I felt on top of the world in January 2011. I had just graduated from Penn State with a PhD, completed my first semester as a university Professor (my dream profession that required 11.5 years of college), and I was working out five days a week (on the path to getting below 200lbs, a long-term goal that I put aside to complete the dissertation). I shed 10lbs in January and was eager to see what February’s results would be.
Unfortunately, things got very strange in February. I was losing weight RAPIDLY! In 10 days I had lost 22lbs and was frantic because I knew it couldn’t be from working out because I was suddenly too tired to make it to the gym.
I was also extremely thirsty and urinating a lot. I didn’t think my level of thirst was normal, so I went to a physician (it was our first meeting since I was new to the area). She reassured me that my thirst was due to excess exercise caused by working out five days a week, my electrolytes were off and since I only drank water I needed to “Drink Gatorade,” she said.
But after a week of drinking Gatorade and other sugary drinks, I knew that something more serious was wrong with me. By the following week, I sat in the rear of the church on Sunday because I couldn’t get through service without going to the restroom; my vision was blurred; I lost my appetite; my lectures were interrupted because I couldn’t recall information accurately; and the fatigue was overwhelming.
On Valentine’s Day, I was so exhausted that my co-workers, having seen the ill look on my face, insisted that I go home and rest rather than have office hours. On my way home, I fell asleep at a couple of traffic lights. The car horns that honked behind me broke the slumber and I drove to the next light. When I arrived home, I walked into bathroom, ran a hot bath, and sat down in the tub hoping that the warm waters would rejuvenate me.
I passed out.
I awakened hours later in a daze. I was scared. But I didn’t call anyone and I lived alone. I decided that in the morning, I would pack a bag, go back to the physician, and not return home until someone told me EXACTLY what was wrong with me. Thankfully, I woke up the next morning. I explained to the physician that her suggestion to drink Gatorade had only caused me to get sicker. She pricked my finger and stepped out. Her assisted whispered, “Your glucose didn’t register and that’s not a good thing.”
“WHAT? What in the heck does that mean?” I called my mom (a nurse). When the physician entered the room with a needle in her hand, my mother was on the receiver demanding that I “go to the emergency room, NOW!”
“You’re not a case for the emergency room because you’re not in a lot of pain. If you go, you’ll have to exaggerate your pain scale,” the physician replied when I said that I was going to obey my mama and go to the emergency room. “Let me give you this shot before you go and tell them your pain is 10 out of 10.”
“I am going to go. My mama said ‘go.’”
Unable to stand on my own, I called a co-worker to take me to the hospital. By the time I got there, I required a wheelchair and I had forgotten all about “exaggerating my symptoms.” Plus, there was no need to; within 20 minutes I heard the following words “Your glucose is 593. You’re on your way into a coma. Get her in the back stat. She needs an IV. How long have you been a diabetic?”
“What? Never. I’m not a diabetic.”
“With a glucose reading of 593, you’re a diabetic now! And, if we don’t get that number down quickly, you will go into a coma.”
“I’m not a diabetic, I don’t even know any diabetics. I’m just very tired. A coma, Really?”
I was admitted. I spent the next six days in the hospital crying, being confused, scared, and feeling more alone than ever. At 31 years old, I became the first diabetic in my family (and I’ve taken both of my family trees and shaken them upside down. Since people claim that genetics is such a huge factor, I thought that I would surely find someone. But 4 grandparents, 11 uncles, 3 aunts, 2 parents, and 1 sibling later, I’m still the lone diabetic). I had also been getting routine blood work tested every six months for the previous 5 years as a graduate student (as I had elevated cholesterol). Since people also say that the majority of diabetics were pre-diabetic before their diagnosis, I ordered my medical records from Penn State to check. I had two A1C and fasting glucose results each year for past 5 years, including the last one just six months prior, but all my tests were normal. No sign of elevated glucose anywhere.
As if that wasn’t enough, two months later on April 16th, an EF3 tornado destroyed my apartment complex.
Today, I am med-free and manage diabetes with diet and exercise. My journey of passing out, being on the brink of a coma, having a tornado karate-chop my home, and ditching all medication within eight months is the reason why my motto is Diagnosed NOT Defeated.