The Road to My Diabetes Diagnosis: What Was Lost and Rediscovered

This article was written exclusively for Information About Diabetes by Traci Sanders, a college student who was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Within three months, I didn’t recognise myself.

In October 2013, a shadow of an usually happy, energetic girl stared back at me in the mirror. I had shriveled into skin and bones, and the pleasure of losing weight while simultaneously feasting on White Almond Magnums had long faded. I stared at my drained reflection with dry, red eyes. My second year of medicine was the most challenging year of studying, but this was a far cry from burnout after a year of hard work.

By nature, I am not a crier. However, just before my diagnosis, I honestly gave a newborn baby a run for his money. I cried silently at yoga, I’d tear up on the treadmill at gym, I sobbed while lying on my couch because I knew I had to walk up one flight of stairs to get into bed. I was becoming an A-grade drama queen! I was unmotivated, irritable and exceptionally confused. What on Earth was happening to me? The classic signs were there; I was:

  1. Hungry (HANGRY)
  2. Thirsty (Niagara Falls wouldn’t be able to quench that thirst)
  3. Tired (Sleep standing? No problem!)
  4. Losing weight

Weight loss with minimum effort may seem as if I was living the dream; however, it was a sick, pitiful and vulnerable thin. I never want my body to be in such a state again. My reedy body did not provide me with strength or sanctuary. It was gradually giving up on me. It hampered me from doing all that I loved. I stopped yoga and all my sporting activities. I couldn’t put energy into my studies or focus at university. I never felt truly present around my family or friends, constantly dazed and disheartened.

[before diagnosis]

One would reason that having a 19-year-old type 1 diabetic brother as well as being a medical student would have been enough to piece together my diagnosis sooner. I think I knew for the last month but was terrified to even entertain such a thought. What was a 20-year-old doing being diagnosed with diabetes? I was under the impression that only really young and really old people were affected by diabetes.

On Oct. 10, 2013, I reached my limit. With my brain buzzing and my body feeling exceptionally nauseated and shaky, I asked my brother to test my blood sugar. It was the most surreal moment. My brother placed his lancet in my hand. One would think he handed me a dagger the way I objected in fear of a painful finger prick. He told me that I needed to do this myself. Just as I was about to continue my extravagant protest, his words truly sunk in and stopped me.

It dawned on me that this was going to be the first of many finger-pricks to come and that there was no time such as the present to take responsibility of my health. My head knew my diagnosis, but my heart hung onto the hope that a beautiful 5.6 mmol/L would shine on the tester screen. I pricked my finger and smeared my little syrupy blood donation onto the strip. With my heart pounding and my stomach knotted, I thought, Let the countdown begin!

It was the longest 6 seconds of my life.

BEEP. “HI.” Not the warm greeting I was seeking. I looked up at my brother, and our eyes met both wide with disbelief. I will never forget the look on his face, a medley of emotion. “I’m diabetic!” I burst into tears. In one moment my frustration, confusion, disappointment and a bizarre relief all erupted out in one giant sob. My brother and I hugged, cried and laughed in one emotionally driven moment where time stood absolutely still. I now had my answers.

I lost myself in three months to the symptoms of diabetes. I had so desperately longed for my old body, energy and vibrancy, and now I could finally rediscover and rebuild what was stolen from me. The relief was unreal and bound me into fully embracing my diabetes, my insulin and my medication.

I wrote my final second-year exams with blurred eyes, severe insulin oedema and with a newly diagnosed diabetic body that I was attempting to understand. It was the most challenging time but has ultimately made me stronger and aware of what I am capable of. It's unbelievable how much strength we all have hidden inside of us! It has been an extraordinary adventure. I have learnt an incredible amount about my body, my lifestyle and my future goals.

I decided to start an Instagram account which captures my journey not only to accept every aspect of my diabetes but also to find its silver linings and hopefully motivate and support others. My pictures are a personal focus on food, exercise and general healthy lifestyle tips for a diabetic! Each day may bring a different battle, but it also brings a learning experience. Here is to the future adventure and more self-discovery to come!

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