Life has it’s way of surprising us. Personally, i was hit with a few surprises at once. It was like a continuous slap on the face but, i took everything as a wake up call.
Life is too short. Live it before it ends.
Please keep reading until the very end.
So you’ve probably already noticed my vague title.
Let me tell you a story.
The development of type 1 is strange- It has such a subtle encroachment that you barely even notice anything changing. Each symptom is brushed off and simply absorbed into your lifestyle until everything becomes normality.
I was 13 and trudging my way through high school. I’m decent at hiding away my emotions and keeping things to myself, so my initial symptom was not the biggest nor most noticeable of problems. We all know teenagers are moody, so my erratic notions to dropkick anyone who accidentally nudged me in the corridor were normal teenager feelings… Yes? Just like the rest of my classmates I stayed up late, resulting in around 4-5 hours of sleep every night. So falling asleep in maths class was standard for everybody, not just me (although i seemed to do it a lot more than others). Lack of sleep would also account for my need to stop for a breath half way up a small flight of stairs and would explain why i could hardly focus on an episode of The Simpsons for more than 5 minutes.
The thirst… THE THIRST! This is what did it for me. I had always taken one bottle of water to school with me. This would usually do me for the day and i would most likely go home with the bottle still half full. Gradually, one bottle turned into two, two bottles turned in to three, three turned into four and four turned into five PLUS a phone call to my dad around midday asking him to bring me some more as i’ve already finished what i had. I couldn’t leave a shop without paying for an empty multipack of water because i had already drank them all before reaching the checkout. The feeling was so overwhelming i don’t even know to explain. As i had water flowing down my throat, I still felt thirsty.
Naturally concerned, my parents made an appointment with the doctor. The outcome… “Take her home, she’ll grow out of it”… She’ll grow out of what? Dehydration? Stunned at the doctors lack of care, my dad put up a fight and insisted something was done. So tests were carried out, blood was taken and away home i went.
Days later, I’m home alone and the phone rings. A concerned voice doesn’t let me finish my ‘hello’ before asking me how soon i can get to the hospital.
“Is there somebody who can drive you or will i send an ambulance?”
Possibly the most terrifying sentence my young mind had ever heard. I had no idea what was wrong with me but i promptly knew it must be serious. I was frantically calling my mum and dad. My mum drove home and we made our way to the hospital. She was there for me, i could sense her fear but i knew as long as she was with me, everything would be ok. The silence in the car was anything but tranquil, you could just about see our anxious thoughts.
So i got my diagnosis. Type 1 diabetic? i was so confused.
How can i be diabetic when i’m a fit and healthy 13 year old? Nurses began to explain the often confused meaning behind diabetes. There is two different types;
Type 1- Insulin dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. It is treatable however, it is unpreventable and currently incurable.
Type 2- Most often caused by lifestyle, most frequently found with obesity or in the elderly.
So keep in mind, i am type 1 diabetic, not type 2 and I could not have changed anything about my life to prevent the disease from happening.
Imagine being young, living in constant fear of losing control of your own body. Having to draw blood from your finger tips 8 times a day and inject insulin into your bloodstream minimum 4 times Every. Single. Day. For the rest of your life. Knowing that by the time you’re 20 you could be blind, you could have limbs amputated or kidney failure.
Imagine being too scared to participate in any form of sport, incase you end up in an unconscious heap on the floor. Growing older, missing nights out or feeling too lethargic to even lift yourself out of bed. What about being scared to fall asleep, because there’s a chance you may not wake up.
I was 13 years old and scared to fall asleep.
That is diabetes. Not that cake you posted on Instagram the other day and captioned ‘#Diabetes’
It had been less than a month after my diagnosis, I had already been hospitalised again after my sister Rachel found me unconscious at home. I lived in fear but there was no doubt about it, all hands were on deck in my family. I had all the support possible.
My dad had retired at age 49 and we became a team, I was now his full time job. He would spend hours in supermarkets reading food labels and trying to calculate how much insulin I would have to inject for each meal. He organised my prescriptions, hospital appointments and took me to the diabetic clinic every month. He monitored my levels and made sure we always had extra snacks in the house in case my sugar levels dropped. My life was in his hands and he did everything he could to keep me healthy.
As if I wasn’t enough pressure on my dad, he also had his own mum to help look after. She was well into the late stages of Alzheimers and was a lot for my Grandad to cope with on his own. After being rushed to the hospital one night, the family gathered round her bed side, fully aware that things were not good. It was getting late, she was stable and I had school the next day, so we headed home. The thought of losing my gran destroyed every part of me. I lay in bed drowned in my own thoughts, my dad came and lay with me, he asked me how I think he must feel, losing a parent. He told me “everything happens for a reason, but life just keeps going.” I was prepared for the morning phone call, my dad answered and he smiled..? She pulled through, she’s as bright as a button and will get home later on today.
