Stories: Celebrating 40 Years

Taking diabetes in stride

In February of 1978 when I was almost 18 years old I went to the doctor because I thought I had a cold in my kidneys. I had to go to the bathroom a lot and I often got colds. The doctor took a urine sample and found there was a lot of sugar in the urine. He also checked my eyesight and found I could not see well. From this he knew I was diabetic and he referred me to the hospital.

A few days later when I was scheduled to go to the hospital in the afternoon, I went to school in the morning and the secretary noticed and remarked how skinny I was. I had been steadily losing weight. In my English class, we had just finished reading Henry V Part I and there was a test. I couldn't see the test well and I didn't get 100% as I usually did. I couldn't believe it!

In the afternoon, I went to the hospital. They did blood work. My blood sugar level was 500! So high I should have been unconscious! Nowhere in my family history was there diabetes... The first doctor I saw was an intern. He couldn't get my blood. I was almost unconscious on the floor. My mom insisted he get a nurse who took my blood. I was put in a hospital ward. ...The doctor I met there, Dr. Rodger, is still my doctor. He's been my doctor for 36 years. 

At the hospital the 'DEC' (Diabetic Education Clinic) was one floor down from my ward. I was in the hospital a week and went there every day. They taught me about diet and insulin. It didn't bother me that I was diabetic, it never has. 

During my last year of high school, my 'friends' at school wouldn't invite me to go with them to restaurants because they didn't understand or want to understand about living with diabetes. On my 18th birthday I invited my friends to my house for cake. My mom had made an angel food cake with coolwhip and cocoa. A few of my friends said they didn't like the cake. 

In university, I had to learn to eat on the run. I ate raisins and granola bars. This is when I learned, what was new at the time, to test my sugar levels by pricking [my] finger and putting my blood on a test strip. The strips were expensive so I cut them into 3 pieces. Within 10 years I no longer used strips. I used meters which were even more expensive. But now I was married and the meters were covered by my husband's benefits.

In my early twenties I was tested for thyroid problems. Mine was under-producing. This can happen in the first five years after becoming diabetic. I now had to take another medication. That's really all the medication I had to take until my stroke. 

My first 'low' occurred after I had been a diabetic for over five years. I was so shocked that I called out to my husband. When he realized what was wrong he went to get sugar in the form of juice. For many years my husband was my 'rock' for lows in the middle of the night... I no longer have lows this bad since I began using the pump, which I did one year after my stroke. 

I have two children, a son and a daughter. I was 26 when my daughter was born and 29 when my son was born. .... My daughter was only 5lb 14 oz., when she was born. Taylor, my son, was 7lb 8 oz. Most people think diabetics have big babies but this was not the case with me.

When I had my stroke, the paramedics assumed that I had a stroke because I was diabetic. They said so quite clearly to my husband. But when Dr. Rodger came to see me in intensive care he said very emphatically "this is not because she's diabetic". When they transferred me to another hospital, he came again to see me and said the same thing. All the nurses and health professionals after looking at my feet, hands and eyes couldn't believe I was diabetic. 

Now I'm slowly learning the "computer" part of my pump. 

Submitted by:
Pam Cottingham,
London, Ontario

Last updated: Tue, 2013-12-03 12:09