‘Oh the places we’ve been’ and loved over the past 5 weeks, winding our way up the east coast of Australia to the Daintree rainforest in far north Queensland. We live in a truly beautiful part of the world. We’re always in a hurry to fly off to other amazing lands (guilty) but when you get the chance, also take time to explore your own ‘backyard’ and you may find some pretty special places, if you haven’t already. Whilst I’d previously visited many of the areas, it was always rushed, getting from A to B. This adventure had no real time restrictions. Our winter migration north in our van was filled with sunshine, warmth, exploring, meeting people…healthy, happy living. This all came to an abrupt halt last Thursday when I ended up in Cairns Base Hospital. One day I’m hiking around Mossman Gorge…the next I’m in a bed with a drip. That’s not referring to you my darling husband.
Paradise one day and Cairns Base Hospital the next
I’d noticed that I was losing weight but just put it down to a healthy and active life on the road. I was feeling great. Life was busy and there was a new adventure around every corner. Queensland is amazing in winter, and it was hot every day, around 28-30 celcius. I was drinking more water but you do that with heat and exercise. Last week that thirst became unquenchable. My daughter & grandchild, Helen & Hendrix, had flown up from Melbourne to visit us in Palm Cove. She talked me into getting my blood sugar levels checked and sure enough, they were in the mid 20s. The normal blood glucose level (tested while fasting) for non-diabetics, should be between 3.9 and 5.5 mmol/L, mine was 16 the following morning.
Having looked after and then supported our Helen for 20 years after she was diagnosed at 9 with Diabetes Type 1, I was well aware of many aspects of the disease. I presumed, because of my age, that my diagnosis would be Type 2. I was surprised that I’d developed diabetes because I exercise, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet and I’m not obese, but then I remembered reading that “Not all fat people get diabetes, and not all people with diabetes are fat.” Ok. Type 2. I can do that. Lying there I’m thinking: tighten up diet, increase exercise, get more sleep. If I do these things then people with Diabetes Type 2 can often stay healthy and off oral meds for a long time. …and then the team of doctors at Cairns Base came in and said we think you have Type 1. ???
It used to be thought that only young people developed Type 1 Diabetes. Over recent years, however, I’ve known of people in their 30s and 40s developing Type 1 and my son just told me that he knows two people also diagnosed in their 50s. I now know that while most people are diagnosed with Type 1 in their teens, or around puberty, diabetes Type 1 can occur at any age across the lifespan. Did you know that?
So whilst both Type 1 and Type 2 are both called ‘diabetes,’ they are very different.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks their own body. It began to make sense. Our family is predisposed to auto-immune diseases…3 of us have thyroid disease, 1 has Crohns and now 2 of us have Type 1 diabetes. There is nothing you can do to prevent developing an auto-immune disease. Genetics! Perhaps there’ll be some kind of vaccine in the future.
The diaTribe website explains it well:
‘What is Type 1 Diabetes? Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the body can no longer produce insulin. Insulin is normally needed to convert sugar (also called glucose) and other food sources into energy for the body’s cells. It is believed that in people with type 1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system attacks and kills the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Without insulin, the body cannot control blood sugar, and people can suffer from dangerously high blood sugar levels (called hyperglycemia). To control their blood glucose levels, people with type 1 diabetes take insulin injections. Before the discovery of insulin, type 1 diabetes was a death sentence (and it still is for patients with poor access to insulin).
Can Type 1 Diabetes Be Prevented? Unfortunately, the genetic and environmental triggers for the immune attack that causes type 1 diabetes are not well understood, although we know that family members of people with type 1 diabetes are at more risk. There is currently no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes.’
Hmmm, I don’t like needles but then who does and the alternative isn’t great. I also look at my beautiful girl and think, “If you can do it, so can your Mum.” 7 months ago she gave birth to our beautiful grandson. She is an inspiration.
I flew home from Cairns accompanied by Helen & Hendrix to see the Diabetes Team at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney and it was confirmed that I definitely have Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus.
Unfortunately for some people my age, medical professionals are quick to diagnose Type 2. I was lucky that the team at Cairns base were switched on and when I didn’t present as the ‘stereotypical’ type 2 patient and my levels were very high with no past history of high BSLs it made them look closer.
I remind myself that it could be worse.
So a new and different chapter of life begins. At the moment there’s a lot of monitoring blood sugar levels and balancing insulin doses. It’s advantageous, I guess, that I have been through this with my child 20 years ago so that it’s not totally new.
I’ve left David & Marley to make their way home from Cairns in the van. Our road trip cut short…but only for now. Many adventures await in the next few months & years.
Thank you to my beautiful family for all your support, love and sending me messages that just make me laugh. I’m so lucky. Thanks to my beautiful friends too for your support. A huge thanks to Helen for not leaving my side over the past week, for your knowledge and words of wisdom, your encouragement and for giving me a beautiful grandson who never fails to make me smile.
Life is good!
Taking one day at a time,
PS. After researching if our beautiful little grandson has a greater risk of developing Type 1 diabetes, the answer was encouraging:
American Diabetes Association answered
A child born to a parent who has type 1 diabetes is at slightly greater risk of developing type 1 diabetes than children of parents without diabetes. The risk is slightly higher when the father has type 1 diabetes.
Researchers have identified genes that could play a role in type 1 diabetes. However, there is no genetic test for predicting whether your baby will develop type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Baby’s Risk for Type 1 Diabetes
- A baby has a 1% risk of developing diabetes if the baby is born to a mother who is age 25 or older and has type 1 diabetes.
- A baby has a 4% risk of developing diabetes if the mother is younger than age 25 when the child is born.
- A baby has a 6% risk of developing diabetes if the father has type 1 diabetes.
- Each of these risks is doubled if the parent with type 1 diabetes developed it before the age of 11.
- If both parents have type 1 diabetes, the risk is not known but is probably somewhat higher.
- A baby born to parents who do not have diabetes has a 0.3% risk of developing the disease.