Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Give myself a shot? You MUST be tripping!

On my fourth day in the hospital, the night nurse entered my room with the regiment of medications and I said, "Oh no.  You've come to give me a shot.  I hate those things."

 She smiled. "No, I am not going to give you a shot."

"Yes, you are.  I see the needle in your hand."

She smiled brighter and it was laced with a bit of wickedness.  And she repeated, "Nooo, I am not going to give you a shot." Before I could refute her again, she interjected, "You are!"

"What?  You must be tripping.  Are you serious?  No. You can't be serious." I extended my arm like I had done for the past few days.  Unfortunately, she seemed completely unmoved.  She greeted my extended arm with an extended arm of her own that held an alcohol wipe.

Like a child determined to get their way, I looked at her with pouted lips refusing to grab the alcohol wipe. She, like parent, was stern and with her body language made me understand that her word was her bond.

I grabbed the wipe, the needle, and the lancet.  Nurse Pat began talking to me and I found comfort in her words.  "I am doing you a favor.  When you leave this hospital, you're going to have to give yourself these shots and there won't be a team of nurses there to do it for you, so you need to practice here."

I believe that she could see the water welting up in my eyes.  I felt as though I had lost too many fights in that moment.  I had lost the standoff with her and with a needle in my hand all I could think about is how I've lost the battle with my health.

But Nurse Pat wouldn't let me breakdown (at least not in front of her).  She continued, "You'll get through this.  I grew up in a house with two diabetics.  I watched my father take care of himself each and everyday.  He was Type 1.  My mother, however, would eat whatever she wanted--she would bake a cake and then yell at us for not eating it before she got to it.  My mother was Type 2.  All you need to do is take care of yourself.  I'm telling you, this shot will become second nature.  You can be a diabetic and it not drastically change your life.  You understand?"


"Now, let's do this."

Feeling pumped with a small dose of bravery, I wiped the small tear from my eye, slightly in a amazement that her comforting words had stopped the waterfall of tears that I knew were on the way.  She verbally assisted me with the task at hand and after I had successfully given myself the shot, I felt extremely proud.

Thank you nurse Pat (wherever you are).  And your presence: a full-figured black woman who talked about managing diabetes with confidence helped me in more ways than I can express.  It's not quite second nature yet, but I am able to hold my Byetta injection with a smile on my face.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tribute to Famous African American Diabetics

I use to like Patti LaBelle, but now I love her, she is my Shero.  I was flipping through one of her cookbooks and when I read "I had diabetes, but I wasn't going to let it have me," I cried right there in the Barnes and Noble.  Those words struck a cord with me.  They touched a place within in me that no one else was able to reach.  My mom, husband, grandma, and close friends had shared some encouraging words, but it was something about holding that book and knowing that Patti LaBelle had reached a place that I needed to reach was inspiring.

Each day I wake up, I aspire to move closer towards positivity.  Closer to recognizing that I can overcome the feelings of devastation. Closer to knowing that it's possible to leave this Earth with all my limbs.  Closer to knowing that diabetes does not have to be the death of me. Closer to living a LaBelle attitude! :-)

Yesterday, she was featured in an USA Today article on famous diabetics.  Their list included Patti LaBelle, Bret Micheals, Jay Cutler, Mary Tyler Moor, Nikki Lang, Nick Jonas, and Paul Sorvino.

Here is what the article stated in relation to Patti LaBelle:
(singer, author of Patti LaBelle's Lite Cuisine) LaBelle, 66, says her diagnosis of type 2 diabetes initially gave her the blues — she thought she'd have to give up her favorite foods. She soon realized she could still eat well, just healthier. "Diabetes is not a death sentence. Sure, you can't eat fried foods and rich desserts anymore, but there are many wonderful ways for you to cook (bake, saut, microwave, steam) delicious meals. Be more creative."
Family and friends help keep her on track. "I have such a tremendous support group. Everyone from my housekeeper to my security guard makes sure that I do the right things and take my meds when I'm supposed to."

Since Patti LaBelle was the only famous African American diabetic in the article, I thought that I would showcase a few others for inspiration.

So here's a shout out to all those well-known African Americans who are not afraid to fight this chronic disease.
Patti LaBelle

Angie Stone

Anthony Anderson

Aretha Franklin

B.B. King

Della Reese

Halle Berry

J. Anthony Brown

Winnie Mandela

Dr. P

Monday, March 28, 2011

What in the World Happened? (My Symptoms & Diagnosis)

I came into the new year determined to finally get below 200lbs.  I've been talking about throwing a 199lbs party for the past five years. After totally changing my diet and making lifestyle changes rather than settling for quick-fix solutions, I have successfully maintained a 25lbs weight loss, but failed to reach my goal of getting below 200lbs.

