Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page

Seven stages of grief

7.  Shock.

I get up the next morning, and several mornings after that having slept fitfully.  I’m dreaming about odd things at night, and I’m not getting to bed at a decent hour either.  I don’t even try to research much, which is really unusual for me.  Typically, I want to find out all I can when something new or different comes along, but this time is different.

6. Guilt.

Oh boy, this one comes at me hard.  My husband had to deal with his diabetic mother for years.  She never took proper care of herself until it was really too late and things were pretty far gone.  I hate that he’s going to have to deal with this all over again.  He doesn’t deserve that.  Not to mention, now my kids have a likely chance of getting diabetes themselves.  If only I’d taken better care of myself, I wouldn’t be in this position now.  If only, if only.  I crawled into my cave and wanted to stay there for days, I was so unhappy with what I’d done to myself and my family.

5.  Fear.

The research bug finally kicks in.  I start finding out about how I could go blind, how I could lose my feet or legs, how I could need a transplant of some kind some day.  I learn about insulin, and the daily testing I’ll need to do- couple that with my fear of needles and shots in general, and you’ve got fear big time.  One of my favorite movies is “Defending Your Life” with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep.  It’s about how after we die, we have to defend our life and prove that we have faced our fears during our time on earth.  If we win the trial, we are moved forward in the universe.  If we lose the trial, we are sent back to Earth to try again.  I sure hope diabetes isn’t the universe’s way of making me face my fears.

Of course, what I’m really afraid of is that I won’t be able to get this under control, and that I’ll have all these complications or worse.  I worry that I’ll die young.   My dad died unexpectedly when he was only 46.  He never got to know my kids, or really know me as an adult.  My grandmother always used to go around talking about how we had to be good to her now, because she wasn’t going to live very long.  That line of guilt was used on me for 30 years, and she’s still going strong.  I don’t want to make anyone feel guilty because I’m worried about dying before I get to know my grandchildren, but sometimes the words are out of my mouth before I can stop them.  Just tonight, I said that I wouldn’t live to see 80, that if I got to 60 I’d be lucky.  No one wants to hear that.  I know they hate it when I say that.

4. Depression.

This stage isn’t really its own stage for me in this case.  It’s been part of all the other stages.  At one point last week, I realized how badly I’d been treating a couple of people in my life and I did my best to make amends.  I did recognize that I’d been in a depressive state for about 10 days, and things finally started to lift a bit after that. The fear and guilt really feed the depression, so I’m trying to find better ways of coping with those to keep the depression monster away.

3. Denial.

This stage does not last long for me.  One night, I eat dinner and then at about midnight, I eat dinner again.  Big mistake.  I wind up with the shakes, and getting sick and getting a terrible charley horse in my stomach muscles.  If you’ve never had one before, believe me, it’s way worse than the ones in your calf muscles.   I’m also oddly concerned about telling people about this.  My husband and my kids know, as does my business partner.  I haven’t told anyone else, except people online who only know me under a screenname.  I’m already sensing a certain amount of judgment from people about what I’m eating, or what I should be eating.  I really don’t want to deal with that.  I don’t want someone feeling compelled to be the food police over me.  It’s annoying, and it won’t make me compliant.  So I guess that means I’m keeping this to myself for now, to the extent that I can.   Except for you all here.

2. Anger.

I start acting out- almost picking fights, being paranoid that things are going badly at work, looking for things to be offended about.  I’m feeling miserable about it.  I’m not my normal self.  I’m not engaging with others like I should be.  Why is this happening to me!  This is toning down now, and I’m not doing this fly-off-the-handle thing now.

1. Acceptance.

I don’t know if I’m here yet.  It’s only been about 2 weeks since I got the diagnosis.  I have a lot of learning yet to do, and I am doing a bit of research each day.  I did make the appointment with the diabetes educator/dietician person, and I ordered a couple of BG meters to try out.  The companies were offering them for free online, so I figured that would be less expensive than having to buy one.  I hear it’s the test strips that are really expensive.

