Diabetes and me: My journey to a type 1 diabetes diagnosis

My name is Alana, and I love carbs. Like, I LOVE carbs. I’ll plan a day out around a coffee and cake stop. I’ll always choose the most sweet or stodgy option on the menu. And yes, I’ll unashamedly eat a Super Noodle sandwich, followed by a good old Wispa and a cuppa for my tea.

Recently it’s been like I’ve won the eating lottery. Multiple bars of chocolate a day, finishing off the boys’ snacks and meals, Starbucks lattes … and I haven’t put on a pound. In fact, I’ve lost 14 of them.

All thanks to running. Or so I thought.

This, coupled with the fact I’ve felt exhausted (more than usual), heavy-legged and as if my head is in the clouds should have set alarm bells ringing. And I’m a bit daft not to have got myself checked out sooner.

Why? Because I’ve just been told I’m diabetic … with blood sugar levels more than double that of a type two.

Yup. I know. Shocker.

I’ve had a few days to attempt to get to grips with it all, but to be honest it’s pretty hard to get my head around. I’m hoping that by blogging about my diagnosis and how I deal with it from the start, I can help anyone else who gets a diabetes diagnosis in their thirties. There aren’t many personal stories out there … believe me, I’ve looked for them.

I haven’t been properly diagnosed with a “type” yet as I’m waiting for a hospital appointment, but thanks to a consultant who tested me for everything under the sun when I was pregnant, I’m almost 100 per cent certain I have LADA – latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood (also known as type 1.5). According to Dr Google, it’s a slow developing type 1 diabetes caused by having certain antibodies that attack your pancreas, stopping it from being able to produce insulin.

It’s not caused by lifestyle or diet, unlike type two, and is not preventable or reversible. This is both reassuring as I know I haven’t brought it on myself with my daily “sharer” bag of giant buttons, but also hard to accept as I know I can’t do anything to slow it down or stop it developing.

As I said, I should have guessed something was up, as over the last two or three months I haven’t been feeling myself. I’ve had all the symptoms of diabetes, but haven’t put them all together.

I’ve been crazy thirsty – one day I downed a can of Fanta in one go (the fact I was craving Fanta should have been a red flag as the only fizzy drink I go for is Diet Coke), I’ve been so hungry and completely unable to satisfy it – one day I had two poached eggs on a bagel for breakfast, and still needed three cereal bars to keep me going until lunch. With all these carbs, you’d think I’d have been bouncing around the place, but I was joking almost daily about needing a siesta at my desk because I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

At the start of a run I was complaining about having heavy legs, I felt shaky in the morning, and every so often I’d randomly get very hot and felt like my heart was racing. Some days even walking up the stairs felt like I was climbing Everest.

I thought maybe everyone felt like this – it has been very hot in our office – but apparently it isn’t normal.

These are all signs of high blood sugar. Very high blood sugar.

Looking back even further, it explains why I get all the mosquito bites while Stew isn’t attacked … it’s my sweet blood!

Being so busy at work and at home, I didn’t think that all these were pointing to something so serious, but I should have guessed. If I go back a few years, it all started when I was pregnant with our first son. On a routine midwife check-up there were some concerns about my glucose levels and I was sent off to have a glucose tolerance test.

It came back positive for gestational diabetes, and in short, I spent the next five months of pregnancy watching what I ate – limited sugar and carbs – and doing finger prick tests four times a day. It wasn’t ideal, and at times made my first pregnancy a chore, rather than something I could enjoy.

Fast-forward two years to my second pregnancy, and I was put straight under the care of a consultant and tested again for gestational diabetes. Somehow I managed to get through the first test, and had a couple of extra months of eating normally. Really, I think I should have started with the low sugar diet anyway as I knew it was coming, but I was so hungry it was a case of eating what I could to get through the day!

When the inevitable diagnosis came, a new consultant was so baffled that she started researching different types of diabetes to see what was going on. I didn’t fit any of the characteristics of someone who would develop gestational diabetes – I was slim, active, nobody in my family has had it, and although 8lb 8oz isn’t exactly small, I didn’t have a history of having “very large babies”.

Much to my dismay (and annoyance at times), she started sending me for different blood tests – including checking for LADA – to work out what was going on. I’m not good with needles, and have a tendency of needing to lie down after blood is taken as I feel so faint. I just wanted to get on with my pregnancy, keep my blood sugars under control, and look forward to a huge slice of cake when baby was born.

