Guest Post: New to Diabetes. New to Motherhood. New to Cancer.
This is my story.
When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in April of 2009, I was completely caught off guard. I was a healthy person, or so I thought. I ended up getting a Dexcom and Omnipod within six months of diagnosis. Obviously diabetes was a huge change to my life routine. My beta cells were still cranking out tiny bits of insulin, so I decided to take advantage of the “honeymoon period” and plan a pregnancy, figuring that would be the best time for blood glucose management. A short while later, on November 1, 2010, my husband and I welcomed our son into our lives.
And when my baby was less than three weeks old, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It was such a shock. I only had a very slight pain in my chest that turned out to be a tumor the size of a baseball just above my heart. When I heard that news, I knew my world and sense of security had changed, once again. I was about to begin the fight FOR my life. I remember yelling at the doctor who told me the news – “I was JUST diagnosed with diabetes, are you kidding me!!!” I was so scared of what was to come. Not physically, but emotionally. I already thought that the burden of diabetes was too much. I wasn’t sure I could handle my new reality as well.
Ironically, right after my diabetes diagnosis, I remember asking my husband “What will happen some day when I am like 80 and get diagnosed with cancer? Will my cure be harder to come by?” Who would have ever thought that fear would become my reality at just 26. During my first meeting with my oncologist, I made it clear that I did not want diabetes to change my odds. My 90% chance of a forever cure would not drop because of diabetes. I received the same four chemo drugs as every Hodgkin’s patient. I got the same dose of the steroid Decadron before every treatment (and had the pleasure of my pump dying during the process). The only difference? I had to think of crazy basal rate adjustments before getting the steroids and for two days after each chemo. I think it was 3.5 units/hour! My BG consistently ran 250+ for a few days after every treatment. There was nothing I could do to lower it. I stopped caring, I just wanted to survive.
Perhaps the part of cancer I found most challenging for diabetes was a PET Scan (actually two in my case). In a nutshell, this test provides the doctor with a full body picture that illuminates areas of active cancer. It is accomplished by the injection of radioactive glucose into a patient in a fasting state without insulin. I couldn’t have food after midnight. My first PET, I was still experiencing some postpartum blood glucose swings and was always low around 5 am and usually still requiring a snack at that time. I tried to compensate with an 11:30 pm pasta binge. With a PET Scan, you also can’t have insulin for three hours before the test. Oh yes, and your blood sugar must be below 200 in order for the test to be functional! Talk about a diabetic nightmare! Of course I failed the process, twice.
As in every situation, it is important to find humor. I remember waking up from my second biopsy to find my husband in deep thought pondering the placement and insertion of a new pod and Dexcom sensor (my doctor was very concerned that a blood sugar of 180 mg/dL be corrected, immediately. Seriously?!?) Watching him fiddle with the bolus function while I later downed pudding made me laugh (and made me nervous). He is now a professional when it comes to all things diabetes related! I can’t even count the number of times I have had to rely on his diabetes-judgment and skills over the past year! He has made me feel less alone in my little diabetes world.
Meghan and her completely adorable son
As of today, I am in remission. Through all of this I’ve learned that it’s hard when deciding how much to share with others, both about cancer AND diabetes independently. I struggle with sharing too much about what happened in fear of pushing others away – with sharing just enough in hopes that they might understand me better but still see me as normal.
Cancer was hard, the process grueling and I had a newborn. But we made it. I am on the other side looking back with a new insight – Life is simply amazing, especially since I know I am not supposed to be here.
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Meghan has graciously shared her email, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you want to reach out to her. Thank you again, Meghan, and we are so glad you are here!