Thursday, May 10, 2012

Everybody has something

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. ~World Health Organization, 1948

Syringes - Diabetes 365 Day 124 - February 06, 2008

Do you remember where you were thirty years ago?  Specifically, the opening of fishing weekend, 1982.  I remember where I was.  I was in the hospital after being diagnosed with Type I diabetes.  I was nine. 

Growing up in northern Minnesota, the opening of fishing is a pretty big deal.  At least it was for my family.  Every year we went out to Little Winnie and staked out a spot among all the other die-hard fishermen.  The moms and children would head out earlier on Friday to stake their place before the city-folk arrived, and the dads would come when they got done with work.  It was a great time of year to be a kid.

My third grade teacher noticed that I had been drinking a lot of water, and making a lot of trips to the bathroom.  By the time my mother was getting packed up to head out to spend the weekend camping, I really wasn't feeling very good.  I recall that I was sent over to my grandparents house instead of out to the lake.  I don't think I cared that much, I was feeling pretty sick.  I'm not sure what was happening with the adults in my life.  There was a doctor appointment in there somewhere.  Glucose to drink.  Vomiting.  Subsequent admission into the hospital.  My brothers and sisters sleeping in a tent, and me learning about insulin injections and my life without sugar.  Kool-Aid and cake were gone from my list of acceptable goodies.  Candy was a thing that could no longer be ingested.  All kids love sugar.  I was no exception.  I could no longer have it without facing some dire consequences.  Life as I knew it was over.

I'm not sure how long I was in the hospital.  I know I came back on my brother's birthday.  Days or a week after being home, and it was time for his birthday party.  This was the first true realization of what this disease meant for me.  No birthday cake.  I was very upset.  It was a beautiful May day, and my dad took me for a walk.  He got me away from the people celebrating the birthday.  He got me away from the cake that I could no longer have.  We went for a walk.  He did his best to get me through the devastation that was mine.  The devastation of no cake.  He pointed out that I could still have asparagus.  Yummy, delicious asparagus that was growing right there in the garden.  I could still have that!!  I would think most nine-year-olds would not find this a pleasant substitution.  Let's see, chocolate cake or asparagus?  The asparagus did not win that round.  But the suggestion that it was a bright side to things was so preposterous that it did make me laugh.  Laughing helps.  Every little bit helps.

I made it through my teens without much thought given to my disease.  I took my shots, I ate a fairly balanced diet.  Periodic doctor appointments.  Camp Needlepoint.  Diet Coke.  Semi-annual visits with a team from the Juvenile Diabetes Association.  (Or something like that.)  I'd visit with a nurse, doctor, dietitian, mental health worker--and they'd get my blood and run some standard tests to see how I was doing.  Never perfect, but never horrible.

After I got married at 25 things took a turn for the worse.  I took many trips to the hospital via ambulance.  My blood sugars were out of whack.  Dropping well beyond what they should, and they were so low so often that I wasn't able to tell until it was too late.  I remember testing my blood to find the reading 17; and thinking, wow, that's pretty close to dead zero and I feel pretty normal.  After six months (or more) of talking about it with my health care providers, and that 12th trip to the ER; I went on the pump.  I haven't taken an ambulance ride since.

Everybody deals with something.  I get to deal with diabetes.  Thirty years, and I haven't taken the greatest care with it during all of that time.  But, I haven't suffered from any of the complications that I read about in Diabetes Forecast when I was in my tweens.  I had three children.  I didn't think that would be part of my life.  I've traveled.  I've had ups and downs with my disease, but as long as I don't ignore it I should be able to live a fairly decent life. 

Everybody deals with something.  You may not know that the person next to you is taking medication for high blood pressure, heart burn, depression, or something else.  Chances are pretty good that everyone is dealing with some kind of health issue.  If they aren't, they are close to someone who is.  If they are one of the few not affected by health issues, and don't know anyone who is; they're leading a fairly solitary life.

There is a lot more information available than there was 30 years ago.  It's so much easier to access that information.  Not all websites are reliable for medical issues, but there are many that are.  There are message boards for people dealing with various issues.  In many ways we don't have the same personal connections that we once had as a society before we all got online, but in other ways we can connect with people we wouldn't have before.  It's a trade off. 

Treatments of diseases have come a long way.  When I was nine, there wasn't much by way of sugar-free foods.  My choices of soda pretty much consisted of Diet Coke, Tab, Diet 7-Up, or Diet Pepsi.  Nutrasweet hadn't come on the market yet.  Stevia was still decades off.  The insulin pump was pretty new in 1982.  It has come a long way in thirty years.  It has made life a lot easier for me.  It allows me to be much more flexible with my life.  It took a while for me to decide to make the change, but I wouldn't go back.   

Everybody deals with something.  Whether it's a chronic or passing condition, everyone gets a turn at something.  Don't let yourself think that you are the only one.  Ask around, everybody has something. 

Pump supplies

There's lots of people in this world who spend so much time watching their health that they haven't the time to enjoy it. ~Josh Billings      


  1. Jo Anne MikulichMay 10, 2012 at 9:02 PM

    This brought tears to my eyes. You are such an inspiration and I love that you always have that positive attitude and smile on your face no matter what the situation is. I and so many others appreciate you for all you do, for the families, children, communties the schools and the Coleraine Library!
    Thanks Alicia for all you do!

  2. Thanks, Jo Anne!

    I think the asparagus comment shows a lot of why I am the way I am. On the bright side, there's always something totally unrelated and ridiculous to be appreciative about.

    I am by no means a good example of how to treat a chronic disease. (Just ask my endocrinologist.) I'm also not a bad example of how to live with a chronic disease. Thirty years is a long time, and I'm fortunate that I've taken care enough to not have to deal with any complications yet.