Senior Year

Once I stopped the IV chemo, and my MG was stable, I actually thought I was ready to graduate from the University of Catastrophe. Ah, but life had other plans. Little did I know a brand new major had been selected just for me.

Unlike MG announcing itself by making me lose my eyesight overnight, this major introduced itself more slowly. It began in April of 2011 with an innocent drink of water. I brushed my teeth and had a cup of water. It was cool and delicious. For some reason that little drink of water was exactly what I wanted. It seemed to taste better than normal. I put the cup in the trash and went to bed.

It was spring in Chicago and the backyard was lush and green. A gentle rain watered the daffodils in my garden. The sight of water dripping down from the gutter made me thirsty.

So did vacuuming the floor.
And getting the mail.
And showering.

Everything I did made me thirsty. I started bringing a water bottle with me to bed. It felt wonderful to wake up, have a drink of water, and then go back to sleep. Except, I had to pee.

I used to sleep through the night, but in May I had to get up and go to the bathroom once every night. In June it was twice every night. It became a ritual. I would wake up, drink a quart of water, and then go back to sleep. A few hours later I woke up and drank another quart of water before going back to sleep.

In June I also re-discovered iced tea. Cold glasses of iced tea with just the right amount of lemon, that’s what I wanted. I drank it by the gallon. It wasn’t unusual for me to carry around a plastic gallon jug of iced tea and drink it straight from the bottle. During the day I drank a gallon of iced tea. At night, I drank half a gallon of water.

And I was still thirsty.

I began to seriously worry in July when we went out to dinner to celebrate Evelyn’s birthday. I ordered nine glasses of iced tea during dinner. And I drank ice water. And Evelyn’s ice water. And Steve’s ice water. Something was wrong. Excessive thirst and excessive peeing are warning signs of diabetes. Drinking 13 drinks at one meal? I’d call that excessive. But I was still thirsty.

I started worrying that I had diabetes. Since I had a neurology appointment in another week, I decided I would talk to my doctor about getting tested. The University of Catastrophe had other ideas. Several months earlier I bit down too hard on a  popcorn kernel and cracked off a piece of my back tooth. It wasn’t a big piece. It didn't even hurt. So I - ahem - forgot about it.

Fast forward to Saturday July 23 20011.  The tooth with the tiny crack in it started throbbing. I called my dentist and got the answering service. Having just taken a handful of Advil, I realized I needed stronger painkillers and probably an antibiotic. With weekly chemo, i don't take infection lightly. So, I headed over to the local urgent care place. They assessed the situation, gave me antibiotics and painkillers.

I didn't sleep at all Saturday night. My mouth hurt and my face started to swell. It got much worse on Sunday. I was a ball of misery on the sofa. Sunday evening I was exhausted and I started nodding off. Then I would wake up feeling terrified. It was as if I was jolted awake. My intuition screamed, “Don’t fall asleep! Whatever you do, do not fall asleep.”

I have only heard that voice one other time. An insistent voice woke me out of a deep sleep and said, “Check the baby right now!” I got up, looked in Evelyn’s crib and found her blue and unresponsive. That voice saved my daughter’s life and I believe it saved mine, too.

After several warnings, each getting more powerful, I was terrified of falling asleep. I went to the emergency room instead.

In the  emergency room the staff quickly decided I had an abscessed tooth, and prescribed iv antibiotics. They took lots of blood. Them I found out why my intuition was warning me. My blood sugar was almost 400. I have diabetes.

I was admitted to the hospital. My mouth looked like I had a golf ball in my cheek. The swelling in my jaw looked like a cartoon toothache, but it was no joke. The infection spread under my chin. My jaw and cheek merged as one unit. My jaw felt hot to the touch. After countless bags of iv antibiotics I finally had my tooth pulled on Wednesday. The scariest infection I have ever had finally started to heal.

While I was in the hospital I met with the diabetes educators. I learned how to use a syringe and an insulin pen. I learned how to give myself insulin and how to test my blood sugar. I learned what to eat and got a meal plan.

But I think the main thing I learned is to listen to my intuition. It saved my life.

Post Graduate

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I am not a doctor. I do not have a medical degree. Nothing on this site qualifies as medical advice. These are lessons I'm learning at the University of Catastrophe. What I find to be correct answers in my classes may not be the right answers for you.

If you are enrolled with your own major at the University of Catastrophe, please consult your doctor, therapist, attorney, auto mechanic, veterinarian, plumber, dietician, arborist, acupuncturist, manicurist, mother, local dairy council, shoe shine boy, or other equally qualified professional, for advice and assistance.

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