Text: Galina Tokareva
Last summer was busy: exams, diploma defense, difficult but interesting work, parties and love. At 24, my life was filled with quite ordinary things. I did not notice how I lost ten kilograms in three months - more precisely, I noticed, but it seemed to me that it was even cool. Thirst, fatigue, sleepiness - all this I attributed to work tasks, study, heat and summer movement with a couple of hours of sleep on the day off. I wasn't really worried until my friend, very sincerely and seriously, told me that I was painfully skinny.
Then it was normal for me to drink three liters of water a day and wake up in the middle of the night to quench my thirst. A bottle of mineral water stuck next to my bed, and for my colleagues I was a “water balance evangelist”. Mom sounded the alarm and insisted that I need to get tested, because I looked really sick. While waiting for an appointment at the clinic, my mother suggested that I go to a neighbor who has had diabetes for a long time to measure my sugar level, because the symptoms are too similar. I didn’t understand why I needed it, what did diabetes have to do with it, and how my neighbor, who is over 60 years old, would help me. But so that my mother would not wind herself up, I agreed.
In the morning before work, we went to the neighbor's grandmother and began fussy preparations for measuring sugar. They disinfected my finger, skillfully replaced the needle in a device that looked like a pen, pierced my finger, squeezed blood out of it, and put something similar to an iPod with a disposable plastic strip to the drop that appeared. The device began to count the seconds, the number 13 appeared on the screen. I asked cheerfully: “How much do you need?”, But I immediately realized that I was joking in vain, because my mother had already started sobbing. It turned out that the blood sugar level of a healthy person on an empty stomach should not exceed 5.5 mmol / l.
On this day, I went to work upset and told the manager and the team about everything. According to my aunt, a former physician, and also according to information from Google, I had to go to the hospital. The next day, I called an ambulance and the nurses, after measuring my blood pressure and blood sugar, took me away. I was ready for hospitalization, but I took it all as an adventure. It seemed that now they would give me a couple of IVs - and everything would pass. True, as now I remember the smell of drugs, doormats, boiled cabbage and the coming nausea.
The doctors had no doubts: diabetes mellitus. In the endocrinology department of the Minsk city hospital, they did not stand on ceremony with me. In response to my questions about what was happening to me, I was given a printout of a book for children about diabetes and enrolled in the "School of Diabetes", which was located right there in the department. As it turned out, diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease. This means that I will be ill for a long time and it is impossible to recover, but there is a chance to achieve a stable remission. The first lesson at school was awful: I sat among people two or even three times older than me. The most tactful just looked with pity, the rest openly said: "Poor girl, so young, and already sick." I wanted to get up and leave, or start blaming everyone around. Unfortunately, today, neither clinics nor online resources talk about young patients.
According to the WHO, about four million people die from diabetes each year: this is about the same as from HIV and viral hepatitis
There are four types of diabetes. I have the first one: it is considered the most difficult and implies lifelong insulin dependence. With diabetes, the sugar level can be either critically low or too high - it almost never returns to normal. When the sugar goes down, you need to raise it urgently (that's why I always have not only insulin with me, but also candy canes).The mystery of the disease also lies in the fact that it is not possible to fully understand the mechanisms of its occurrence. It is believed that heredity, autoimmune, vascular disorders, viral infections, mental and physical trauma play a role in the development of the disease. As soon as the grandmothers from my ward found out that there were no diabetics in my family, they immediately attributed to me a psychotrauma on the basis of a broken heart.
The doctor said that the disease developed due to a lack of the hormone insulin and that the tissues of my pancreas are replaced by fibrous ones, that is, they stop working, become useless. At the same time, the organ itself, which is considered the site of localization of the disease, as a rule, does not hurt: legs, eyes, heart, blood vessels hurt. According to the World Health Organization, about four million people die from diabetes each year, about the same as from HIV and viral hepatitis. The statistics are terrifying: every year, about one million lower limb amputations are performed on diabetics around the world, more than 600,000 patients completely lose their eyesight, and the same number of kidneys stop working.
If new drugs are not invented to compensate for insulin deficiency, I will need to give myself injections in the leg and abdomen all my life - about 4-6 times a day, after each meal and at night. During my stay in the clinic, I needed to learn how to eat right, calculate bread units (the amount of carbohydrates per 100 grams of food), inject myself and completely control my condition in order to prevent death. When I realized the scale of the problem, I experienced animal fear, resentment, self-pity and shame. I cried from a feeling of absolute loneliness, but at the same time I already understood that the disease would serve as a kind of impetus: it would allow me to do away with false goals, imaginary friends, and unnecessary actions. I needed to learn to live with it and take concrete steps every day to get rid of all-consuming anxiety. In general, a strange combination of a sense of worthlessness and a complete revaluation of values.
In Belarus and Russia, the conditions for maintaining a normal state of diabetes are approximately the same. You need to register at the endocrinology department, undergo a full examination every 3-6 months, take a set of tests, thanks to which the doctor can adjust the treatment, and once every six months lie in the hospital under droppers that thin the blood and affect the general condition. On average, I spend about $ 100 a month on health maintenance and supplies for diabetic devices. Domestic insulin did not suit me, and I always buy imported (they give me a prescription for it). Insulin is not sold everywhere, and in order not to wander around the city for a long time, I check on special sites if there is a medicine in the nearest pharmacies. In general, diabetes only progresses relatively well in self-organized patients. For example, you need to keep a food diary: every day, write down what you eat and how much insulin you inject so that the doctor understands what complications depend on.
