it’s the end of the world as we know it

.. and I’m really quite upset about it, thank you very much.

What started as a purely vanity-driven inquiry has turned into the actualization of my biggest fear. It sucks, for so many complicated, irrational, deep-seeded reasons. Let’s explore them!

I saw Dr. Online about some weird symptoms I’ve been having: thirst, a craving for salt, thinning hair, a second head growing out of my left knee. Nothing I found online told me exactly what kind of cancers I had, so it was time to ask an expert .. who didn’t have any answers, so she requested I have some blood work done.

The results came in the next day, and showed that I had too many blood – but nothing drastically alarming, or anything that would account for my symptoms. I was asked to follow up with Dr. Online (who was a man this time), who didn’t see anything unusual in my results .. so he requested a second blood test to see if my levels changed. He also requested a urine test, because peeing in a plastic cup is the most dignified thing you can do in a public washroom. Off I went.

I received a phone call from Dr. Online’s office the day after my tests. No big deal, they said, but you need to go to the hospital RIGHT NOW OR YOU WILL DEFINITELY DIE. Okay then. Turns out one of my bloods was so off the chart I was in immediate danger of falling over all dead. That would seriously put a crimp in my day-to-day schedule, so I packed up a bunch of phone chargers and had Ed drive me to the Emergency Room, one of my least favourite places on earth.

There was a lot of waiting. Someone came around and took more blood (which I am running low on at this point). I peed in another cup – I am not getting any better at it, so I mostly just peed all over myself – and waited some more. Wait, wait, wait. Lots of waiting. Good times.

Eventually, a flesh doctor came in and delivered the news: I have diabetes. Not pre-diabetes or diabetes of the butt or kawaii diabetes, but full-on here’s-your-moustache Wilford Brimley diabeetus.

the internet is an interesting place. i didn’t have to search hard for this image.

So. That was the emergency, then: my blood sugar was in the Danger Zone. They kept asking me if I noticed myself peeing more than usual, which is entirely unhelpful – not only am I on medication that’s SUPPOSED to make me pee all the goddamn time, I have a tiny, tiny bladder. Pee frequency (peequency) is not something that would ever cause me any alarm. The other symptoms I’ve been having are so vague – headaches, grumpiness, lack of sleep, exhaustion – that they can be explained away by anything. I have headaches because I always forget to wear my glasses in front of the computer. I’m grumpy because I’m hormonal and people are jerks. I can’t sleep because I stay up way too late every night playing games on my phone, and I’m exhausted because I’m not getting enough sleep. I’m fiiiiine.

Except I’m not fine, and now I have to go on even more medication and change my lifestyle and not eat delicious things. Also, I kind of hate myself and can’t get past the blame stage: this is all my fault because I am fat and gross and stupid.

Logically, I know better. There are other factors at risk: my age. My mother, who is the Canadian Diabetic. I’m an Aboriginal Hispanic South Asian Asian of African descent. I got them big ol’ depression, and that tiiiny little heart issue. I’m a fatty who really likes garlic bread. The only box left unchecked in the entire “you’re gonna die” list is giving birth to a big ass baby, and frankly I don’t remember what I do every single year – there could have been a big ass baby in there somewhere.

So, yeah. I was always at risk of diabetes, but it was still one of my biggest fears. I’m not so much worried about my health as I am deeply ashamed of myself and wanting to hide in the closet until everything goes away. That’ll work, right?

I’ve never been a big fan of myself, but this is .. something else. But why?

A Tragic Backstory

It’s been drilled into me since the age of 7 that the very worst thing I could ever be was fat. Then, as if to spite my mother, I was a fat child who was fat on purpose, just to make my mother look bad. You can’t love a fat child! No one would blame her if she gave me away. It didn’t matter what else I was – serial killer, bed wetter, space cowboy – as long as I was thin. But because I wasn’t thin, my other qualities didn’t matter. I haven’t been 7 for a very long time, but my mother’s words echo in the darkest corner of my mind and get louder every time I have a bad day. I’m fat, so nothing else about me amounts to a hill of beans. On my good days, I can acknowledge the positive – I can be cute, sometimes I am smart, I have a funny – but even then, underneath all of that, I am a disappointment because I am fat.

