My diabetes story started just after my wife, Whitney, and I had our second child. It was the end of December 2016, we now had 2 beautiful boys, Brody and Daxson, and we were now a family of four. In this highest point of my young family’s life, little did we know, I was starting to experience complications of a diabetic. These complications did not come on strong. They were hiding in plain sight, subtlety, as the decrease in my own insulin would slip me into, what us diabetics would call, the 3 P’s. Polyuria (frequent urination) Polydipsia (constant thirst) and Polyphagia (constant feeling of hunger). Because I was fit my entire life, growing up playing hockey and now set in a career of a firefighter, my body compensated well – well, for about 3 months. From late in December to mid-April, these 3 P’s were picking up steam and eventually stripped 32 pounds from my body. 32 pounds that I couldn’t afford to lose.
Being a paramedic for 10 years leading up to this moment, I was in denial. My mind continued to block out the fact that I needed help. I completely disregarded these 3 simple signs & symptoms that hyperglycemia was screaming out at me. I had been hanging on by a thread, consistently fatigued which I blamed my newborn and work life on, and the skinniest I had been in years. A wellness/fitness exam that Corona Fire Department was hosting for its firefighters is what would uncover my new life.
My blood work would come back with numbers off the charts. I had a fasting blood sugar of 293 and an A1C of 14.4. Still in denial, I ran back to my engine, ripped open my drug box, and put my glucometer into service. This particular glucometer had a range of 20 to 600. Below 20 would show a “low” value and above 600 would show a “high” value. After that finger stick and the 5-second wait for the results, my trusty glucometer would read “high.” This is when it finally hit me. I was diabetic. 31 years old, healthy my entire life, always took care of myself, worked out several days a week, never touched drugs, and I was now a “patient.”
After more test and a visit to an emergency room and my primary care, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and sent home with Metformin, an oral medication commonly used for type 2’s. After struggling for several more days with roller coaster blood sugars, I had to be my own advocate. I pleaded my case to my doctor that knew me for 20 years, in which she finally agreed – I am a type 1. I needed daily injections of insulin.
While going through my misdiagnosis struggle, I was also dragging my family through the 5 stages of grief, commonly seen with death of a loved one. I recall, to this day, one of the first nights in this new life, sitting on the couch after a long day of coming up with a game plan to bounce back from months of hyperglycemia. With our two boys put to bed, my wife and I were at our wits end, hugged each other, and started sobbing on our couch not knowing where this road was taking us.
Rather than continuing to feel sorry for myself, I knew that I had to pick myself back up and not let this disease take me as a young man. I needed to be here on this earth to not only grow old with the love of my life but watch my boys grow into men and grow families of their own. That’s when the research started. I needed a diet plan. I needed a good plan for insulin, long-acting and short-acting. I needed to figure out what techy things others like me were using. I was turned onto using a Dexcom. This was a lifesaver, literally. Instead of being in the back of a fire engine doing finger sticks to make sure my blood glucose was in range, I could now look at my phone for an updated blood glucose every 5 minutes. I frequently tell my family and friends, “couldn’t have been luckier to have diabetes in days like we are living in today.” The amount of research that has been done and is continuing in our diabetic community is absolutely amazing and I am forever grateful.
The gadgets are extremely helpful but what has been even more helpful in this journey is my family. Everyone around me, my mom and dad, sister, brother-in-law, aunt and uncle, and most importantly, my wife, were in pursuit of eating clean – for me. Even my close friends jumped on board. It truly takes a village – and that is exactly what I have been blessed with. We decided to eat a low-carb diet which has been one of the best ways for me to combat my situation. The lower the carb intake, the less insulin I am dependent on. The less insulin I take, the smaller the swings. This concept is what has allowed me to be confident in my daily life and life as a firefighter. #KNOWSURVIVETHRIVE