I called my mom the other day to ask her to bring my childhood immunization records with her when we met for dinner that night. I was trying to get my medical records in order with my Primary Care doc, and realized I have no idea what shots I’ve had or not had. When we met that evening, she had unearthed some ancient vaccine records, but also this:
It may be a little hard to read, but it’s the letter documenting my diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes on Christmas Eve, 1992 when I was 10 years old. It also showed me what my blood sugar was that morning when they tested me – up until seeing this letter I’d never been able to recall the exact number. It was 250 mg/dL. I remember my grandfather, who was a retired endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic where I was diagnosed, didn’t react to the number. Although I am sure he knew that I had diabetes as soon as the number flashed on the screen, he kept a flat expression because he didn’t want to scare me. I remember him repeating the number out loud, as if he was making sure this was really happening. He’d treated thousands of people with diabetes in his long career at Mayo, but never expected to be treating his own granddaughter one day. The letter notes that no one else in my family has diabetes.
The rest of the letter is a scary trip down diabetes memory lane. My A1c at the time of my diagnosis, was a terrifying 18.2%. How I was still running around, playing in the Minnesota snow with my sisters I will never know. Kids can power through a lot I guess. Even at the age of 10, I knew something was wrong. I knew it wasn’t normal to have to pee five times during the course of one episode of the Ninja Turtles. I knew that downing 10 cups of water at lunch wasn’t normal. But I never said anything because I was afraid. I was afraid of what I already knew in my heart: that something was wrong.
The letter goes on to talk about my treatment regimen; a combination of NPH and Regular insulin. It notes that the family was trained on “blood glucose monitoring…advised to check blood glucose values before each meal and at bedtime.” It doesn’t mention how lucky I was that I didn’t have to spend a single night in the hospital, because I was allowed to go home with my grandfather, who was already an expert in diabetes management.
What was so strange about reading the letter is that it made so clear that foggy time in my life. In my memory, my diagnosis is so clouded by my 10-year-old confusion and lack of understanding that I can’t really remember how that day all happened. Up until reading the letter, the details of the day were fuzzy, and maybe I kept them that way because it’s a tough day to remember.
But I think the best part of reading that letter is to think about how much has changed in my almost 20 years with diabetes. I have on my CGM and wireless pump right now, as I sit here typing a diabetes blog that allows me to connect with hundreds or other people who had the exact same type of devastating diagnosis, but are now striving to live well with diabetes. And if I didn’t have that diagnosis at age 10, I would most certainly not be the person I am today. I am no longer afraid of diabetes, and I don’t have to hide it. If nothing else, that letter is a tremendous symbol for just how far I have come.