The summer before I turned 9, on July 5, 1996, actually, I was visiting by myself with my maternal grandparents, Goggie and Papa. They decided it would be fun to go to King’s Dominion, an amusement park that was pretty close to where they lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I didn’t care to ride any roller coasters after Papa took me on the Scooby-Doo, so we stopped for lunch. After we finished eating, I had to use the restroom. About 5 minutes later, I had to go again. This happened a few more times before Goggie began to get worried. She decided that something was wrong and we left the park. She took me to the doctor and they ran some tests. When they got the results back, they told her that I had an unusually high amount of sugar in my blood and that I should be taken to the hospital.
Well, when we got to the hospital, they ran more tests and diagnosed me with Type 1 Diabetes. They told me that I had high blood sugar because my pancreas wasn’t producing enough insulin to lower it.
I could almost literally feel my whole world caving in. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Why was it happening to me? Why now? I was scared and confused; it was all new to me, and I didn’t like it. Not one bit.
The doctors taught me how to take care of myself - how to do fingersticks, how to give insulin shots, everything. I listened halfheartedly; I was in too much shock. Mom did all the finger sticks and shots for me for the first 4 years. After I was about 12, I just got fed up and decided that I was old enough to do it myself. So I did. After that first finger stick, everything became a little bit easier. I didn’t need mom to be sitting next to me every time I had to test or give myself a shot. I took my first real step toward independence. I was still unwilling to accept my condition, though, and soon I began to develop a rebellious attitude. I wished that I was normal, like the rest of my family. It didn’t seem fair that I had to deal with diabetes and they didn’t. It wasn’t fair, I later learned, because life isn’t fair. But at the time, I didn’t feel secure. I couldn’t give them diabetes, and I couldn’t take mine away. So I rebelled and started testing less each day. I gave myself the minimum amount of care I could get away with, and my denial grew.
At the beginning of the year 2001, I grew tired of shots. They weren’t doing enough to keep my numbers under control, so I asked my mom to find out about the new insulin pumps that were being made. She did, but when she asked my doctor, Dr. Cogan, about it, Dr. Cogan told her that she didn’t let her patients have pumps.
Frustrated and discouraged, mom did some research online and found a doctor in Charlottesville, Virginia who would let me do insulin pump therapy. The only downside at the time was the distance to his practice, which was at Charlottesville’s hospital. We decided the distance was worth it, and saw him until 2003. Around the beginning of that year, mom was starting to dislike his practice. He never really seemed friendly, and he was constantly increasing my basal rate. My numbers remained high despite the changes, and both me and my mom had had enough. We went in search of a new doctor, one who was closer and better. We found the Joslin Diabetes Center in Baltimore and they admitted me into their adult practice since I was almost 16. Dr. Sheehan and Sue Brown, the Diabetes Nurse Educator, worked together to get my basal rate adjusted and my numbers back under control. We were very happy and decided to stay. As I grew older, I began to see Dr. Steinle and Nurse Practitioner Cathy Krichten. They grew concerned with my lack of discipline when it came to changing my pump's infusion sites (I would let it go for more than 3 days and it would get infected) and decided that the pump was no longer a safe option for me. I switched back to daily injections, which made me happy because I hated being connected to the pump. I was constantly getting the tubing caught on things and pulling it out. Injections made me feel more free.
In November 2013, a few months after I married my husband, we moved to Maryville, TN and I began seeing Dr. Bussey and Nurse Practitioner Carrie Wallace with the East TN Endocrinology Consultants. It was during the summer of 2014 that they informed me of a new tool that would be extremely beneficial to me...the Dexcom G4 Platinum, a continuous glucose monitoring system. I began the process of applying for it and, in August, my new Dexcom G4 Platinum was delivered to my front door! I have loved it ever since and truly feel like I am taking the reins of my diabetes care. My A1C dropped from 11.1 to 9.5 in 8 months.
In January 2015, I began to realize that, while I was making progress, I really needed to rein in my blood sugar numbers. I went in search of the answers to my questions - How could I get my numbers lower? What would it take to get my health to where it needed to be? I joined a Facebook group for Diabetics who follow a low carb, high fat diet as prescribed by Dr. Richard Bernstein. I ordered his book, Diabetes Solution, and threw myself headfirst into adopting his low carb, high fat diet and diabetes management practices. Since doing that and experimenting with different insulin doses and injection cycles, I have seen even more progress in the normalization of my blood sugars. I am beyond thrilled to see this improvement!