Thursday, October 3, 2013

Celebrating Love and Living Large -- October 5

This weekend Rick and I will celebrate 22 years of wedded bliss...and what better way to toast our togetherness than challenge a group of friends to join us and walk a few miles to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. Am I right?

Our marriage journey has carried us about 2/3 of the way through my own personal journey with Type 1 Diabetes. Honestly, I can't imagine walking this crazy path with anyone else.

I was diagnosed on December 13, 1978, at the tender age of 11 (here's a fun fact, I started dating Rick just 5 years later...holy smokes!). Apparently I wasn't just developing high cheekbones as I thought. The extreme loss of body fat, leaving my cheekbones protruding more like an emaciated prisoner of war than a super model, was the result of my pancreas shutting down production of the hormone insulin. When this happens the body can't transform the calories you eat into energy to fuel your brain, heart, and muscles, instead it delves into the stored energy secreted away in our fatty tissue. For me there wasn't much to begin with, but by the time I was diagnosed I was a walking skeleton (honestly, I imagined that I'd finally come into my own and soon would be swapping stories with Brooke Shields at a Seventeen magazine photo shoot!).

My diagnosis led to a week long hospital stay to help me adjust and assure that I didn't slip into diabetic ketoacidosis thanks to the incredibly high blood sugar numbers I was experiencing. During that week the nurses and my doctor taught me how to think differently about food and helped me learn to give myself injections. Home monitoring of blood glucose at that time was accomplished with urine glucose test strips -- yeah it really is just what it sounds like and for a young girl it was super disgusting! Everything they shared with me then still applies today...but the semantics have certainly evolved dramatically.

I now have an insulin pump that I wear 24/7 so that it can administer insulin in micro-bursts throughout the day or I can program in the number of carbohydrates that I've just eaten and give myself a bolus of insulin to cover that food. I also have a trusty glucose meter that allows me to determine my blood sugar level at any time (mine even communicates with my pump via radio frequency). Using those tools for a finger prick of blood took me some getting used to, just ask my post-college roommate Lynn Heilig Faber who was present when I acquired my first ever glucose meter. Lynn would poke my finger for me to avoid my squeamish fainting spells. Back in 1978 when I was first diagnosed, I went to the doctor's office every Friday morning for a blood draw...and I passed out every Friday was fun!

The road I've traveled has been littered with highs and lows and plenty of debris to maneuver. I am not fond of eating pretty much anything green; I have never met a glass of wine or a pint of beer that I didn't appreciate and enjoy; and I'm a lousy example of a solid commitment to physical fitness. But, the consistent element over these 35 years is that each and every day I have chosen to live and therefore I've committed myself to doing whatever is needed toward that purpose. Since my body would simply stop functioning without the artificial infusion of insulin, I am ridiculously grateful to the crew of egg heads who toiled away in their laboratories in the early 1900s to discover insulin and determine a way to administer it.

I laugh every time a friend or family member reminisces about a time they witnessed me experiencing an episode of low blood sugar (the result of administering more insulin than is needed for the carbohydrates in your system). Those singular moments when I wasn't in perfect control of the disease that challenges my body have become somehow synonymous with me and my health in their minds. It is too bad. Those rare experiences are but a small collection of the more than 1,104,492,410 seconds that I have managed this disease perfectly. When everything runs without need for intervention (99% of the past 35 years) the challenge that I face and master alone each day is forgotten.

But, I, and the nearly 26 million other Americans living with diabetes, know it is there each and every second, waiting like a stealth leopard to pounce and devour it's prey. We know it because if we don't acknowledge it's reach and depredation -- and act on it -- we will simply succumb. And, trust me on this, I rarely lay down when a fight is brewing!

After 35 years of tackling a killer head on and 22 years of sharing that load with Rick, we celebrate this Saturday. We celebrate survival. We celebrate love. We celebrate the medical nerds who unwind the complications of our genes and cells and seek solutions. We celebrate every single person who has ever donated toward the research that allows me to kick ass and take names each day as a healthy member of my community.

Be a part of this celebration by contributing to the American Diabetes Association and help me fund a cure that will change millions of tomorrows. You can contribute to our team (we are called Team 2-2; select any one of our team members, including Rick, Connor, and me) here. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

PS -- I will post a few photos from our walk next week. We are dressing up in our fanciest wedding attire for this shin dig...should be fun!

PPS -- Check us out! What fun we had.

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