The results showed that I do have these antibodies, but after baby boy number two was born I just got on with life fuelled by my usual level of carbs and sugar to make up for the lack of sleep, and put it out of my mind. My six week postpartum blood test came back clear, and that was that.

Until last week.

My annual blood test form arrived – you’re tested every after gestational diabetes as you’re more at risk of developing type two – and I’ve been in no rush to have it done. I only have one day off a week, and I didn’t fancy spending half of it sitting in the hospital waiting room entertaining a three-year-old.

Then last week, on a particularly jittery afternoon, when I felt like my veins were shaking, I went to our work’s annual health fair. It was 3pm and I was planning on popping in quickly, grabbing a Wispa from the coffee shop and heading back to my desk for a cup of tea to get me through to home time.

I was weighed – all fine – had my blood pressure taken – all fine – and joined the queue for the finger prick test.

And that’s where it all went a bit wrong – and my dream of an afternoon cuppa and chocolate went out the window.

A normal blood glucose level is below 8mmol/l after eating. Mine was … wait for it … 19. She tested again, just in case, and I’m pretty sure she wished she hadn’t when the machine beeped and 21 flashed up on the screen.

Panic stations.

Someone else was called over to check it out, they kept asking if I felt ok, and I wasn’t allowed to leave until I promised I’d phone my GP.

Of course I couldn’t get through to the GP, so the next day I put off the inevitable and went for the blood test.

By the Friday the results were in. My phone rang as me and Stew were waiting for our lunch – we’d decided to treat ourselves as it was a rare day off without the boys – and I was told my average blood glucose level over the past two to three months has been more than double that of a diabetic.

I laughed, went into a state of shock, and headed back to the table to tell Stew just as the waiter brought my caramel latte and lemon meringue tart.

You see, I LOVE the sugar.

With no support from my GP, who assumed I was type 2 and was prepared to send me on my way with no follow-up appointment, I’m now following a very low carb diet in an attempt to stop my glucose from spiking, doing finger pricks after every meal, and spending a crazy amount of time on Google trying to figure out how to get through this while I wait for a referral to see an endocrinologist.

Not that I can “get through” it, of course. If I have diabetes it’s never going away. I’m trying to work out what I can eat, if I can carry on running, and how to deal with social situations without feeling really awkward when people ask why I’m eating salad and turning down cake.

So far I’ve had good moments – when I think how much healthier my diet will be, and have been grateful for the consultant who made it her mission to test me for everything she could think of. Without her, I’d never have had the knowledge to argue against the GP when she insisted I have type two.

But I’ve also had bad moments. Like when Stew got himself a Twirl to enjoy with our 9pm cup of tea and I was stuck with a bowl of yogurt and nuts. Yes, I cried. Or really wanting a baguette and a brownie to get through a long train journey, but being stuck with a pot of Quorn, spinach and hummus instead. Or thinking ahead to an afternoon tea next month, where I don’t know if I’ll be able to eat anything at all.

I’m hungry, overwhelmed and confused. I’m gutted I never tried the Biscoff spread everyone’s raving about before this was picked up, I’m scared I’m going to end up on insulin injections, and I’m pretty sure the cost of nuts is going to bankrupt me. Have you seen how much a bag of pistachios costs? I could get two-and-a-half huge jars of Nutella for the same price (and enjoy it ten times more).

But I’ll keep going.

Wish me luck…

2 thoughts on “Diabetes and me: My journey to a type 1 diabetes diagnosis

  1. Rhian says:

    My daughter (9)was diagnosed as T1 3 months ago. Like you, we noticed she was tired often, aching legs, drinking constantly but always thirsty, lost weight.. All the classic signs really. It was a devastating diagnosis and completely overwhelming. However, it really is becoming a way of life now. We carb count and inject insulin and she still enjoys all the foods she’s always had. It is a complete lifestyle change and at times it makes you feel tearful and angry, but we get through those days and on the whole, life is good again. You’ll get through this. Diabetes UK are fab as are lots of other forums. Take it day by day. Take care xx

    • Aww bless her. It must be tough for a child to get used to. Hopefully she’s adapted quickly to it. I’ve joined a Facebook group and I’ll have a look at the forums xx

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