My life before diabetes was not disciplined, ruled, or restrained. I enjoyed every day and moment to the maximum. But now, albeit negative, but the stimulus is my illness, with which you will not get overwhelmed. In diabetes, a plan is important: you need to turn all indications into healthy habits. I started eating breakfast, eating small meals six times a day, going to the gym regularly, taking vitamins, sleeping at least eight hours. It would seem that there is nothing to be upset about, because this is a healthy lifestyle in its purest form. But in the case of diabetes, any deviation from the rules can be fatal. My life began to seem insipid to me, like buckwheat on water and boiled chicken that I ate every day.
My biggest misconception was that I won't be able to eat only sweets, and in fact, my blood sugar level rises not only from sweets or condensed milk.To keep it under control, I try to monitor the consumption of foods containing simple carbohydrates: any confectionery, rolls, potatoes, fruits, dairy products with a fat content above 5%. In addition, I do not eat smoked and fatty foods. Dessert wines and cocktails are strictly prohibited, but dry wines are allowed. Some types of beer do not increase blood sugar, while others increase, and this can only be checked empirically, with the help of a glucometer, so it is better not to risk it. In alcoholic beverages 38 degrees and above, carbohydrates are usually not enough to raise sugar levels. If you consume alcohol with food, it can even lower sugar, but you should not rejoice at this effect: this is because alcohol partially paralyzes the liver, and it loses the ability to convert proteins into glucose.
Diabetes is about moderation in everything, about a constant mode of energy conservation. This is about the importance of self-love and understanding the connection between body and spirit
In the first six months of my illness, I made a mistake and decided to completely eliminate carbohydrates from my diet, and at parties in the bar I chose only vodka with ice. For some reason I thought that if there were no carbohydrates on the menu, and vodka replaced wine, the problem would go away and I would not need to inject insulin. As a result, I ended up in the hospital with ketoacidosis, a carbohydrate metabolism disorder that can lead to coma. For more than six months now, I have not consumed alcohol at all in order to check whether the state of my body will change and to avoid negative consequences.
Diabetics are obliged to play sports, but the main thing here is not to overdo it, because excessive cardio load lowers sugar and can lead to hypoglycemia. It is dangerous in the short term: critically low sugar levels can lead to momentary coma. Heavy exercise can cause the opposite condition - hyperglycemia. It is harmful in the long term: it also causes ketoacidosis and coma, just later, and also leads to disruption of brain cells, loss of body weight, problems with joints, diseases of the endocrine system. All these features, to put it mildly, limit the choice of a sports program. I spent a lot of time and energy looking for a coach, and now I spend about $ 200 a month on maintaining my physical condition. At the same time, the beauty industry has closed some doors for me: for example, laser hair removal, plastic surgery or the installation of dental implants are now not available to me. From the obligatory care - a pedicure: I do not advise anyone to google what a diabetic foot might look like.
With the advent of diabetes, my travels have become somewhat more difficult. Now I do not make myself cheap air routes with transfers, because it is energy-intensive, and friends joke that with diabetes my life has become more elite. Traveling by car over long distances is accompanied by frequent stops: it should be possible to walk so that knee joints do not hurt. I always have my diabetic certificate with me, which states the permission to transport insulin. I take a meter and a couple of prescriptions with me in case I need to buy more insulin, spare syringes and needles, as well as diet food in lunch boxes.
Do not forget about the moral side of the issue: any excitement leads to fluctuations in sugar levels. From the very beginning, the relationship with my mother was very difficult, because my illness was a big blow to her, and it turned out that she needed support more likely. Every day my mother came to my hospital, sat on the edge of the bed and cried, repeating the same phrase: “You will not be the same as before. Your life has changed forever. " I was perfectly aware of this, but I did not want to hear such words from the closest person. I tried to just ignore it, but I didn't always succeed. Unfortunately, I lost myself and found myself in a vicious circle of rising and falling sugar.Now my mother and I do not live together, but every day she is interested in my condition and what I ate. It's nice, though it looks like overprotectiveness.
At first I did not want to tell anyone that I was sick: it seemed that it was a shame. I thought that everyone would feel sorry for me, that people would begin to perceive my actions and words through the prism of illness, that I would cease to be attractive and sexy. Perhaps it is not very pleasant for someone to see how a girl you like squeezes blood out of her finger, and then injects herself with medicine when she instantly gets tired at parties, gets very tired on weekdays and can drop out of life for a couple of days due to feeling unwell. But one day I had a frank conversation with a friend who logically and intelligibly explained that there is nothing shameful in my state.
I began to warn colleagues and acquaintances about my illness so that they would not have a shock when at a meeting I convulsively start to eat lollipops or, before lunch, I suddenly give myself an injection in the stomach. Now my interlocutors do not even notice that I am performing some kind of manipulation, and my friends have completely stopped paying attention to my peculiarities (moreover, my friends already well distinguish my states and know how to come to the rescue - for which thanks to them). In a new company, talking about diabetes is like mentioning that you are vegan. The questions immediately arise: “How long ago? What are you eating? And what does this affect? " When the disease had just begun, I was embarrassed to answer these questions, then it made me angry, and now I am even surprised when I do not hear such questions.
Diabetes is about moderation in everything, about a constant mode of energy conservation. About the fact that you can't keep everything to yourself, but you need to speak out and find any available ways for this - with the help of friends, blogs, psychotherapists. This is about the importance of self-love and understanding the connection between body and spirit. About the daily struggle through the search for balance. By and large, these are universal human tests: as you know, all this is not easy, and it is a pity that this is not taught at school. During this year, a lot of changes have happened to me. I had to cut my hair because it began to fall out, I started eating meat, although before that I had been a vegetarian for three years. I changed jobs, moved to another city. Many people naturally left my life, and some I have offended or hurt in search of that very emotional balance, for which I apologize. Now I really love and appreciate those who have been with me from the first minute and who help me fight every day. I cannot say that I have conquered diabetes, but I try to live with it in peace. I hope that there will be many more days, but our relationship will eventually end.