To Hell and Back with Diabetes and Still Going: Crystal's Story

This article was written exclusively for InformationAboutDiabetes.com by Crystal Black, a type 1 diabetic who courageously refuses to let the disease get the best of her, even after all she's been through.

I was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic at age 10 back in 1991. As a 10-year-old, I thought I had the biggest jerk of a doctor ever. He insisted that I not leave the hospital until I could check my blood sugar and do my own shots. My parents were not to have any involvement with my disease because it was mine and I needed to take full control. Looking back, that doctor did nothing but a huge favor to me.

I struggled from the time I was 10 years old to try and keep this disease in check. We tried different types of insulin, different doses, exercise, etc., but nothing would lower my A1C (14.0-17.0). At age 14, I had a terrible low (in a candy store of all places) and the ambulance was called. At age 17, I went in a coma after a night out with friends and experimenting with alcohol.

In my late teens and early 20s, I could pretty much bet on having several 1-week stays in the hospital – from ketoacidosis, my body completely rejecting food, or my bowels stopping for 10-14 days. It was so frustrating for me, my friends, and my family. It got to a point where they were so burned out that when I was in the hospital no one would come see me. I was doing everything I could yet felt like no one and nothing was helping to control this disease.

Five Years to Get an Insulin Pump, But It Was Worth It

At age 21, I decided that I was going to take matters into my own hands and be my own advocate. I had my mind set that I at least wanted to try the insulin pump. I went to this doctor and that doctor, but no one would give me the pump. The doctors all agreed that I needed to have better control before they would give it to me. I was so frustrated and overwhelmed with a depression that I shared with no one.

I think eventually my doctor got tired of seeing me, so I tried the university hospital as a last resort. By now, at age 26, I was prepared for yet another failure. I went in, talked to the team, and just before I left, the paperwork for my pump was signed. I finally had my pump – and just in time for Christmas that year!

So now the question was, "Is it going to work?" I went through the training and was then off to try this crazy new device that I had wanted so badly. At my three-month appointment, my A1C had gone down from 17.6 to 7.0 – I was feeling on top of the world!

Poor Control of Diabetes Took Its Toll

At age 27, I had my first, second, and third cardiac episodes. I was sent to a heart specialist who diagnosed me with tachycardia (a faster than normal heart rate) due to all the years of poor diabetes control. I was so mad because it wasn't like I hadn't been trying.

By age 29, I had two upper, two lower, and many other tests ran for bowel issues. I was diagnosed with a type of intestinal/bowel neuropathy – also due to the poor diabetes control.

At age 30, I had a golfball-sized lump in my breast that, within two months, grew to the size of a softball. The local doctors told me to take Tylenol and ice it. I called back up to the university, and they got me in to the cancer center right away. After several tests, I was diagnosed with a rare diabetic condition called diabetic mastopathy – also caused by poor control.

I was so frustrated that no one would help and felt that I didn't have to have all these complications, but the doctors wouldn't help.

Things Are Looking Up

At age 32, after everything that I have been through, my A1C is still running in the 7s and I have stayed out of the hospital for a long time. I have met a great guy who is so supportive of my diabetes and even gets involved with my pump changes. We are engaged, and I have gotten blessings from all of my specialists (diabetic, heart, cancer center, and all of my other doctors) to have my own child. I had always planned on adopting with my health, which I might still do.

Stress will make you have high blood sugars, trust me. My advice to anyone is to never let diabetes control you, take charge, and be your advocate. If you are stressed, talk with your doctors and join a support group – it does help. I wish you all the best and great health!

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