The following note is a response to a recent answer by Schuyler to a question regarding suicide. Beacon Lights thanks Angie for her comments, and in accordance with her wishes, publicly thanks Schuyler (whose identity remains a mystery).
I am not sure who writes in the Questions for Schuyler, but I have to say thanks for touching on such a touchy subject in Beacon Lights. Whoever wrote the response to the question handled it with compassion, but also with their belief of what the scripture tells us. I appreciate the fact that it was handled in both ways. So many times the subject of suicide is cut and dried with people—as is depression—it is a sin and that’s it. Christ had compassion on us as sinners. The sin of depression or suicide is no greater than when we break any of the other ten commandments. Please thank whoever wrote the response for me.
—Angie De Vries
In the last issue, we learned about the disease and its impact on life. In this issue, we continue with the symptoms and conclude by looking at this disease in the light of Scripture.
Another bad episode was a few years ago. I was in a mad rush to get the kids out the door to meet my parents at a restaurant. I was late and frantically struggling to get the kids to understand that we NEEDED TO GET IN THE VAN! When all of the sudden I found myself sitting in my recliner in my living room talking on the phone. The person I called was a very good friend who’s daughter is a diabetic and she clearly could tell that something was wrong. She tried to get me to hang up the phone so that her line was free to call my brother but I was so out of it I sat there with the phone in my hand just looking at it and wondering “how do I hang it up?” My brother showed up but the house was locked and he had no way of getting in. He saw me through the living room window and tried to get me to open the door. I looked at him in a delirious state and was like “how do you open a door?” Again I was thankful beyond words that I had picked up the phone and just so happened to call that specific friend.
High blood sugars happen when there is too much sugar in the body and not enough insulin to transport it to the cells in the body. Signs for me of a high blood sugar feel like a bad stomach flu. Most of the time it’s taken care of with a shot or two of insulin (and also continuous monitoring of the blood sugars). But there are times when insulin just doesn’t cut it. You start to get dehydrated and your veins close up—and what’s needed is a trip to the ER for IV fluids and more insulin.
I ended up in the ER more times than I care to count due to Diabetic Keto Acidosis (or high blood sugars). Quite a few times it almost happened that I never left the hospital alive.
Throughout Junior High and High School I rebelled against my disease. I would refuse to test my blood. I didn’t take my shots and this would all lead to high blood sugars. I even suffered from a form of what’s called Diabetic Anorexia. I had a terrible self image problem and was not happy with the way I looked. I realized that if I took shots that meant I had to eat, otherwise I would suffer a low blood sugar. I found out that if I skipped my shots, either my sugars would go up high and I would get sick—throwing up—or I wouldn’t have to eat at all. I failed to see that what this was doing to me wasn’t helping and causing me great harm. Instead of seeing myself as committing a slow suicide, all I saw was me getting thin.
Complications from this disease are blindness, nerve damage, kidney damage and heart damage—but eventually death if the Diabetes is not controlled or treated properly. I’ve developed a few of these complications—my eye sight isn’t as good as it once was and I’ve had to endure many eye surgeries to correct bleeding blood vessels in my eyes. I’ve also had nerve damage to my feet and in my hands—can’t feel when my feet are in hot water or ice cold water.
Diabetes is a constant. You don’t just take your insulin and forget about it for the rest of the day. You go to sleep with it being on your mind and you wake up with it being on your mind. You never get a vacation or even a small break from it—no matter how many times you wish for one.
Someone once asked if I was ever teased about my disease. I was never teased about having Diabetes. I think for me the biggest problem was not knowing anyone else that had it. I felt alone and abnormal in a way. I was different—and who likes to be different? Diabetes made me different and from that very day that I turned 6 I developed a hatred towards it for stealing away my “normal” life. I never really looked at it as God giving it to me for my good. If you were to have asked me then if I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” my honest answer to you would be no. How could this all be so wonderful? Where was the good in it all?
It took a lot of second chances for me to finally realize just how important it was that I come to grips and accept my disease. It wasn’t going anywhere and no matter how hard I tried to rid myself of it or not think of it—it was always gong to be there. There is no cure for it—yet. My outlook is a positive one. I believe that the day is going to come when I’m free from this and able to live life like each and every one of you.
