Diabetes has invaded my life and my life. I try to ignore it sometimes, but it terrifies me. I’ve seen what it can do to a body and I know it’s already changed my own body. Yet I still have a great deal of hope that I’ll one day conquer this condition. I’ll be delighted if I do, because the costs are enormous in many ways.
Of course diabetes affects me physically. It’s a tough disease for me because I don’t know what my body is doing to me at any given time. Are my blood sugars too high? Sometimes I can tell by feelings of lethargy and deep thirst, but not always. Are my blood sugars too low? Sometimes I feel shaky and weak. But the feelings don’t always match up to the numbers. It’s exasperating to me to find my blood sugars are over three hundred or in the low sixties even though I exhibit no symptoms.
I’m lucky because I don’t mind pricking my fingers for testing or taking 5 shots of insulin daily. Needles aren’t a problem for me, though I do hate that stinging sensation for a few minutes after taking insulin. It occurs because my body is allergic to insulin, I’m told. The small discomfort is only a symbol to me that I’m not an entirely healthy person anymore. The diagnosis of diabetes in November, 2005 took my belief in my good health away. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think I started growing older then. Until the diagnosis I felt like a 20 year old, even though I was actually 37 years old. The physical effects of diabetes feel minimal to me, but they are very powerful.
The diagnosis of diabetes has broken me on an emotional level a few times. I feel the stigma attached to having type 2 diabetes and being overweight. I was overweight before my diagnosis and have had to deal with the concerns that I caused, or exacerbated my condition by not watching my diet better. I fret that I’m not taking better care of my diabetes than what I do. But even in the weeks when I take all my meds, do all the testing, exercise and watch my diet my blood sugars sometimes seem to rise and dip on their own. I sometimes feel defeated. Luckily that doesn’t happen often. Despite the opinion that diabetes has aged me I still usually have the starry eyed optimism of a young person. Sometimes that’s what saves a little of the emotional toll this illness has caused to my heart.
Diabetes frightens me, too, because I’ve seen its’ effects on others. I’ve seen diabetics in ICU at the local hospital whose blood glucose levels rose to 600 and above or dropped to 30 or below. One of those patients was my own mother. I dread the thought of being placed on life support machines with numbers like that, unconscious and maybe drooling a little. The pictures in my mind are more graphic because of what I’ve witnessed with other diabetics. I fear losing a limb as many diabetics do. I guard my feet and my eyes especially. Fear is a costly fact of life with diabetes. On the other hand I’m thankful for the opportunities to keep some level of control over my condition with insulin, exercise, diet and medications. I’m also grateful that my doctor in knowledgeable and understanding. Even when I went into his office and admitted I hadn’t taken my medications for a month he just shook his head and got my treatment started again. I’ve never missed such a large quantity of meds since.
Mentally, I have stretched to meet the challenge of learning about my disease. At first, I was overwhelmed by the information available to me on the internet, from my doctor and even from my insurance company. After a pause of ignorant bliss on my part I realized that to try to wrest control of my health I would have to learn about my condition. Now I can quote nutritional fact, explain how my insulin works with my diet and exercise and I try to keep in the loop with diabetic breakthroughs. On a mental level I’d say learning about diabetes has been good for me. It would seem diabetic support groups could help figure all this out, but I never had the nerve to join one.
One final cost of diabetes is the financial cost. Diabetes is an expensive disease. Though you can get a test meter for a good price, or for free, the test strips are expensive. The lancets aren’t expensive but you still have to buy them every month. You have to have needles for your insulin. If you’re only on oral medications many of them are generics and not too bad. I’m lucky. I have good insurance. Still, I pay about $350 out of pocket for insulin, medications and supplies every month. I can afford that, thankfully, though it means doing without some other items. But the cost is prohibitive. I talk to other diabetics who pay much more based on their insurance or having no insurance. Even my pharmaceutical tech has tried to give me tips about coupons and specials. If I were to lose my job and my insurance I would not be able to get my medications without some type of help.
The financial cost extends to my job. Not only is there the health insurance but there are the sick days when I just can’t get my blood glucose down below 400 and I feel too bad to fight diabetes and do my job. There are half sick days when my blood glucose gets into the 50s so I take too much glucose and it ends up at 350 or my numbers are too high and then drop due to too much insulin. I try very hard to keep these incidents to a minimum. I try to carefully coordinate my doctors visits. But the cost is still passed onto my employer and I can’t help but fret about it. .
The toll of diabetes has been immense for me. Physically, emotionally, mentally and cost wise I have spent quite a bit on this condition. Yet I have been blessed in many ways. I still pray, for myself and for all diabetics, that one day there will be a cure for diabetes.