This is Me

I started my freshmen year of college in August of 2019. It was a whole new world. I was three hours away from my hometown, my friends, my parents. I made friends and went out to parties. A lot of people get what is called the “freshmen sickness” when they first go to college. Essentially its just a cold. I found that I never could get rid of this cold. I also was actively losing weight and ended up losing around 60 pounds since March of 2019. I was sick every month and it never went away. When I went home for Christmas break in December, it got worse. I had a fever, a sore throat, cough, and more. Eventually, the symptoms diminished but I was left with nasal congestion. The week I came back to school in January of 2020, I started experiencing foot-drop. When I walked my foot would not lift on its own. My foot would drag along the ground and I would have to lift my leg higher than the other in order to walk. I dealt with this for a few weeks before going to the hospital on January 27, 2020, in hopes to get some answers.

They did blood work and other diagnostic testing like an MRI. They quickly came to the conclusion that I had diabetes. With no education, no resources, no plan of action, and not answers as to why I had foot-drop, they discharged me from the hospital. It was not till the next day when my mother called the doctor and demanded some type of treatment plan. They prescribed me metformin and gave me a glucose meter, test strips and a lancet device. I still had no education on what diabetes even was. I thought you could only be born with type 1 diabetes. With this false information and being prescribed metformin, I thought I had type 2 diabetes. I was all alone at college surrounded by people who did not know what diabetes was either. I thought it was my fault that I got diabetes, that I caused it somehow. My A1C made me an urgent patient so I got an endocrinology appointment that same week. I also visited student health the day after my hospital visit because I had contracted conjunctivitis while there and I had a sinus infection.

Student health at my University were the most helpful out of all the doctors I visited. They were the ones that prescribed me with my first dose of insulin. They taught me what diabetes was, how to inject insulin, how much to give, where to inject insulin, etc. My first endocrinologist told me I could only eat 60 carbohydrates a day. She was so focused on my eating habits and told me to restrict anything that had a lot of carbohydrates. I was told I should only be eating the green stuff. Living 19 years of my life as a “normal” person and all of a sudden being diagnosed with this disease, crashed and burned my world. I thought my life was over. I love potatoes and pasta, the things filled with carbohydrates. The endocrinologist made it seem like I could never eat that again. I still had no answers as to why I was experiencing foot-drop. All the doctors I visited wrote it off on my diabetes now. They made me feel like what I was experiencing was less than because I had diabetes and that there was no other reason this could be happening. I went to countless doctor appointments for my diabetes and foot-drop. I did not have my parents there or a support system to help me through such a dark time in my life. After my appointments I would sit in my car and cry, by myself, all alone. My friends made jokes about my diabetes and I just laughed with them even though it was killing me inside. I was in so much pain mentally.

I stopped taking my insulin and checking my sugar because I did not want to recognize that I had diabetes. My confidence depleted as well as my mental health. I think it is important to realize that not only does diabetes affect your physical health, but it also takes a huge toll on your mental health. Diabetes is draining and exhausting. You could do everything right and still not have a good A1C or “good” blood sugars. In March of 2020 I finally was diagnosed with a pinched nerve at my L5 in my back. This was causing my foot-drop. I went to physical therapy to fix this pinched nerve. In April 2020, I was finally diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It took them 4 months to confirm my diagnosis. I switched endocrinologist because they told me they would not put me on a pump or give me a continuous glucose monitor. In May 2020, I saw a new doctor. She told me that a pump and a CGM would be the best thing for me, but she ended up retiring right after my appointment. I had to see a new doctor. This doctor told me it would take another 3 months to get a pump, but I could get a CGM. This doctor also told me that she believed I actually had type 2 diabetes despite the blood test that I received that confirmed type 1. Keep in my mind up until this point I was not taking insulin, checking my blood sugars or managing my diabetes at all. I finally received my Dexcom G6 and after seeing a different endocrinologist, I got an omni pod.

Although I started wearing my Dexcom to check my blood sugars, I still was not taking insulin. I told my doctors, family and friends that it was due to my fear of needles. This was not the case. I actually had a fear of gaining weight and learned that a side effect of taking insulin, is weight gain. I had just lost 60 pounds and was terrified of gaining it back, so I did not take my insulin. On July 19, 2020 I went into diabetic ketoacidosis because I was not taking insulin. I stayed in the hospital for three days while undergoing treatment for DKA. While in the hospital I saw a diabetic educator, nutritionist and dietician and plenty of doctors and nurses. I realized that what I was doing to my body was so harmful. Not taking insulin has long lasting effects that I may not experience now but could cause complications down the road. I realized that diabetes is something I am going to have to live with for the rest of my life. I must accept that, and it is hard.

The people I surround myself with do not know the struggle and the toll it takes on me. But I know I am strong and determined to not let this disease control me. It is crucial to take my insulin and wear my pump. I must take this more seriously because if I do not, it could kill me. Diabetes is a chronic disease, yes, but it will not take over my life, I will not let it affect me, I will not let it tear me down, it will not consume me. Diabetes is apart of who I am now, and I am learning to love myself for who I am, with this disease.  

Dakota Pigg

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