Are We The Same?

I often think about other diabetics and what their experiences are. Am I a typical diabetic, or are there truly unique things I have gone through? I always assume that I am like any other diabetic, just with my own little differences here and there. We are all the same, but all unique. That’s the beauty of life.

I have compiled a few questions and answers below. These are questions I’ve chosen because I often wonder how my experiences here compare to other diabetics. If you have a story you’d like to tell about any of the below topics, please post it in the comments, if you don’t mind.

Do you remember your diagnosis? How did that Dr. visit go?

My memory of this event is spotted because at that time my blood sugar was running so high all the time that my permanent memory was damaged. Either that, or I just blocked a lot of it out because it was so traumatic. I remember sitting on the edge of the exam table, it was metal and cold, even through the thin paper cover. My dad was with me, we were at his endocrinologists office. My dad was a type 1 as well (there are 6 of us altogether). The doctor came in and pretty much the first words out of his mouth were, “you’re diabetic”. He said it with a comedic kind of tone. I think he was trying to lighten the impact. I remember smiling a bit, more out of defense mechanism than anything. I think my dad put his arm around my shoulder (he either really did, or I just wished he had). The doctor went on to talk to my dad about things my nine year old mind couldn’t comprehend.

Has diabetes harmed your memory?

A bit. I spent my childhood and twenties with chronically high blood sugar. This has damaged my long term memory, but not so much my short term.  When I think back to old events, unless it was a truly impactful moment for me, the memory is always like trying to swim through very muddy waters. It takes a lot of work to really remember anything from childhood, or even just three years ago. This is one reason I like to take a lot of pictures.

I see a difference and improvement in my memory now that my blood sugar is under much better control. It’s kind of like emerging from a deep dark hole.

Has diabetes harmed your education?

A bit. Again, it was because of chronically high blood sugar, as well as the emotional and psychological trauma that wasn’t addressed. I almost got held back in the third grade because my grades dropped so far. I was tested for learning disabilities that year as well. My parents fought the school about this, if I remember correctly, because they knew my new diagnosis was probably to blame. I just needed time to adjust.

I graduated high school!

Well, I never adjusted, but my grades improved and I got through school. I struggled in junior high and high school with other problems, though. I had trouble with not wanting to be there, I ditched…a lot.  But, I still did well, I did pretty darn good in high school, despite hardly ever being there!

I chose not to go to college right away, because I was dumb and wanted to enjoy my freedom a bit first. But once I did go to college it was too easy. I found myself shocked at how elementary the classes were. Mind you, this was general ed at a community college. I never did finish college, though, because I couldn’t bring myself to stay awake for the lectures, keep up with the homework, and do group work (I do not do well working with others), I had to work, and deal with adult life (marriage, finances, work, etc.) and diabetes.  It was too much to handle for me. After years of taking a couple classes here and there, and subsequently dropping them. I just gave up.

Have you been treated differently for being diabetic?

Only when I was a kid. My teacher in the fifth grade managed to embarrass me to hell and back. The class was getting ready to put on a history play; our teacher let us know there was going to be a classroom party after the play was over and everyone would get cookies and punch. At this moment she looked me dead in the eye and said, “Not you, Tamra, I’ll find something sugar-free for you.” I swear to you every student in my class turned and stared at me like I was an alien. I wanted to dig a hole and hide.

It was at this moment that I decided to not tell anyone I was diabetic. For years to follow I never mentioned to anyone that I was diabetic. If they found out, it wasn’t from me.

Do you wear medical jewelry?

I do. As a child I wore it on and off. My parents wanted me to wear it at least when other family wasn’t around. But I was always around people who knew I was diabetic, family, friends, teachers, etc., so I never thought it was important. When I got up into junior high and high school, I spent more time alone and out in the world. But I didn’t want people to know I was diabetic so I rarely wore my medic-alert bracelet, or if I did, I made sure it was hidden under long sleeves, etc.

In my twenties I never wore medical jewelry. I frankly had forgotten about it.  Recently, after my heart surgery and eye surgeries, I decided I really need to be wearing medical jewelry, so I dug out the bracelet I have had since I was nine years old (it’s gone through several chains, though) and started wearing it regularly.

I won!

A few months ago I won a new medical bracelet from a Twitter event. I wear that one now and my original one is tucked away in a safe place.

I actually am thinking seriously about getting a “Type 1 diabetic” tattoo on my forearm.

How many forms of glucose monitoring have you used?

Example of color-coded testing

At the time of my diagnosis and for a couple years after, we used a color coded method of glucose monitoring. You would put a large drop of blood on a “chem strip”, wait a couple minutes and then wipe it off and compare the color to a chart on the strip bottle. The darker your strip, the higher your BG. Not very precise. Time consuming as well.

The first glucose monitor we had was large, heavy, slow, and required coding with each new strip. It also required large drops of blood.

Since then I have gone through at least eight meters. With each one it seems to get smaller, lighter, faster, requires less blood, and is more precise.

I also use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) now.

There’s also the A1c labs I do every 3-4 months.

Are you proud to be a diabetic?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am proud to be diabetic. I think it is kind of twisted to be proud to have a disease. But I can be proud of how far I’ve come despite my diabetes. I am proud of how well I am doing now at controlling diabetes, especially after so many years of neglect and rebellion.


One thought on “Are We The Same?”

  1. Saw your post on TUD, so I thought I should post this here too. Interesting to hear your responses; here are mine:

    Do you remember your diagnosis? How did that Dr. visit go?

    I was in my 20s, so very different from what it’s like for a kid. Still, I remember very distinctly the doc coming back with the results of my BG test with the words “Well, you are the proud owner of diabetes.” Also: “Probably your wife wouldn’t have been able to wake you up tomorrow.” I remember giving myself my first injection in the Dr’s office. I remember thinking “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” but it got easier. It would have been pig insulin back then, probably R to start with, then R/NPH–the old bad stuff I was on for far too long.

    Has diabetes harmed your memory?
    More than advancing age? I don’t think so. I’ve always had pretty good control and (knock on wood) no complications after 30+ years.

    Has diabetes harmed your education?
    I have a Ph.D. from Harvard, so I guess not 😉

    Have you been treated differently for being diabetic?
    Your story makes me glad I didn’t have to get through public school with it! No.

    Do you wear medical jewelry?
    I never did until going to Europe this past spring, first trip abroad wearing a pump so I thought having a medic alert was a good idea. It’s a silver bracelet type, kinda nice looking–checkout person at a store recently complimented me on it, not knowing what it was. I’ve thought about getting a tattoo too!

    How many forms of glucose monitoring have you used?
    Chem strips!!! oh god do I remember those. Until sometime in the early 90s (?), then glucometers of various kinds.

    Are you proud to be a diabetic?
    Proud of having it doesn’t make any sense. But I don’t make any big secret of it, or go off and hide if I need to do a fingerstick or a bolus or use an injector pen. I’m reasonably discrete about it but I’m not going out of my way to hide it–I’m not ashamed of it, let’s put it that way. That may be another difference of not having had to go through school and puberty with it. I can definitely see how that would make you totally resistant to other people knowing. But yeah, I’m proud to have survived the slings and arrows of it for 30+ years.


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