So life continued back to “normal” Calculating my insulin doses, appointment after appointment for both myself and my gran. One week i would be in hospital, the next it would be her, the cycle continued until i began to stabilise. Things were picking up, we would book a few weekends away every now and again to escape. My gran was settled in a care home, my sugar levels were steady and I was beginning to focus on my GCSE’s. Life was looking good.
It’s winter now. My mum is a day patient at the hospital for a planned hernia removal and the same day, my dad finally goes to see about this ‘common cold’ he’s been having which is now accompanied by spots of blood when he coughs. Both parents come home safely, my mum bed bound for a few weeks and my dad with a pneumonia diagnosis and a course of antibiotics. With a quick recovery, all is well again in the Meikle house.
Weeks go by, it’s coming up for Christmas and my dads symptoms come back. He spends a few nights in hospital to undergo some tests. After multiple blood tests and X-Rays he is sent home to wait for answers. Strange things begin to happen. My dad isn’t himself. He claims to be fine and most of the time, he was. But a few scary nights happen, he says things he would never say and lashes out in ways he never would, but he was adamant there was nothing wrong and he did not have to go back to the hospital.
Over the course of a few days he became a man i didn’t recognise. I was scared. He lost the ability to communicate through words, he couldn’t talk and could not function one side of his body. Within 3 days of his initial change, lifting a cup to his own face became impossible. Facial expressions and slurred sentences were his only way of communicating. Although he made it clear that under no circumstances do we phone a doctor, we were left with no choice. The doctor arrived within 4 hours and my dad became agitated and aggressive. Whilst my dad lay on his bed the doctor spoke to us on our own. He asked if we’ve been in contact with any charities like Macmillan or Marie Curie. This confused us, but there was so much going on that it was brushed off and forgotten about. He was readmitted to the hospital and more tests started going down.
Christmas Eve – It’s the morning and myself, my mum and Rachel are patiently waiting for visiting hours to come around. My mums phone rings and an instruction is given for us to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Off we go.
Remember that silence i spoke about in the car earlier? It’s back.
We enter the hospital. My mum goes to the ward first, Rachel and I wait patiently outside. Minutes feel like hours, eventually we are called in. We walk into this tiny waiting room. My dad isn’t there. My mum is sitting hand in hand with the nurse. Both are holding tissues and blotting the tears from their eyes. We sit down, each in a world of our own and prepare ourselves for what this nurse is about to say.
There is not a single word i could possibly use to explain how that word hit me. It had started in his lungs and was now taking over his brain.
The nurse continued on to say how shocked every doctor is at how rapidly he is deteriorating. To cut a long story short, we were wasting the valuable time we had left with him.
Christmas day – He was sitting up on his bed, unable to talk, but smiling uncontrollably whilst opening his presents. The next day, sitting up was impossible. He was admitted to St Andrews Hospice where he would spend his final days. He was completely bed ridden but the care and attention not only he received, but also my mum, Rachel and I received was outstanding. I could not be more thankful. We stayed in the hospice with my dad to spend every minute we had next to him.
After we all dozed off one night, we were awoken by a nurse and advised to say our goodbyes. Suddenly everything felt real. We gathered round his bed, held onto his hands and spoke softly as his breathing slowed down immensely. It was time. It felt like there was 10 minutes between every inhale, and then finally, he just stopped. The room was silent, the nurse checked his pulse, glanced at her watch, then nodded to us and held our hands. The silence filled with tears and his presence just vanished.
Within 11 days of my dads diagnosis, he was gone.
The family made their way to the hospice as we waited to hear what happens next. I was in a room full of people but could not of felt more alone, a massive part of my life was missing. He had been there since day one and now he’s just… Gone.
Less than 3 months later, my gran decided it was time to join him. I woke up to that dreaded phone call i had prepared myself for the last time. But this time it had really happened. She slipped away peacefully during the night.
I had lost two people who meant the world to me.
I had many sleepless nights, I suffered from sleep paralysis almost every time I started to drift off. I would see my dad and my gran walk into my room hand in hand. They would sit on my bed and tell me everything is going to be ok. This terrified me. I would see my dad in front of me, I could feel him hold my hand and I could hear him say my name, but he wasn’t really there. I stopped going to school almost every day and failed every exam I took except one, graphic design. Over the years I later discovered a few food intolerances which caused problems with my sugar levels. I was in hospital again with liver and pancreas problems and once again my full diet had to change.
As my dad told me that night, life continued on. I left school early and picked up my first part time job at a gym. I had found a new passion for fitness! I attended different training weekends and within a few months I became a group fitness instructor. As my love for fitness grew, I went on my personal training course and am now a fully qualified personal trainer and nutritionist.
Now i’m taking the next step, which is why I have made this blog. I want to inspire. This post was hard to write, there isn’t enough words to convey the rollercoaster of emotions I have experienced through the years. The lesson to be learned is, for as long as you’re healthy, you must live life to the fullest. It’s too short to take for granted.
I want everyone to know that not being where you want to be in life is ok. Everything happens for a reason, you will get there one day.
Life has it’s way of surprising us. You just have to carry on.