Melissa Jeffries spent years ignoring her illness, indulging in unhealthy foods and slipping into seizures and comas. Finally, a new relationship and better attitude encouraged her to take control of her diabetes.
Melissa Jeffries WebMD Magazine - Feature
When I was a little kid, my mother said I used to put sugar on everything, even Frosted Flakes. I loved sugar and for 14 glorious years I ate it without consequence. That all changed suddenly one day in 1986 when I failed a swim team physical and landed in the hospital. I had type 1 diabetes.
The hospital was a whirlwind of information, insulin shots, and finger pricks. But with the training over, my extreme thirst gone, and my blood sugar in check, I thought this diabetes thing would be a breeze. I soon discovered that was definitely not the case.
If you have diabetes, chances are good that you already have some form of nerve pain or nerve damage, called diabetic neuropathy. "People with diabetes have about a 60% chance of getting neuropathy of any kind," says Dace L. Trence, MD, an endocrinologist and director of the Diabetes Care Center at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. "It's probably an equal risk of getting neuropathy with type 1 and type 2 diabetes."
You may have tingling, pain, or numbness in your feet and hands...
Four months after I was diagnosed, I was back in the hospital, only this time I was in a coma following a low-sugar seizure. The seizures continued as I ignored my diabetes and tried to live like a "normal" teen. I also tried to live like a "normal" college student -- my roommates soon became more experienced in bringing me out of a seizure than I'm sure they ever wanted to be.
I continued on this path of destructive behavior until a mixture of maturity and a new relationship gave me a surprising new perspective. As my new relationship developed, my boyfriend observed my complacency and the resulting seizures. Each seizure evoked desperate pleas to take care of myself. Seeing the pain I was causing him, I finally realized how selfish I was being all these years. With this much overdue realization, I made a vow to take control. My most important step was deciding to use an insulin pump. I had always rejected using one because I didn't want anything on my body that constantly reminded me of my diabetes. This thinking clearly needed to change.
Today, with my pump in tow, my control is better than it's ever been. I can throw away my syringes, eat whenever I want, and sleep late on the weekends. The best part, however, is that the seizures have stopped and my boyfriend's anxiety has decreased tenfold. I'm not a perfect diabetic -- any one seeing me near a Krispy Kreme doughnut can attest to that -- but with my new attitude I am finally taking responsibility for my diabetes.
Originally published in the September/October 2005 issue of WebMD the Magazine.
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