June 9th, 2017 was the day when my life changed forever. Before then, I was full of energy, optimism and was going through life without a care in the world. I was work-a-holic, and working three jobs because I enjoyed pushing myself and the feeling that I was giving something back to the world. I was also an enthusiastic athlete using the majority of my free time to train for and compete in marathons and ultramarathons. After I completed my first 50 mile race in Spring 2016, I decided I wanted to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon and started training so I targeted the Ocean Drive Marathon (26.2 miles) in March of 2017. I ramped up my training and thought everything was going well. I was getting faster and I lost a little bit of weight which I attributed to the intense training. The day of the race came and I came up just short, 12 minutes slower than what I needed. Despite not making my time, I was happy because I still dropped 25 minute off my previous personal record. Determined not to slow down, I ran another strong marathon (26.2 miles) in April of that year before deciding to take a break from training to plan my upcoming wedding in September. Life was good!
During the weeks and months that followed, I continued to lose weight, despite a much easier workout schedule and no real changes in diet. Then in May, out of nowhere, my vision got really blurry. I remember attending a work conference at this time, where I met people, had full conversations with them but couldn’t recognize them the next day when they were wearing different clothes. It was incredibly embarrassing, so I had my eyes checked and got glasses. I asked the eye doctor at the time how my vision could turn so poor so quickly and she told me that, “It probably happened gradually and I just didn’t notice.” Then she added, “Sometimes sudden vision loss can be caused by a thyroid condition or diabetes but I don’t think that is it in your case”. I thought she must be right. I was hypothyroid but it was well controlled. And diabetes, I thought only kids and people who didn’t take care of themselves got that (boy was I wrong)! Then a week or two later, my vision corrected on it’s own and I didn’t need my glasses anymore. It was very strange! Not long after that, I started to notice that I was really thirsty all the time and I began getting dry mouth. I was also going to the bathroom a lot since I was drinking so much water. I didn’t think much of it at first but it kept getting worse and worse. I was hungry all the time and craving sugar and even though I was working out, I felt like my muscles were weak and I was generally exhausted despite getting enough sleep.
I mistakenly self-diagnosed my symptoms and assumed that my thyroid levels must be out of whack. I was due to have my annual blood work done anyway, so I made an appointment for a few weeks out, the first available one. Then one morning, I got up and weighed myself and I had lost even more weight. I was down to 105 lbs despite trying desperately to gain weight and I started to get nervous. At 5’3”, healthy weight should be closer to the 110-130 lb range. I went into work and tried to make progress but I was exhausted, had an intense brain fog and couldn’t focus so I left early. I decided to start fasting for my bloodwork that night so I could get a walk in appointment the following morning.
I went to bed but couldn’t sleep well because I kept having to get up to drink water and go to the bathroom. When the morning finally came, I got out of bed and tried to walk downstairs but I was so weak it felt almost impossible. I had to stop to sit and rest before I even made it to my bedroom door (about 10 ft of walking) despite having complete my fastest marathon only a few months earlier. My now husband (then fiance), Marty, told me I needed to go to the hospital. I was stubborn though, trying not to worry him and told him that I would know what’s going on once I had my blood work done. After a few minutes, he got in the shower to get ready for work and I tried to make my way down the stairs of our home. Our house is a split level and I only had to make it down the hall and down six stairs but by the time I did I was so exhausted and weak that I couldn’t stand and was in no condition to drive.
Sitting there at the bottom of our stairs weak and confused, I finally realized that I needed to go to the hospital immediately. I called to Marty but he couldn’t hear me over the bathroom fan and running water. I panicked and started calling my parents and brothers who, at the time, lived less than a mile away. The first one to pick up was my brother, Stew, first and he came over immediately to take me to the hospital (before Marty even got out of the shower). When I got to the hospital, they were trying to assess my condition and began asking me questions, my brain fog was so bad that I was talking in circles and couldn’t even answer simple questions about what was wrong with me. They took me back to the ER, tested my blood sugar and discovered it was 819 (normal range is between 80 and 120). The ER nurse told me that at that level, I should have been in a coma and probably would have been if I wasn’t so healthy otherwise.
Marty and my mom arrived on the scene shortly thereafter and they told me I had Type 1 diabetes and was in Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). After a few hours in the ER, I was admitted to the ICU where they slowly brought my blood sugar back within normal range. Every hour they would do a fingerstick and write my latest blood glucose on the board. Little did I know, I would be doing this multiple times per day for the rest of my life in order to stay alive. I also wasn’t allowed to eat anything since they hadn’t figured out my insulin sensitivity or proper dosing yet. It took months to figure this out and I still make small adjustments daily to try to optimise my levels. It was completely surreal and I kept wondering how this could have happened to me, since I had always taken such good care of my health.
A few days later, it finally started to sink in that this was something I was going to have to learn to live with for the rest of my life. I resolved to come back stronger than ever and while each day is a new challenge, it’s helped to apply my running mentality to this disease. I couldn’t say it better than Dean Karnazes does in the quote below.
“If you can’t run, then walk. And if you can’t walk, then crawl. Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and never, ever give up.” ― Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner
It’s been almost 3 years since I was diagnosed and to honor that, I’m starting this blog to share my journey and some lessons I’ve learned along the way in the hopes that someone else may learn from my mistakes and find some solace in knowing you’re not alone.
Share your diagnosis story in the comments or on social media with the hashtag #T1DiagnosisStory
*Symptoms of T1 in Italics #KnowTheSigns #SaveALife
- Weight loss
- Extreme unquenchable thirst
- Dry mouth
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Fatigue and weakness
- Fruity breath odor
- Headaches & Brain fog
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*The content on this site is not intended to be medical advice. Always consult your doctor before beginning a fitness regimen or adjusting your diabetes management strategy.