‘I dropped to my knees. ‘Mom, I’m scared. Something bad is going to happen.’: 21-year-old receives Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis, ‘I never knew how strong I’d come out of this’

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“It hasn’t even been a year yet. I remember the day so vividly. I remember every detail like it was yesterday. Let’s start with the events that led up to July 13, 2019.

I have always been an active individual. However, my weight remained consistent for a few years. I am 5’7 and have been a steady 145-150 pounds for the last 4 years. I knew something was strange when I kept losing more and more weight suddenly. Within a few months, I lost 25 pounds. I was the skinniest I’ve ever been. I was secretly loving it because I was eating whatever I wanted while losing weight. However, I just knew something was wrong.

Courtesy of Katelynn Lehman

Later, more symptoms followed. I was extremely thirsty all the time and constantly urinating. This was a red flag for me because I have been drinking a gallon of water a day for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t figure out why I was so thirsty all the time. I would wake up in the middle of the night every single night sweaty and so thirsty. I was bloated every time I ate, and I began to have brain fog. I couldn’t think straight at work at all.

Despite my symptoms, I continued to ignore it. You might ask, well, why? Because it was easier that way. It was easier than facing the fact that something was clearly wrong with me. I just wanted to pretend I was okay even though I knew I wasn’t. I told my mom what was going on, and she kept hounding me down to go to a doctor, but I just didn’t even know which doctor to go see, and my schedule was so full.

But then, the day came. I was out in the sun working for a kids’ sporting event. I have never in my life felt like passing out. But that day, I did. Everything was black. I dropped to my knees. I sat in the shade for a bit and made it through the day without completely passing out, but I almost did. That scared every bone in my body. I finally came to my mom the following week. I said ‘Mom, I’m scared. Mom, I’m more than scared. Something is seriously wrong with me. I’m scared something terrible is going to happen to me.  I just know it in my heart this is serious.’ It was on her birthday. We were out to lunch at the Pancake House. I had two buckwheat pancakes and a coffee. We laughed. We shared memories. We discussed my symptoms, and she begged me to go to the emergency room to see what was going on. I agreed to this because, whether I liked it or not, I had to face my demons. She tried to pay the bill, but I didn’t let her. It was her birthday, after all.

This story originally appeared on Love What Matters.

Courtesy of Katelynn Lehman

We left and headed off to the emergency room. It felt awfully strange, walking into the emergency room looking fine on the outside. I felt silly. I felt like I didn’t belong there, despite my list of symptoms I had been living with for 6 months. We checked in at the front desk and waited in the waiting room. The wait was short, but it felt endless. The anticipation was eating me alive. ‘What if I’m not okay?’ ‘What if it’s actually all in my head and I’m fine?’ Those were my thoughts as I waited for them to call me back. ‘Miss Lehman, come on back.’

Finally. The moment I was waiting for. I had a whole list of symptoms written in my notes on my phone I read off to the nurse the second I got to the room. She brought in a doctor and one other nurse and I explained my symptoms all over again. They all looked at me with question marks on their faces. I could feel their energy. I could feel that they thought I was just a young girl looking for attention and that nothing was actually wrong with me. They asked me why I decided to come in now and not sooner. I stated I just couldn’t take the symptoms anymore. ‘Well, we’ll take some blood work, but there’s not much else we can do. We’ll see how the blood work comes back.’ They drew the blood and walked out.

Courtesy of Katelynn Lehman

Waiting for my blood work to come back was worse than the waiting room. My head was spinning. I couldn’t help but feel stupid after the doctor and nurses made me feel silly for even being there in the first place. I told my mom, ‘See, we shouldn’t have even come here. I bet everything is fine. I feel like an idiot. This was a waste of time.’ My mom said, ‘And if everything is fine, then we go home! We go home with the peace of knowing nothing is wrong, but we need that confirmed.’ I nodded and agreed.

Courtesy of Katelynn Lehman

Just minutes later the same two nurses and doctor were back, along with a third nurse this time. This was it. It all came down to this moment. My heart was racing, and my palms were sweaty. They looked extremely serious; way too serious for there to be nothing wrong. I knew something bad was going to come out of their mouths, I just didn’t know what it was. But then, they finally broke the news to me. The doctor said, ‘Your blood sugar levels are about 620.’ I looked at her with such confusion. I had no idea what a normal number was supposed to be. So, I replied, ‘Oh, so what does that mean exactly?’ She explained that an average person should have a blood sugar level from 80-100 and that I was Diabetic and needed to be admitted.