I have diabetes because I am a big fat lump who brought this on herself by sucking so hard as a person. The shame is clinging to me like plastic wrap. It’s suffocating. I can’t free myself, can’t see past the behemoth I’ve become. I’ve thrown my life away to be a statistic in US-Fucking-A Today. I deserve this.

I know better, I really do. If someone else shared this news, it would be met with sympathy and encouragement. Those don’t apply to me, though, because this is my fault.

What Comes Next?

I have a prescription to fill, and an appointment with my heart doctor tomorrow. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and need to stock the house with food I can actually eat. I had planned to clean out the pantry this weekend anyway, so I’ll toss out the snacks and carbs while I’m in there and replace them with .. I don’t know yet. Kale, I guess. Can’t wait.

I need to figure out my head and try to shake off the shame and guilt I feel. I won’t be telling my mom the news – I’m not really in the mood for an “I told you so” lecture. Keeping things from my mother is my standard MO; she doesn’t know about the heart failure (also my fault, obviously). I’m mostly really good at hiding my demons, but this particular one is not something I’ve faced before. This post is basically step one: admitting to myself (and, uh, the internet at large) that I have diabetes. The thought of sharing that – confessing it – to the world sort of makes me want to throw up and die, so I guess I’m on the right path.

Ugh. I really fucking hate kale.

update my heart

I’m still alive!

After a battery of tests last Thursday, I had an appointment this morning to go over the results. There were a lot of complicated words and assurances that my liver has not fallen out (more on that later), but the bottom line is that my heart is operating at 35%.

As terrifying as that sounds, it’s actually an improvement! When I dragged my half-dead ass into the ER, I was actually much closer to three-quarters-dead: my heart was operating at 20%. The drugs I’ve been taking and my steadfast, noble refusal to run any marathons no matter how tempted I am has brought me UP to half-dead, which feels pretty good (so that should give you some idea of how terrible 3/4 dead really felt).

Because I have ovaries and also am not a cardiologist, math is hard. It took some mental gymnastics to figure out my Ejection Fraction, which is not only a thing but also the name of my death metal Starship cover band:

Ejection fraction is usually expressed as a percentage. A normal heart pumps a little more than half the heart’s blood volume with each beat. A normal LVEF ranges from 55-70%. A LVEF of 65, for example, means that 65% of the total amount of blood in the left ventricle is pumped out with each heartbeat. The LVEF may be lower when the heart muscle has become damaged due to a heart attack, heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy), or other causes.

An EF of less than 40% may confirm a diagnosis of heart failure. Someone with diastolic failure can have a normal EF. An EF of less than 35% increases the risk of life-threatening irregular heartbeats that can cause sudden cardiac arrest (loss of heart function) and sudden cardiac death.

That cheery information comes with a handy chart:

EFM

you could be getting down to this. irregular. beat.

It always comes as somewhat of a surprise to me just how REALLY FUCKING SICK I WAS/am, because I am adorkably naive when it comes to my own person. I’ve honestly just been going about my business as usual and treating all of this as a minor annoyance like a cold or not enough ice cubes or my handmaidens missing a spot when they anoint me with fragrant oils, but I guess it’s much more serious than that. I mean, look at that chart. I am at risk of life-threatening irregular heartbeats! That doesn’t sound like much fun at all.

As of today, my heart is ejecting fractions at 35%. That is officially one half of normal, so it’s not great by any stretch of the imagination .. but it’s so much better than where I was, so things are looking good. The meds are doing what they’re supposed to, Doc Awesome is pleased at my progress, and he doesn’t know why the hell I’m so itchy all the time either.

Apparently, most heart failure patients have their follow-up ultrasound done 6-9 months out. Mine was done pretty early, but I’m glad it was – this gives me a good idea of where I’m at (and also a much needed reminder that it’s okay if I feel lousy sometimes because I am really for real sick and not just a big baby for not powering through it). I’ll be scheduled for another one come January.

