- When I lost weight, became easily fatigued, and had blurry vision, I didn’t know what was going on.
- I went to five healthcare professionals, and they didn’t know what was wrong with me either.
- My husband rushed me to the ER, and bloodwork showed I was dealing with Type 1 diabetes.
I wasn’t surprised when I fell ill with a stomach virus over Thanksgiving break in 2005. I’d been working nonstop for the past six months to earn my master’s degree. In addition to taking two grad-school classes — both in the evenings — I was teaching an entry-level writing class to mostly college freshmen. Thanksgiving was the first break I’d had in months.
I thought I’d bounce back quickly, as I always had. But I didn’t gain back the 5 pounds I lost during my illness. Despite eating thousands of calories a day — and consuming much of those in the form of juice to quench my incredible thirst — I continued dropping weight. I went from a size 6 to a size 00 in about six months.
The symptoms began to add up with seemingly no explanation
I also began to experience chronic sinus infections that never completely cleared up, even with strong antibiotics. I went to the doctor each time, leaving with the same diagnosis and a new prescription.
My symptoms progressed. I began feeling depressed about my weight. I bought padded bras to make up for the breast tissue I was losing and layered all my clothes to appear bigger than I was. My classmates and my students whispered about me, and professors looked at me with increasing concern. The strategic wardrobe I’d started wearing wasn’t fooling anyone.
My general practitioner gave me a referral for a dietitian. I was excited to see her, hoping she would offer me some answers. Instead, she told me to eat more calories, and I wasn’t sure how I would manage that. Despite being very thin, weighing under 100 pounds on my 5-foot-8 frame, I was usually bloated from all the juice I was drinking.
Around this time, I also had my annual eye exam. The doctor handed over my prescription, and I chose new glasses and ordered contact lenses. However, when I received them, my vision was still blurry. I returned to the doctor multiple times, complaining that I couldn’t see well. He grew exasperated with me, as much as I grew exasperated with him.
I also decided to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist for my sinus infections. This appointment was not only expensive but pointless. I left with no answers and more dismay.
I saw 5 medical professionals and got no answers. I was starting to lose hope.
I grew increasingly depressed and wondered what was wrong with me. I remember lying in my bed one night, looking at my wedding photo. We both looked so happy and healthy, and now I was wasting away, and no one seemed able to help me.
My feet were also numb much of the time, but I figured it was from my long walks across campus. I was also weak and required daily naps. I also remember a few nights I would wet the bed. I had to urinate frequently, of course — I was guzzling water and juice.
I visited my GP again. It was my 18th appointment in a year and a half. He said I was either a hypochondriac or anorexic, and he sent me on my way.
Then I saw my gynecologist. She looked at me and told me she thought I needed a specialist. I left, exhausted, and took a nap on my couch. My phone was ringing — my husband and I usually had a check-in call during the day — but I didn’t hear it. The next thing I knew, he was putting me in our car and driving to the emergency room.
It was there, after several blood draws, that I got a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. My blood sugar was seven times as high as the norm, and I was in diabetic ketoacidosis. The doctors told me I was very lucky to be alive, as my body was in a state of toxicity. I was dying.
I finally had a diagnosis: Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body stops making insulin, a life-sustaining hormone. Each medical professional I’d seen had evaluated me based on the scope of their specialty, missing the big picture.
Common symptoms of the onset of Type 1 diabetes are blurry vision, chronic thirst, urinary issues, weight loss, mood changes, and more. These can be mistaken for symptoms of other common illnesses, like a urinary-tract infection, depression, or an eating disorder.
Undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes can quickly become deadly. If my husband hadn’t taken me to the emergency room when he did, I wouldn’t be alive today.
Medical professionals and everyday people need to know the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes and act accordingly — and quickly. Doing so may just save a person’s life.