I'm a diabetic. I allude to it frequently on this blog. But I never really talk about living with diabetes. Liz Henry has a wonderful post up at BlogHer about Invisible Illness Week, for people living with non-obvious disabilities or chronic illness. Liz's post made me realize that, while I mention my diabetes often, I never talk about how it's affected me. I guess it's time to change that.
In 2004, I knew virtually nothing about diabetes. I have no family history. I didn't know any diabetics. And then I turned up with insulin dependent gestational diabetes while I was pregnant with Hollis. Gestational diabetes affects from 2-4% of pregnancies; even fewer require insulin to manage the condition. The GD caused many complications with my pregnancy, and not of the type I was expecting. I had only heard about GD causing big babies. I had no idea that the opposite could happen. We believe that my gestational diabetes caused the placenta to prematurely deteriorate, resulting in intrauterine growth disorder. Hollis stopped growing. Luckily, my doctor was completely on top of it. It was scary as hell, but in the end, Hollis turned out just fine. Well, except for a few issues with his digestive system. But we've sort of blocked most of that from our memories. (See photo, right.)
For the vast majority of gestational diabetics, everything is fine within a few days of giving birth. That didn't happen with me. For the few who don't lose the roller-coasting blood sugars, it turns out that many were probably undiagnosed diabetics before they became pregnant. We know that I wasn't. I'd been tested during our round with infertility and the first time I saw my endocrinologist during my pregnancy, my A1C Hemoglobin level was wonderful.
I guess I'm just lucky. In a condition that affects 2-4% of pregnancies, only around 1% become full fledged diabetics immediately after pregnancy. That's me. I'm a full fledged diabetic.
I've been incredibly lucky. Aside from my two pregnancies, my diabetes has been easily maintained through diet and, occasionally, with oral medication. I get an A1C every 3 months; I have my eyes checked by an opthamologist every 2 years; and my cholesterol and triglycerides are carefully monitored. Until recently, it's all been pretty easy. You see, I have good health insurance and can afford the best preventative care. But this isn't a post about health care reform. It's about how things can change with no warning.
Last Friday I woke up feeling like ass. My blood sugar was a bit high when I woke up, but nothing dangerous. Still, that afternoon I had a photo shoot out at Sandbridge beach, which is quite a drive from our house. I had Trey drive me because I was still feeling crappy and he and the boys played while I snapped photos. On the way home, I had to have Trey pull the car over so I could throw up. When I checked my blood sugar, it was higher than I've ever seen it before. And it stayed that way all weekend.
When I saw my doctor this week, she found the cause pretty easily. I had a urinary tract infection. Apparently infections can cause a sharp increase in blood sugar. I took my antibiotics and now my blood sugar is slowly heading back into normal territory.
I had a small glimpse of what can happen with uncontrolled blood sugar. And it was scary. I've spent the last 5 years pretty much pretending my life was exactly the same; that my health was exactly the same. But it isn't. If anything, the need to take care of myself, to carefully monitor what I eat and how much I eat has been starkly reinforced.
It's a lesson I won't forget.