In June 2015, I had what some people might regard as an odd anniversary. It was my 21 year “diabetiversary” – marking 21 years since I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. About a year before that diagnosis, I had gone to a family planning clinic in California (Planned Parenthood) to get a prescription for birth control pills since I was a newlywed who had no immediate plans for pregnancy. At the time, I was given an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test, that “fun” test that nearly every pregnant woman remembers not so fondly: rapidly consuming a sickly sweet, cola-like drink and then having blood drawn afterwards. I was told that I had “borderline diabetes,” or in other words, prediabetes. I sat in my car, mad at myself, and unsure what to do next, with little advice other than “lose weight.” So I changed nothing, continued to gain weight, smoke cigarettes, and do little-to-no physical activity.
After another women’s health-related visit I was diagnosed with diabetes in June of 1994, at the age of 25. I burst into tears. The first question to come out of my mouth was, “will I be able to have children?” My health care provider was surprised at my intense reaction to the diagnosis, and reassured me that it was possible for me to manage my diabetes and have a healthy pregnancy, when I was ready. That time didn’t come for another 10 years, when, thanks to a great team of health professionals, healthy eating and physical activity, and frequent, regular blood sugar testing and insulin injections, I gave birth to my kiddo, who was a healthy, full-term, baby just under seven pounds.
These days, I’m a busy, working, single mom with 20 years of diabetes self-management experience under my belt. I focus on eating plenty of vegetables, and using the savings I anticipate from my Smart Health incentive, tracking my physical activity on my personal wearable activity tracker. Sometimes I wonder what I would have done with the extra time, money, and brain-space I used to address and self-manage diabetes in these past 20 years if I’d been able to prevent or at least delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. I don’t blame myself, or anyone else that has developed type 2 diabetes, and I understand that there’s no known way to prevent or delay type 1 diabetes. But I wonder, if I had been able to participate in a Diabetes Prevention Program back then, would I have more time and resources now? (State Employees and spouses enrolled in PEBB can get more information about Diabetes Prevention Program classes with no out-of-pocket costs).
I encourage anyone who finds out they have prediabetes to look into the Diabetes Prevention Program. Getting screened for diabetes is easy, and in many cases, covered by insurance as part of your preventive health care. And for people like me who work every day to keep blood sugar, blood pressure, and other measures in the ideal range, I encourage you to seek out the help you need – supportive health care providers (including diabetes educators and mental health professionals), friends, mobile apps, walks, cups of hot tea, and deep breathing exercises – whatever keeps you on track and helps you stay afloat. Having diabetes isn’t easy, and it’s yet another twist in life’s winding path. but I have found it is manageable, and I’m able to say that 21 years since I was diagnosed, I’m lucky to not yet have any diabetes-related complications.