapid-acting insulin. I began walking 2,500 steps a day, three to four times a week. And most important, I vowed to check my glucose level seven times a day. My fingertips have become thick-skinned after years of daily pricks.
Around age 58, I missed a turn that I regularly make while driving home. Fortunately, I got home safely and checked my blood glucose: 49 mg/dl! It was time for a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). For the past five years, my CGM has been a lifesaver and a lifestyle changer. Now, it’s so simple to check, check, check.
In addition, I’m trying an insulin pen that offers half doses. I’m more sensitive to insulin as the years go by, and my lows are still challenging. This pen tells me the amount and time of my last dose. That information will be especially helpful as I age. My memory may get foggy, but I’m clear about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. I plan to celebrate 50 years with diabetes—and very few complications—by saying a prayer of thanks.
Carmon Weaver Hicks, PhD, a professor of psychology and sociology at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, takes a chair yoga class every week, enjoys working on 1,000- to 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzles, and is learning creative ways to appreciate fresh vegetables from her husband’s garden.
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