One day I was a healthy 30-year-old woman about to get married. The next, I received a life-changing diagnosis.
It was a word I was all too familiar with. My father's dad was a type 1 diabetic, diagnosed in his 30s. My mother's brother was a type 1 diabetic diagnosed as a young child. After a long struggle, the disease eventually claimed my uncle's life.
I'd watched this disease live out in my relatives my entire life. And now, it had struck me. What was I going to do? I felt trapped in this diagnosis, as anyone who has received one can likely relate to.
As a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), I've studied the pathology of diabetes in great detail and have cared for patients with forms of this disease for 13 years. I knew the importance of controlling this disease so it would not claim my health and my life.
You'd think that would make it easier, but it didn't.
I went through stages of denial, anger, helplessness and fear, just like anyone else. I had to mourn the loss of that healthy 30-year-old woman and come to terms with my new reality: I was a type 1 diabetic diagnosed in my 30s.
After I left the doctor's office on diagnosis day, the journey to controlling my disease was an interesting one. I was originally diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic, as generally, type 1 diabetes is known as "juvenile diabetes," and there's an assumption that adults are automatically type 2 diabetics. This, however, is not correct. My blood glucose levels were extremely high at the time of diagnosis, high enough that I should not have been given a diagnosis and treatment plan without being referred to an endocrinologist. As an advanced practice nurse, I should have known this, but I was still in denial.
Type 2 diabetes seemed less scary than type 1. But after several weeks of mismanagement, I finally came to my senses and asked to be referred to a specialist. It took two months to be seen, and in that time, I took the prescribed Metformin and avoided all carbs and sugar to keep my blood glucose levels reasonable.
I remember that appointment vividly. The endocrinologist walked in, introduced himself and then said, "Well Kara, I'd bet my life you're not a type 2 diabetic."
I had so many emotions in that moment—fear, validation, frustration and hope. I felt seen. The only piece of the puzzle anyone else looked at was my age. They hadn't examined the fact that I wasn't medically overweight, my very high glucose levels at diagnosis or that the medication wasn't working. I knew that was the beginning of me regaining my power. I had an accurate diagnosis based on science and testing, which meant I could receive the appropriate tools at my disposal to control this disease to the best of my ability.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month. I want my story to help bring awareness to the different types of diabetes that exist so we can help optimize the management of the disease. My form of diabetes is known as latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) and is a form of type 1 diabetes that occurs in adulthood. I want my story to encourage patients to ask questions and participate in their disease management. We have power when we educate ourselves and when we advocate for ourselves.
This diagnosis has been a blessing in my life at the end of the day. Two and a half years ago I started Beauty ReNew, a boutique medical spa that focuses on education and patient empowerment. We recently launched a wellness program dedicated to nutrition support and weight management, with a focus on blood sugar stabilization. My journey with diabetes put me on a path to wellness, and now I'm excited about helping others do the same.
Together, we can make a difference. I want to encourage everyone who is facing a trial to remember there is always hope.
Kara Draayer is the owner and founder of Beauty ReNew Aesthetics & Wellness, a boutique medical and wellness spa in Holland, Michigan that focuses on customized treatment plans, anti-aging, wellness, nutrition and weight loss. In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month, 10% of all proceeds at Beauty ReNew Aesthetics and Wellness will be donated to the American Diabetes Association to help fund diabetes research. For more information, visit mybeautyrenew.com for a full list of services.
Photos Courtesy of Brittany Nicole Films and Beauty ReNews.