A Pancreas Transplant Story.
Denise Martinez used to have type 1 diabetes. She had it for 24 years. She also used to have cancer. But now, Denise is diabetes and cancer free. Her story is amazing, and she has offered to share it with us. Here it is, in her own words:
"On April 9th, 2008 my life changed forever.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 7 years old. I was diagnosed at a time when type 1 diabetes was commonly mistaken with type 2. So of course, everyone had all kinds of ignorant advice such as "Don't eat anything with sugar in it or they'll cut off your legs". It was a very scary time. Fortunately, I had a great support system. My friends were all interested in what was happening to me and they would all try to help me feel as normal as possible. They learned to give shots just as all my family members did. And my mom would make all kinds of sugar-free goodies for me. They tasted horrible because Equal and Splenda did not exist back then...LOL. I lived with diabetes and was able to control it well for many years. As a young adult, I dealt with the same things everyone else does- school, boyfriends, and independence. Living with diabetes taught me a lot of things. Controlling your diabetes is a huge responsibility. No one can do it for you. I learned discipline, patience, tolerance, and most of all that if you don't love yourself, you cannot love anyone else.
The great thing about diabetes (if there is one), is that you can control it. When I was 15 years old I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It is a rare form of Cancer that attacks your lymph nodes. You have lymph nodes all over your body so it is very hard to treat it. I struggled with this type of cancer for many years. I had 7 different tumors. Five of which were malignant and required chemotherapy and/or radiation. Through all of this diabetes was always the main issue. I didn't want to lose control of my blood sugars because I was terrified of the complications. With so many meds and so many changes in my body, my A1C reached 8.5 at one point. I have been in remission for 3 years now. Cancer is just a memory now, but it left it's mark on me.
During my last treatments of radiation my creatinine levels skyrocketed and I went into kidney failure. Both of my kidneys were working at less than 10%. In February of 2007 I began dialysis. It is a terrible, terrible treatment that is necessary for you to live when your kidneys are no longer able to function on their own. I had a surgery to implant a surgical graft in my arm so that they could insert the two needles in my arm every session. I went to dialysis every other day for four hours for a year and two months. I decided against live donorship because I am not comfortable with someone making that type of sacrifice for me. You can live with one kidney but I still wouldn't want someone to go through the surgery and recovery. It is a huge operation. My transplant surgeon also informed me that because I had type 1 diabetes it would not make sense to transplant the kidney only. Eventually, diabetes would ruin my new kidney. It wouldn't last very long. So I got on a list to get a kidney/pancreas transplant. Just 8 days later, they called me. They had found a donor for me. I had no idea how my life was about to change.
But it's such a relief to feel GOOD again. Life has changed dramatically. I had an insulin pump for five years and all of a sudden- no pump. It's crazy because I still check my blood sugar. Right after I had the surgery in the hospital, I would wake up and ask the nurse to check my blood sugar because I needed my insulin. My poor husband had to convince me that I am not diabetic anymore. Every so often I wake up and freak out because I'm late for dialysis. My husband is the best. He patiently tells me the whole story all over again. I sit there and weep as if it had just happened all over again. I have NOT adopted any new behaviors. I still do not smoke or drink. I still drink Diet Coke. And I still eat sugar free candies. During my third month of recovery I DID try all kinds of delicious desserts and treats. I had to! I am more conscious of what I eat than most patients though. That is definitely from watching what I ate for so many years.
I am so thankful to GOD for blessing me with these Gifts. I have not only been blessed with the Gift of Life, I have also been blessed with the wonderful gift of not having diabetes for the first time in 24 years. I will always be a diabetic at heart. You guys are my heroes. I know what it's like to face that challenge every day. I pray that a cure for type 1 diabetes will come sooner than later. It would be the best gift ever for all of us. I encourage everyone to be conscious of their health. But I especially encourage everyone with type 1 diabetes to be as compliant as possible. Good control helped me to survive all of the tough challenges that came my way. While thinking of dialysis and kidney failure may be terrifying to you, remember that I lived for 20+ years without any diabetes related complications.
Take care of yourselves, love yourselves, and everything else will come into place."Editor: An organ donor saved Denise's life. For more information, visit the National Transplant Society.