Thursday, November 11, 2010

My First Scare with Diabetes

I had a really weird encounter with possible diabetes once before in my life.

It wasn't me.

It wasn't a relative.

It wasn't a friend.

It was... My cat.


Meet Ali (pronounced like "Ollie").  She's an adorable, spunky, defiant, hyper little princess of a cat.

She's also one of my favorite photography subjects, so excuse me while I indulge a little.

But back in September of 2007, we noticed over the course of a couple days that she was barely eating or drinking and had became less hyper... then less spunky... and she finally didn't even have the energy to be defiant, so we knew something was very wrong.  I got up early to take her to the vet and Chad pulled her out from under the bed and put her into the carrier with no more objection than one of the most miserable meows I'd ever heard from her.  It broke my heart.

The drive to the vet was horrible for me, and filled with tears.  Could it be cancer?  FIV?  Leukemia?  Should I have taken her in earlier?  Was it now too late for her?

She had no symptoms other than the lethargy and lack of appetite.  The vet ran bloodwork and said that her blood sugar was higher than usual.  A urine sample also showed slight ketones.

The diagnosis: diabetes.

She stayed at the vet overnight to make sure the insulin dose the vet chose was OK, and the next day they taught me how to give her insulin and sent us home with a vial, box of syringes, and special diabetic food... and one still lethargic and unhappy cat.  She was slightly better than before, but all I could get her to eat were a few bites of her favorite people-food (turkey cold cuts).  Over the next three days, she continued to get worse and worse even though I did everything the vet had told me.  I spent a lot of time on the Feline Diabetes Message Board, which was full of helpful and knowledgeable people who told me about glucose monitoring (not something vets push with diabetic pets), diet, etc.... and they started telling me that things with Ali just didn't add up.  She didn't have high BG numbers, she was getting worse despite the insulin, and she had never had the classic symptoms of diabetes.  Several of them told me to take her back to the vet, and I agreed once I realized she was definitely getting worse, not better.

I went back to the vet 4 days before her 1-week follow-up visit was supposed to happen, armed with a little log book of glucose readings.  A different doctor (at the same clinic) ran bloodwork again and, this time, what stood out was her astronomical white cell count.  She was absolutely septic, and the vet was amazed she could even lift her head.  She was put on IV antibiotics, taken off of insulin until there was evidence of real need for it, and kept for a couple days.

When we visited her, we could tell we were finally on the right track.  She was moving, struggling to get to us, and very vocal.  When we brought her home, she was almost her old self... only very, very thin and much weaker.

But that IV wrap came off only moments after we got her home, she chowed down on food, fought with renewed strength against being fed antibiotic pills, and slowly regained her normal weight and spunk...  And defiance!

On our follow-up appointment at the vet, I was once again armed with a little log of totally normal blood sugar numbers... and insisted they refund me for all of the diabetic supplies (which they did).  She was a happy, healthy kitty with a happy, healthy pancreas.  Her blood sugar was merely elevated from such a horrible infection (that's common).

And thank goodness, because testing her blood glucose was not an easy task!

Something rather sweet was, after she came home from her extended stay at the vet, she became incredibly affectionate.  She snuggled every chance she got, and she never wanted to be away from us.  We think it made her a sweeter lap cat, to this day.

But don't underestimate her... There's a reason we don't let her be DM in our Dungeons and Dragon's games!  She is, at heart, a fierce killer!!!!

Rocks fall, everybody dies!!!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hind Sight...

I'm pretty sure that I actually had diabetes for a couple of years before diagnosis (which has also lead me to wonder if I have 1.5 or LADA rather than plain type 1).  There are a couple reasons I'm so sure of it, but I won't go into it right now.

So, knowing what I know now, I look back at so many things and shake my head.  Getting up in the middle of the night to pee, when I never had before?  *shakes head*  Having days when I absolutely couldn't quench my thirst?  *shakes head*  Eating tons of food and feeling physically full, yet still ravenous?  *shakes head*

One thing I've been thinking about lately, because I've been considering going on a Diet with a capital D, is when my husband talked me into doing South Beach with him.  As we did phase 1, which means no carbs other than most vegetables (and beans, I think?), I started out hating it... but then I got to the end of the week and felt so much better!  In fact, look at the following portion of an entry about South Beach from my now-defunct livejournal:

"I think this is a good experience for me, because I've never known what it's like to not eat grains. Seriously, I don't think I'd gone a whole day without some sort of grains since infancy, and I tend to eat a lot of them. Now, without them, I'm amazed to discover the beneficial changes in my hunger patterns. I've never in my life understood people who claim they "just forget to eat," because I'm normally thinking about food an hour after I finish a meal and my blood sugar drops not too long after that (even though we're pretty good about sticking to whole grains most of the time). Now? None of that."

And there are other entries in that general time period about how I'm ALWAYS STARVING.  I think my body was already unable, in 2008, to really regulate my blood sugar levels.  Doing South Beach gave my body a respite from allllll the carbs I was normally eating, and my blood sugar must have been lower than it had been in a long time...  So I felt better.  (This makes me think about the fact that, back before the days of extracted insulin, people with type 1 diabetes were put on a "starvation diet" that was very high in protein and pretty much zero-carb.  This allowed them maybe another year or two of life.)

And I never went to the doctor about it, even though I knew more about diabetes than the average person.  To be honest, I often had the thought, "Maybe I'm pre-diabetic."  But pre-diabetes?  You can fix that through diet and exercise.  Oh, little did I actually know!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Awkward Moments with the 'Betes

Low blood sugar while shopping plus discovering you forgot to refill your glucose tabs means getting stared at by little old ladies while you rip into a package of juice boxes without even trying to get through the line and pay first (with the full intent to pay after, of course).

Lady, STFU.


Me: *tests blood sugar*
Coworker: That's not... for... diabetes?
Me: Yeah, it is.  I have type 1.
Coworker: Oh...
*insert awkward pause here*
Coworker: Well, thank goodness it's at least not type 2.
Me: *blink*
Coworker: Isn't that the bad one?


Various people at various times with various sugary treats: "Here, would you like a... oh wait, you can't eat these, can you?"


For no reason other than seeing me and knowing I'm diabetic: "How's your blood sugar?  Are you OK?  I have food if you need it.  Do you need to test?"


Former coworker seeing going-away cake on my desk: "Now, you know you can't be eating these things anymore."

Yes, diabetes sure has its fun moments.  And while we're at it, why don't you check out this video on the Big Blue Test, in honor of World Diabetes Day, coming up on November 14th?  Every time it is viewed, money goes to help give insulin to children who need it.