The only real downer news from the appointment is that I’m going to be married to this old person pill sorter for the foreseeable future – I’ll be taking this delightful assortment of medication for something like 18 months. That’s insane! At least my medic alert bracelet investment won’t go to waste, though. That’s good.

I was completely a little worried going into the appointment this morning, because it felt like the ultrasound took an inordinately long time. Ramon the Technician prodded at me for what felt like hours, and seemed to be rescanning certain areas repeatedly while peering at the screen with a furrowed brow. That’s disconcerting at the best of times, let alone when you’re waiting to find out where you sit on the scale of one to dead. However, I’m pleased to report that I’m very slowly but very surely getting better. Hooray! Unless you hate me, at which point I apologize that I’ll be sticking around for some time yet. Sucks to be you!

but no one hates me because i'm awesome, right? :(

but no one hates me because i’m awesome, right? :(

 

health update: three fifths vs two thirds

Tomorrow will mark four weeks since the night I dragged my two-thirds dead ass into the ER and learned that I wasn’t crazy; something new and different was really wrong with me. I had my first official checkup with Doctor Awesome yesterday, to see how I was taking to the medication and if I was feeling better.

I’m pleased to report that I am definitely feeling better – I’d be truly terrified if I wasn’t, because holy crap you guys I felt so fucking awful before the hospital. Things were so better almost immediately afterwards that I was partially convinced the whole thing was psychosomatic. The medication made a huge difference, and the bloodwork I had done last week showed that things weren’t getting worse (which is awesome). It also showed that my kidneys are super great (I hadn’t really followed up on how my kidneys recovered from the infection of ’12, so I was glad to hear they were back to superstar status), I don’t have diabeetus, and I am definitely not pregnant. All good things!

A lot of the really horrible symptoms I was having have gone away, too. I no longer sound like I’m dying in my sleep, to Ed’s eternal relief. The utterly insane sweating while sleeping, sitting, standing perfectly still, thinking, etc has dramatically lessened, and I mostly don’t feel drained to the point of tears after standing up or getting dressed. I still get swooningly tired much more easily than I should, but I can move around and do things and go for short walks so that’s nice. My chest no longer rattles! I don’t sound like Darth Vader eating Pop Rocks at night! HOORAY!

Not everything is perfect, but I’m slowly getting there. My heart is still broken (wahhhh) and hovering around 20% functionality, so fluid remains an issue. I may need to increase my medication dosage, which is doable because I’m apparently on a crazy low dose of medicine and obviously responding well. A bump in making me pee more isn’t going to hurt – in fact, it’ll probably help. I’ve had a couple barf-up-fluid incidents over the last week, so my next step is to take a double dose of diuretics and spend my days in the bathroom. Good times.

I’m really glad I’ve got permission to work from home when necessary, because all toilets on the floor I work will be out of commission tomorrow and the next day. I am NOT going to increase my pee pills and then work where there are no bathrooms. That is madness.

Missing toilets aside, work has been great about all of this. They know I can do my job from pretty much anywhere, so I have permission to take care of myself and work where I need to. That’s super helpful as I’m so much more productive at home anyway – and not having to feel my misplaced guilt over not physically being in the nest is a big relief. I stress out over the stupidest things, and that’s one of them.

I’ve got an ultrasound scheduled for the end of May, by which point Doc Awesome says I should be only 1/3 dead instead of 2/3. If not, I get more meds. In the meantime, I’m supposed to go see him as soon as I have any weird or worrying symptoms or if I want to go to a really, really crazy nice office staffed with catalogue-handsome people. This is excellent advice, and for once, I will listen to it.

Oh, and I have a medic alert bracelet now. I am clumsy and I wander off a lot, so I thought it best that I have some sort of notification that I’m broken hearted and allergic to penicillin. I am getting really good at common sense! I should write a book.

.. after I get lunch. I’m still not very good at eating, but I’m trying.