Maybe I’ll to through these stages more than once.  I see items about “diabetes burnout” on a number of sites, but I haven’t read any of that yet.  I imagine that will someday be an issue I’ll have to deal with too.  Right now I’m still trying to wrap my head around what’s happening.  In the back of my mind, I think to myself how great it would be if I could reach 50 in ten years and be able to look back and say that getting diagnosed with diabetes was the best thing that could have happened to me because it forced me to change.  That it saved my life.  Today, that seems like a total fantasy.  Like I could lose weight, get all these issues fixed and feel healthy and active.  I just don’t know how I’m ever going to do this.

The Diagnosis

Yes, it’s been a while.  I’ve been busy with stuff I never wanted to be busy with.  You all recall my expereinces with my (now) prior doctor- how she refused to treat anything I showed up with, and how she never showed me any respect.  It had been nearly 18 months since I had been in to see her, since the last interaction went so badly.  I finally decided to get copies of my medical records so I could find a new doctor.

Imagine my surprise in reading my chart that I have been pre-to-full-on diabetic for the better part of three years, and that my iron levels were dangerously low.  She never related anything about my blood sugar, and only talked about the anemia in passing, as if it wasn’t such a big deal.  Of course according to her, everything would magically resolve itself if only I would magically lose about 150 pounds.  We all know how well that went.

So I manage to find a doctor in town who is supposed to be a good person.  My first visit, she listens, asks a few questions, does some tests and says that we’re going to get to the bottom of this anemia thing because she’s like a dog with a bone.  I leave feeling like I finally have a real partner in fixing my health for a change.  She says they’ll call me next week with my test results.

Only they call me two days later saying I need to make an appointment to come in NOW to see her to discuss the results.  And I need to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist she’s referring me to right away also.  Warning bells are going off in my head- this does not sound good at all.  I ask the nurse to fax me the lab results, and they actually do it.

Now, I’m no doctor, and I don’t know the first thing about these lab numbers or what the acronyms mean.  So, Wikipedia here I come!  My iron is so low, at only 17, that it’s a wonder I’m functional at all.  No wonder I’ve been so exhausted and cloudy-minded lately!  My blood glucose is 128, fasting.  That could be high or high-normal depending on which scale you’re using.  I’m really more worried about the anemia problem at this point, having read about all sorts of disorders like bone marrow defects that can cause this level of anemia.  The rest of the causes point to a gastro-related issue, which I’m sure I don’t have, because everything seems pretty normal to me.

So I spend the weekend scaring myself to death with the lab results and Googling different diseases, waiting for Monday to arrive and my gastro and new doc appointments.

The gastro tells me they want to schedule both a colonoscopy and an upper endoscopy for the same day.   I try everything I can to get out of this, because the last thing I want to do is have scopes in both ends.  Even in one end.  Any end.  It’s all bad, bad, bad.  Yuck.  And the preparation you have to go through is no fun either.   The PA at the gastro clinic just shakes his head at me and acts like he’s seen all this before.  I’m only 39, I think to myself.  I shouldn’t have to do this for another 10 years.

So off to my new doc I go.  I tell her I’ve already seen the test results and that I’m concerned about the anemia.  She says I also have high cholesterol, which we’re going to treat with medication right away.  This was also another issue that the former doctor knew about but never bothered to treat.  Then the new doc says the anemia is treatable, she’s starting me on Slow Fe to get my iron levels up, but the gastro stuff must be checked out to find the root cause of the problem.  And then the bombshell.

I have diabetes, she says.  I’ve been fine up until now, not emotional, pretty clinical, listing other symptoms I’d forgotten to tell her about last week.  Now I start to tear up, and she hands me a tissue.  She says we caught it early.  With my BG over 126, that qualifies as diabetes, and I’ll likely have to deal with it for the rest of my life.  She says no medication for now, but she’s scheduling me with a dietician and they’ll get me started with a blood glucose meter.

Then I’m off to a City Council meeting in a daze.  My life has just changed, and I’m feeling a little numb.

Next time, the seven stages of grief…