In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month, I wanted to give a shout out to my loving wife and shed a little light on what Diabetes is and what it’s like to live with a Type 1 Diabetic.
A brief lesson…In the U.S. Type 1 Diabetes affects over 1.25 million people while Type II affects over 25 million. That’s roughly 8.3% of the U.S population that has been diagnosed with this disease. This does not account for the number of people that are improperly diagnosed or have never been diagnosed. Type 1 diabetes is when the body cannot produce insulin to control blood sugar swings thus necessitating the use of an injected form (more info on Type I HERE). Type II is when the body is what’s considered “insulin resistant” and generally cannot supply enough insulin to control blood sugar swings. Sometimes the use of injected insulin is necessary for control (more info on Type II HERE). While you’re currently stuck with Type 1, Type 2 can be controlled and managed through proper diet and exercise. Then there is this third version called LADA or Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults which is being considered Type 1.5 and was designated as such because its generally a blend of both types though it tends to swing more Type 1.
Shelly was diagnosed with LADA shortly after we got married in 2015. This all started with her showing symptoms of a Type II diabetic in late 2014. This makes sense because with LADA the body slowly stops creating insulin over time which could show similarities as a Type II diabetic at first. This phase in the disease is whats called the “Honeymoon Phase” as the body is still producing some insulin to cover elevated blood glucose but its generally not enough, resulting in hyperglycemia.
Shelly wasn’t feeling great in the latter part of 2014, which prompted us to go to the doctor for a physical, urinalysis, and blood panel. This is when we first discovered that she had elevated sugar levels in her urine. The doctor wanted to put her on Metformin without any other proof of what she had. Everything else looked great. This prompted us to search out a qualified and recommended Endocrinologist which actually deals with these type issues. Turns out, his diagnosis was LADA.
During this period, Shelly would have blood sugar swings that she could control with a low carb diet and exercise but eventually things got worse and her body wasn’t able to control her blood sugar on its own anymore.
Now for the nitty gritty…
To say that all of this has been a learning experience for both of us would be an understatement. It has changed both our lives in so many ways I’ve lost count. I can only imagine the levels of frustration she feels on the inside, based on what I get to see personally and the amount of emotional strain we’ve been in and out of over the past few years is enough to write a best selling novel.
On her side she gets to worry about things like taking enough insulin or not taking enough insulin, potentially dying in the middle of the night from an extreme low blood sugar episode, not eating foods that cause huge blood sugar spike, and controlling her emotions when she’s going through a low or high moment. On my end I get to worry about, well basically the same things. What I think most people don’t understand is that this is a joint disease, or at least it should be treated like one so her fears and worries are generally the same that I have. One of her biggest fears is if this is going to pass on to our kids. While her concern is real, Type I is not hereditary but does increase the risk of having it. Just because there is risk does not necessarily mean much as there are environmental factors that come in to play associated with the advancement of Type 1/1.5. Joint concerns include life longevity, hereditary impacts (read above), the emergency of low blood sugar episodes, and the worry about long-term complications.
With all these concerns, Shelly continues to press on even though at times she can be her toughest critic. You can’t take a day off from managing Type 1. Consistent management comes with a huge cost. It’s not fair that she was dealt this hand but unlike most, she plays it with extreme certainty, which is very much not the norm. She works really hard to manage her blood sugar through proper diet even with the need of injecting insulin, meaning just because she has insulin to use doesn’t necessarily allow her to eat and drink whatever she wants anymore. Managing this disease now takes thoughtful planning and never ending work. Even on days she’s getting it right her body will tell her otherwise which leads to more emotional stress and can make issues even worse. It sucks, and it hurts having to watch someone you love go through something so challenging EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.
Where things brighten up is the fact that she has a great job as a nurse with Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth that supplies her with the insurance necessary to cover the high costs associated with the disease. Some people aren’t so fortunate, spending a large chunk of their incomes on supplies and insulin. This number can reach upwards of $1000/month without medical coverage. The rub, is the cost of healthcare keeps rising, but having to pay for that currently vs the other option still makes it a better option.
I guess the biggest take away from all this is that it’s helped us both appreciate that we shouldn’t take our health for granted. Things could be better, but they could also be a lot worse, which is something that Shelly reminds herself of daily. It’s also fostered a feeling of compassion for people that not only deal with this disease but in many other unpleasantries in ones life.
To all my Type 1/1.5/II friends and the ones I don’t know…keep fighting the good the fight and know I’m in your corner.