With school behind me, I felt there was nothing stopping me from celebrating my 199lbs party before the summer.  So, I joined a gym and by the end of January I was going five days a week.  I shed 10lbs by January 31st and was eager to see what February would bring me.

Unfortunately, February brought some VERY strange things. I now know that those things were symptoms of diabetes.

WEIGHT LOSS: By February 5th, I had lost 4lbs. And then the weight kept coming off. I was averaging 2lbs a day and I knew this couldn't be from working out because I eventually got too tired to make it to the gym. I told a few people that I felt like I'm on that movie Thinner (the guy was cursed and kept losing weight until he was bones). Within 15 days, I had lost 22lbs.

EXTREME THIRST: I started drinking water in the middle of my workouts, which didn't alarm me. I wrote it off as I'm working out more therefore, I need more water. However, I soon found myself craving water at every turn.  The first time I went to the doctor (a week before I went into the hospital) I told her "I'm craving water like a fat police officer wants Krispy Kreme Doughnuts."  I was drinking more than a gallon a day.  When I walked into a store, I went straight to the beverages and drank while I shopped for groceries.  The  moment I finished drinking water, I was thirsty again.  **The doctor told me that it was because of my workouts and that I should drink Gatorade to hold the water in my body.  This was the advice that nearly killed me because in essence what she said was-go out and dump sugar into your body.  I returned a week later on the verge on a diabetic coma**

FREQUENT URINATION: It made complete sense that I would go all the time since I was drinking all the time. The difference is that I was no longer able to sleep well at night.  On average, I would go four times during the night.  Also, I found myself sitting on the aisle at church because I didn't think I could make it through the entire service without going to the restroom.

BLURRED VISION: I couldn't see as clearly, but yet again, I had an excuse--it was time for my annual eye exam.

FATIGUE LIKE I NEVER KNEW: This is the symptom that sent me seeking help.  I thought that I was more tired than usual and when I began sharing that with others they responded with "Me too, it's that time of year."  This made me not take the fatigue too seriously at first, but after not having the energy to go to the gym, drive the car without taking a long blink, not being able to sit up straight at my desk, or avoid falling asleep in the bathtub, I knew I needed to go see the doctor again.

I went to see her (just a week after complaining of extreme thirst) and this time I told her, "I'm so tired that I cannot function."  Matter of fact, while sitting in the waiting room, I repeatedly went to sleep.  I was so tired that I had to hold on to things while I walked.  When she saw me, she said that she would give me a shot and send me home. This terrified me! I called my mom and told her that the assistant said, "Your glucose isn't registering and that's not a good thing."  My mom, a nurse, told me to go to the emergency room NOW!

There was no way I was going home in this condition, so I replied "No thank you. I am going to leave here and go to the ER."

"Well," she replied, "You're not a case for the Emergency Room because you are not in a lot of pain. If you go, you'll want to exaggerate your pain scale. Tell them that you are in a lot of pain. A 10 out of 10."

"I am going to go. My mama said go. This is not like me. I am usually full of energy and now I can not even stand for five minutes. I'll tell them whatever, but I cannot leave your office and go home, I KNOW that something is SERIOUSLY wrong."

She had her assistant wheel me outside (yep, I needed a wheelchair since I was that weak).  My friend drove me to the hospital.  On the way there, I kept falling asleep too.

I had forgotten to "exaggerate my symptoms" and there was actually no need to do so.  Within 20 minutes of being in the ER, I heard the following words "Your glucose is 593. You're on your way into a coma. Get her in the back stat. She needs an IV. How long have you been a diabetic?"

"What? Never. I'm not a diabetic. I don't even know any diabetics."

"With a glucose reading of 593, you're a diabetic now! And, if we don't get that number down quickly, you will go into a coma. Anything over 200 is problematic."

"WHAT?  I'm not a diabetic, I'm just very tired. A coma, Really?"


I was admitted and over the next six days, I lived in the hospital where doctors and nurses worked on me and tried to educate me on diabetes.  Unfortunately, I was too broken to absorb 100% of the information I was being given and I spent the next six days crying, being confused, scared, and feeling more alone than I can ever remember. And yes, I was angry at the doctor who told me to start drinking sugary Gatorade and who should have checked my glucose the second I said that I'm very thirsty.  She is no longer my primary physician.

Below is a picture I took while waiting in the ER.  When I see this picture now, all I can think about is how I was fighting against going into a coma and didn't even know it.  I know there is an Angel right there with me.

