The first week of May holds a lot of significance for me. It marks five years since the turn of events that led to my diagnosis with type 1 diabetes, and yet I can remember it as though it happened yesterday.
I was 17 and midway through my first semester of uni. I was struggling to find my feet among uni assignments, my new job, and my 18th birthday looming a few weeks away. I had decided to skip uni for a few days to try and make some headway with my assignments. I had about three or four separate papers to write, which meant hours and hours of reading through mindless PDF scholarly journals for references. It was enough to put me to sleep.
And speaking of sleep, I was absolutely exhausted. I could not be bothered in the slightest. After many Facebook sessions, browsing breaks, heading to the kitchen for a drink and then going to the toilet, I had wasted away almost 3 days. And by Wednesday night, I had achieved next to nothing. And for the most part, I just thought I was being a lazy kid procrastinating on his uni assignments.
Enter Thursday morning and I really didn’t want to get out of bed. I felt weak and lethargic, and my mouth felt really dry. I just put it down to my inactivity over the past three days, then forced myself up and prepared a super healthy lunch to take to work. I don’t think I even lasted half an hour at work that day. I didn’t have the energy to stand on my feet that day. I knew something wasn’t right. I told Mum I had to see a doctor ASAP. And I NEVER go to the doctor.
At such short notice, I had to settle for the first doctor I could find. After explaining my symptoms, he told me it was just a virus and ordered bedrest and hot drinks for 3 days. Phew! What a relief it wasn’t anything serious…or so I thought.
I spent the next 3 days in bed, which speaks volumes for me. I NEVER stay in bed when I’m sick, but I had absolutely no energy to do anything else. With a dry mouth stripped of all its saliva, I was struggling to eat anything despite my Mum telling me to “eat something!” (Its an Italian thing!). All I really felt like were cold refreshing drinks. I was constantly craving Orange Juice on the rocks.
By bedtime on Saturday I was restless. My mouth was bone dry. I was on my third or fourth iced orange juice when my rumblings in the kitchen got Mum out of bed. “What are you doing, the doctor told you to have hot drinks!” Mum yelled. My heart rate and pulse were getting more and more rapid, and I was urinating at least once every hour. I spewed and felt slightly better. I don’t know if I would have made it til morning had I not.
By the time I woke on Sunday morning – Mother’s Day no less – I was panting. My heart rate was extremely rapid and I felt breathless. Added to the list of no saliva, extreme thirst, constant urination and lethargy. I told Mum and Dad how I felt. I knew I needed to go to hospital, but was too scared to suggest it. I had so much faith, so much trust in my parents, and I needed to hear them say it first for it to be a real possibility. We talked about going back to the doctor, but I shot it down. There was no point. I knew I couldn’t hold out that long. As soon as the h word was mentioned, I was out the door.
The car ride to the hospital was a blur. I was panting the whole time, counting down the minutes until we got there. What was wrong with me? Was I ever going to get my saliva back? Would I ever be able to eat again? Honestly, then and there, I wasn’t even sure that I would make it to the hospital conscious or even alive.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as soon as I walked through the door. If the hospital emergency staff picked up on my symptoms this quick, why couldn’t Thursday’s doctor? He could have saved me a whole lot of trouble and a whole lot of pain.
But looking back now, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
After the ordeal I had been through, the relief of being able to get back to normal far outweighed coming to terms with diabetes, finger pricks and insulin injections. I don’t know if I would have embraced diabetes as well as I did had I not gone through this.
And I have a story to tell. I have memories that will last me a lifetime. I’m a stronger person because of what I’ve gone through. And, if anything, its made me even more passionate about diabetes awareness.
And the random photo? In July 2012 I climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge with type 1 diabetes. It was one of the best experiences of my life and it goes to show that diabetes hasn’t stopped me from living a normal life.