Ah, there it was. The truth smacked me so hard in the face like I just tripped and face planted on the concrete. Those words hurt more than any pain I have ever felt in my entire life. My heart was shattered. I couldn’t speak. In fact, I felt like I couldn’t even breathe. I looked at my mom and burst into tears, as she did the same. Now, I didn’t know much about Diabetes. But I did know one thing, if I had Type One, there is no cure. The thought of that made my heart sink.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Each year on my birthday leading up to this, I never wished for material things. I wished for a long, healthy life. I had a secret fear of getting an illness. I just had too many dreams to accomplish. I never wanted anything to stand in my way. But hearing those words made me feel like all those dreams were over. My life felt like it was crumbling apart right before my eyes.

The third nurse that joined them this time was special. She was one of those people that made your heart feel full even if it was totally empty. She hugged me so tight and said she was so very sorry. I mean, what else could she say at a time like that? They began to hook me up to an IV and ran what felt like a million tests. That part was all kind of a blur due to my emotions. I had to be moved to another hospital because the one I was in didn’t keep patients overnight. They wanted me to go in an ambulance, but I insisted to ride with my mom because I didn’t want to be alone and I knew if I survived this far, I’d be just fine for a 20-minute car ride. They agreed to let her drive me if I was careful with my IV attachment. Once I arrived at the next hospital, I felt like I was checking into a hotel room (a hotel room that would be my last choice to ever stay in).

Courtesy of Katelynn Lehman

I spent the next two days in the hospital trying to figure out what the correct calculations of insulin I needed. It took a while to bring down my blood sugar to a normal rate. Then, the time came to do an injection on myself. I knew that this was something I’d have to do the rest of my life, but I was dreading my first injection so much. It was extremely painful. I don’t mean the injection itself; I mean internally painful. However, I had to say strong. I had no other choice. A nurse walked me through the process. He said he was so proud of me and left the room. I kept myself together the entire time and told myself to be strong. But then, he left the room. I was all alone with my thoughts while my parents were out getting lunch. ‘This is my life now,’ I thought to myself. It still didn’t even feel real. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.

I knew life was never going to be the same from that day forward. What I didn’t know is how strong I would come out of this. I was in a very dark place for about two weeks after my diagnosis. Nothing was bringing me joy anymore. Working out is something I always loved to do, but I just couldn’t get myself to do it anymore. I felt weak, hopeless, and insecure. I didn’t want this to be my life. I didn’t want the needles, the expenses, the embarrassment, the heartbreak, I didn’t want any of it.

But one day, I woke up and decided although my life had taken a different path, I was still in charge. I had a whole life ahead of me, and I decided I was going to live it. Sure, things might be a little different, but I can still do all the things I could before. I came to peace with my diagnosis. It took a while to sink in, but I was finally at peace. Type One Diabetes was not going to run me, I was going to run it. From that day forward I have maintained a positive attitude towards my diagnosis. Being negative and sulking in my own sorrows will get me nowhere in life.

Courtesy of Katelynn Lehman

Do I still struggle with my disease sometimes? Of course I do. There are days where my devices aren’t working properly or I’m beeping all day because my sugar won’t stop going up and down. I still have some bad moments with Type One Diabetes. However, the difference between now and then is I don’t let it take over my entire life. I do the things I enjoy, and I make sure that I count every day as another blessing.

Courtesy of Katelynn Lehman

The community of people this has brought to my life is amazing. So many people out there are going through what I do daily. It helps knowing I’m not alone in this crazy journey. My family members and friends took a while to fully understand my disease. Some of them still don’t. It’s very frustrating being told that things I ate led me to my diagnosis, but many people don’t understand that’s not the case. I did not eat too much sugar. In fact, I ate healthy pretty much my whole life. I always took very good care of myself so it’s frustrating when people tell me I can reverse my disease if I just worked harder, when in reality there is no cure for my Diabetes. That’s the thing I probably struggle with the most today. However, I try to just educate others and move along instead of getting too worked up about it.

Courtesy of Katelynn Lehman

Most people can’t tell that I still struggle with Type One Diabetes because it’s invisible. If I didn’t have my pump or continuous glucose monitor, you’d never know I had a disease. I carry it well because I have no choice. Staying positive and looking at the bright side is the only way I know how to survive through the tough times I have with Diabetes. Type One Diabetes. The invisible disease. T1D looks like me.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katelynn Lehman of  Naples, FL. You can follow her journey on TikTok and Instagram

Courtesy of Katelynn Lehman

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