36 Years and Counting

This was originally posted to my old blog on January 11, 2015

Today I celebrate my 36th birthday.  I have always thought of birthdays as a day to celebrate the fact that a person was born and show them that they are loved and valued and remind them that the world would not be as bright without them in it.  That belief has not changed, but now I view my birthday a little differently.  To me my birthday is a celebration that I am still alive, I am a survivor, a fighter …. and very, very lucky.

Birthday 1981

I will not make this post about the past several years of struggle and near death experiences.  If you want to know the details you can read my previous posts beginning in October 2013 and leading all the way up to this one.  The rundown is that I am type 1 diabetic (diagnosed 1987) and spent several recent years without medical insurance, and I have always rebelled against and neglected my diabetes care.  In October of 2013, following a couple years of extreme chest pain, weakness, etc.,  I had emergency open heart surgery.  Immediately following the heart surgery recovery I began a long series of eye surgeries for retinopathy.  On top of all of this I have suffered financially, emotionally, and with many other health issues.

The past three or four days I have looked forward to my birthday. My mind has been full of thoughts of joy, gratitude, love, accomplishment, near contentment, and some downright giddiness.

Birthday 1984

I have been through a self-made hell and now I am on the other side stronger, happier, and healthier.  I spent a little over three years in constant, unyielding, and utterly soul draining pain.  To look at myself now – strong, happy, and with much less pain –  I realize how very bad off I was.  When I was going through it I knew it was bad; when I thought about the future all I could see was a big sign painted in red saying:

“Diabetes has won, welcome to the afterlife, bitch.”

There are a lot of reasons I survived and took the upper hand and seized control of my health.

Concern –  Somewhere deep within myself I have always cared about my health and wanted to be healthy.  But ever since the day of my diagnosis I have been consumed with hatred, loathing, anger, fear, and any other word you can use to describe negative emotions. But while I was in the hospital sitting there with nothing better to do but think about what I’ve done, I vowed to not be just another statistic anymore. I will take control!  I will literally work my ass off to prove diabetics don’t have to melt into sugar water!… Those of you who don’t know, ancient Greeks thought diabetes was a disease that literally caused the body to melt into sugar water.

Birthday, a few months after diagnosis

 

Birthday, a few months after diagnosis

 

Disappointment – Not so much my own disappointment in myself, or even my family’s disappointment in me (they never said a negative word to me but only showed love and care during my hospital stay and thereafter) but my disappointment in the doctor’s. While I was in the hospital I expected to hear from at least one source a long talking to about how I need to straighten up and get my diabetes under control.  But I heard none of this.  Yes, I was told I needed to changed my diet and exercise more for heart health, but there was no talk, no lecture on getting my blood sugar under control, blah, blah, blah.  I was surprised to find that this lack of lecture left me feeling like they were just being nice and making me comfortable as I prepared for certain death. It was like the health care system has totally given up on trying to re-rail the derailed train that is diabetes. “Oh, you’re an uncontrolled diabetic, there’s no hope for you, we’ll just patch up your heart and send you on your way and bury you in a few years.”.  It made me feel like proving them wrong. I am not hopeless, damn it! I will show you!

Birthday 1993

Insurance – There is no doubt that the fact that I got insurance again after several years of not having medical care was a huge step in saving my life.  I was able to see a doctor and get much needed prescriptions, tests, and treatments.  This is how I was able to figure out what was wrong with me and have surgery to keep me alive.  With no insurance I would most certainly have had a heart attack instead of surgery…and be long dead now instead of typing this.

My Bull-Head – No matter how bad things are, how frustrating, frightening, depressing, difficult, I never give up. I just can’t, it’s not in my genetic makeup to just sit back and let go.  I may not succeed, I may choose the wrong way to get by.  I chose the road of anger, hatred, and rebellion as a child and it took nearly dying of heart failure to make me realize I needed to change paths. Now I have chosen the path of good health and it will take something much stronger than heart failure to defeat me now!

Birthday 1999

Family – Not just my family through blood and marriage, but my family of friends as well.  I would not be as strong as I am today if it weren’t for the support of the wonderful people in my life.  From visiting me in the hospital, supportive words, physically helping me, to hugs, tears, cheers, and encouragement in so many ways; I am surrounded by love and good people.

The woman who gave me life and has been there for me through everything
My husband has always been there for me.

So today is my birthday.  I am happy to be alive.  I am on the road to good health and have made a lot of progress, even if it is slower progress than I would like.

I am 36 years old today and I have no intention of leaving this world any time soon.

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Author: Tamra K. Garcia

Stephen King says to "Write what you know." I know diabetes, I know me; so this is what I write about.

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