Looking back and seeing all that I went through: the depression, the rebellion, the denial and even the eating issues I had, I know now that as hard as that road was to travel on—it has led me to where I am at today. Would I have done anything differently? Sure. I wish I wouldn’t have put my body and my family and loved ones through the torture I did. But that’s the thing, we can’t turn back time—what’s done is done. We grow from the mistakes we make. God has a purpose in the journey I had to travel on. It’s caused me to see that my disease isn’t so much a burden (although there are some days when it sure seems to be), but it’s an opportunity for me to share with others my struggles and possibly help others that suffer from it or the issues associated with it.
Had I not had Diabetes, would I be as sympathetic to others with a disease or disability? Would I be here today talking to you about it? Who knows? All I know is that I have it and I’m here today to share with you my experience of it. Maybe this was God’s purpose in me having my disease, to realize that each of us are given trials by God, ones that were specifically chosen JUST for us. My trial just so happens to be Diabetes. I probably haven’t 100% accepted it, as I said, there are days when I’d love to scream WHY? But I look at how far I’ve come in life and I see the intense truth that scripture states “All things work together for good to them that love God.” I am constantly reminded that through trials God also bestows great joy and blessing. I am married to a wonderful man who shares with me the same belief of our heavenly Father and he loves me—diabetes and all. And God has blessed our life with 4 healthy and beautiful children.
At 6 years old I may have felt alone and strangely abnormal in some ways. But at the age of 35 I know now that I’ve been created just how I was supposed to be and that I’ve been fearfully and wonderfully made by God.
When asked again this year if I would be willing to speak to you for the Fearfully and Wonderfully Made program, I must say as I said to last year’s class: I can write about almost anything you throw at me, but speak? A completely different story! So please bear with me as my nose is pressed firmly into my paper and I read this instead of having it all memorized.
When I say the word diabetes a lot of you will recognize the word as being something that your grandparent, parent or quite possibly your sibling suffers from. There are 2 types of diabetes—Type 1 and Type 2. When talking diabetes, the one body organ affected by the disease is called the pancreas. The pancreas’ job inside the body is one of the most vital to the body functioning properly. It produces a hormone called insulin. Insulin is the main “transporter” for every bit of sugar that enters your body. It carries it through your blood stream in order for your body to use it as energy. When you are without insulin, the sugar sits in your body with nowhere to go and this will lead to problems.
Type 2 diabetes is common in adults aged 50 years or older—although it can occur in children and adolescents. Being overweight and leading a non-active life style can also make a person at higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Other factors could be family history and also race. Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent form of the disease accounting for 90-95% of all cases in America. Most people with Type 2 are still able to produce insulin at diagnosis, but the insulin that is produced doesn’t keep up with the sugar that is taken into the body. A lot of times what is used to maintain Type 2 diabetes is a healthier life style which includes eating healthy and also exercising. Because the body is still able to produce insulin, pills are usually taken to help with their own insulin’s ability to work effectively. When this does not help, then insulin injections are needed.
I’m here today to speak to you about Type 1 diabetes. It’s a disease that I’ve had now for about 30 years of my life. I’ll give you a brief “scientific” instruction of it but most of this speech will be from a personal aspect of having this disease.
We Type 1 diabetics are often quite jealous of the Type 2 ones. When you have Type 2 there’s a possible chance that it is preventable—whereas for us Type 1s? We had no choice, no way of preventing it and really now, there’s no way of knowing if a person will get it or not.
Back when I was diagnosed it was a disease known as juvenile diabetes because most often it was diagnosed in children. But that is not always the case now. There have been many people affected by Type 1 diabetes in their late teens and early adult life as well. The cause for Type 1 diabetes isn’t quite known yet but some say it’s due to genetics and it takes an environmental trigger or series of triggers (such as a virus, toxin or drug) to set the autoimmune process in motion to destroy the pancreas’ cells that produce insulin.
When you are diagnosed with Type 1 you are automatically put on insulin injections because your pancreas produces no insulin at all. Your shots mainly take the form of an “artificial” pancreas.
Around the age of 3 and a half I started showing symptoms that didn’t seem quite right with my mom. I was constantly drinking, tired all the time, moody, loosing weight, loosing hair and going to the bathroom all the time. My mom took me from doctor to doctor and each one saying the same thing: “It’s her age.” I showed all the symptoms of having the disease but because doctors back then thought that Type 1 diabetes was an inherited disease and no one in my family had it, then there was no reason for me to be tested for it.