I am wearing a mask to protect me from the woman with bronchitis who refused to synchronize coughing and covering her mouth.  I didn't know what was wrong with me, but I knew it wasn't bronchitis.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Moving from Why? to When? (Questions for God)

I haven't told many people about my diagnosis because I can't handle all their questions.  Very few people have allowed me to say "I've been diagnosed with diabetes" and return that statement with "Is there anything that I can do?" or "Do you mind if I pray for you?"   What I'm often met with is a laundry list of questions "WHAT? How can that be? When did you find out? What are they gonna do? What type are you? Do you have to take insulin? What happened? What are you gonna do now?"

I am sure my friends and family mean well and deep in my heart I want to be able to answer their seemingly never-ending list of questions, but I cannot.  Because I'm still asking God "Why?" and all those "What?" questions from others is more than I can bear.

Lately, I've been thinking about all my questions to God:
Why me?
Why me, I hate chocolate and hardly ever eat sweets?
Why me, I just crossed into my 30s?
Why me, God, just plain and simple why me?
Why me, no one in my immediate family has diabetes?
Why me, I just started going to the gym five days a week?
Why me, I eat vegetables each and every day?
Why me, I don't eat pork, I don't fry, I even go weeks without eating meat each year?
Why me, I'm 40lbs lighter than I was five years ago?
God, I just don't understand.

After not getting answers to those questions within my own time frame (which is immediately), I've decided to transition my questions from Why? to When? So, these are my new questions for God:

When will you heal me and make me whole Father?
When will you bless me like You did the woman in the Bible who had an issue that only you could solve?  I have an issue too, Father.
When will you keep your promise to me that "By your stripes, I am healed?"
I'm taking my medication, when will you restore me?
I'm exercising again and eating the proper combination of foods, when will you deliver me?
Without works, my faith is dead, so I'm working and believing--when will you show up and show out?
When will this test become one of my greatest testimonies?

As I am moving from Why? to When? I'm able to see that Why? leads to a dead end. The questions are unproductive.  When? allows me to push myself, encourage myself, and remind myself that if I do my part He'll do His part. When? holds me as much accountable for my healing as it does God.

Plus, all those Why? questions could easily be flipped around.
Why did you keep me in good health longer than some other people?
Why did you give me the time to finish school and get married?
Why did you hold off this illness until I had the type of insurance that covers a large portion of these costly expenses?
Why did you give me the sense to go to the ER when the doctor told me it was useless?
Why when my body was on the brink of going into a coma did you keep just enough blood flowing in the right places long enough for me to get assistance?
Why did you remove the taste from my mouth when one more glass of orange juice could have killed me?
Why did you allow me to find out at the onset of this chronic disease while there is yet still hope?
In short, why did you bless me?
Why do you keep on blessing me?
Why are you still carrying me when I looked at those one set of footsteps and thought you had left me to walk alone?

I may not understand, but I thank You!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why blog? Why now? And, why is race important?

I just got around to searching (or rather Googling) for information about being an African American who has been diagnosed with diabetes.  The results were terrifying!  It was a bunch of statistics on how many African Americans have it, die from it, or get limbs removed because of it. What I found is exactly why I haven't searched for information in the past 5 weeks, since my diagnosis.

I am still wrestling with the words "I am diabetic" because it just doesn't fit me.  I'm young. I'm smart. I'm black. I'm a woman. I'm a daughter. I'm a member of a church.  I am a professional. I am a lot of things, but am I really suppose to add, "I am a diabetic" to the list??

This blog is my outlet.  To express my highs and lows about being recently diagnosed with diabetes and what I am learning along the way.

So, I have answered why blog? and the why now?  On to the why race is important?

When I entered the ER and they told me that I was diabetic one of the first things that came to mind is..."I have a black person's disease."  Not in a I'm not black type of way, more I'm another statistic.  Frankly, the way people talk about diabetes and HIV/AIDS nowadays, it makes you think that white and other races of people don't get them.  One of the first emotions I felt among confusion was shame.  Shame to admit that I'm black and that I have diabetes.  And add my over 200lbs weight to that, I could have crawled into a corner and melted away.  So, there I am in the ER feeling ashamed for being PHAT and black.

Secondly, during my six days in the hospital, I cannot tell you how many times nurses assumed that I had been diabetic for a while or that I already knew how to "handle my diabetes."  Naturally, I felt like it was because of my dark skin.  Yes, I am sensitive about race and that's America's fault not mine.

And finally, I want to contribute at least one searchable entry onto the web about being an African American diagnosed with diabetes that is more than startling statistics about the 3.7 million of us who have the disease, the fact that we are 1.8 times more likely to get the disease than white people, or the large amount of sistas and brothas who have had their limbs amputated.

So, welcome to my journey of prayerfully becoming an ex-diabetic.