The doctor visits continued because my mom was convinced that something other than my age was going on. I was finally diagnosed on my 6th birthday, and from that point on I hated my disease. Being diagnosed on my birthday was the first way it “stole” my life from me. I had so many plans for that day—I turned 6! I was going to have a birthday party with cake and ice cream and presents! I had no time for a disease—I was on my way to kindergarten!
Because my disease went undetected for so long the sugar levels in my blood were outrageously high. When there’s no insulin to help carry the sugar through the blood stream what ends up happening is that the sugar just sits. When it sits it starts causing significant damage to the body’s organs and nerves.
For those of you that don’t have the disease, your work is pretty easy—you eat what you want and your body does the rest. Your pancreas figures out how much sugar is there inside your body, it produces the right amount of insulin to take care of that sugar—and all this goes on without you feeling or even knowing about it.
I was put on shots from the very beginning and hated it. Not only were the shots a pain to get, but it was never quite right—the insulin was either too much or too little and to find the exact number took a pancreas—which I didn’t have.
Another introduction to my life was blood testing. Blood testing is one of the ways a person can know what the sugar level is inside the body and this will in turn let us know how much insulin to give ourselves to help that sugar maintain a normal number. A normal blood reading is 60-120. When I was first diagnosed my blood sugar number was well over 1000. Blood testing involves a simple finger prick and it registers into a machine to give you your blood glucose level (or in easier terms—blood sugar).
When I was first diagnosed they didn’t have the machines they have today. In fact my mom had to take me into the doctor sometimes 3-4 times a week to get my blood sugar tested because at-home meters weren’t available. A few months though after my diagnosis , we were given our first “at home meter.” Today’s models are small and compact—almost as small as a credit card and as thick as a half a deck of cards. My first meter was the size of a Psalter and just as thick. Blood testing was never a “love” of mine, I don’t remember really hating it so much as a kid but as I grew it became a constant irritation.
Another change in my life because of the disease was my diet. Thirty years ago sugar was taboo—I couldn’t eat it much less look at it. And to have 2 brothers who didn’t have it and were able to eat anything and everything while I was stuck with fruit or veggies? Yeah, that didn’t help make me love this disease more than I already hated it.
Science has come a long ways since 1980. Since then the insulin pump has been invented. This is a machine that is attached to you and deposits insulin slowly into your system sporadically throughout the day. It takes on the role that the pancreas would take in “producing” the insulin, but you still have to watch blood sugars as that was also the pancreas’ job to do.
Another added bonus about the work in science is that we diabetics can basically have whatever we want to eat. You can’t imagine the sheer joy in this giant step! I finally was given the green light to eat cake! The only thing is that you constantly have to watch what you put in your mouth—making sure that you keep an eye on the sugar (more importantly the carbohydrate) content and calculate how much insulin you will need to take to cover that amount of sugar.
The things I have to deal with as a diabetic are continuous. Daily life includes: blood testing (up to 10-12 times each day), insulin injections (about 6 times each day) and a constant monitoring of what I put in my mouth and calculation to how much insulin this would require me to take. Diabetes is a constant monitoring game. You are aware of how you are feeling at all times and if you are feeling a little “off” then bells start going off “are my sugars high? Are they low?”
Low blood sugars are pretty easy for the “public” to spot. You start sweating, shaking and acting a bit strange. Low blood sugars usually happen when the body has too much of the insulin but not enough sugar for the insulin to attach itself to. I’ve had my fair share of “interesting” low blood sugar reactions, one of which happened while shopping at Meijers. As I was walking down the bulk food isle I could tell that something just wasn’t right. I started having a hard time focusing on things and couldn’t figure out why I was where I was at and what I was doing there. While passing the bins of candy, I grabbed a scoop knowing that I needed sugar. Then things started fading in and out and the next thing I knew I was karate kicking the end isle for some unknown reason. Now to most passers-by it would look as if I were completely off my rocker. But a lady took me in her arms and gently guided me to the floor where I passed out. Thankfully she was a wife of a firefighter and knew the signs and symptoms of a low blood sugar.
(to be concluded in the next issue)