A few months ago my incredibly healthy, fit and chronic illness free husband came home from his annual physical quiet and slightly distraught. He told me that his A1C was 6.8%. He had a recommendation for blood work to check his c-peptide. My husband is no stranger to diabetes. I have been living with type 1 for almost 30 years.
The doctor told my husband to continue living life as he has been because there’s not much you can do, despite my husband declaring he knows diabetes well and maybe he could do something to help his blood sugar levels. The doctor argued that he’s active, we eat extremely healthily, and that’s how this disease is generally treated.
He wasn’t given a formal diagnosis.
The worst part: he wasn’t even given a blood glucose meter.
My head started to spin, and I had visions of amputations and kidney failure and blindness flash through my head. I needed a few minutes to myself to deal with the unexpected grief of this non-diagnosis/diagnosis. In reality, I know that living with diabetes doesn’t mean a death sentence. I preach this every day, but when my loved one’s health was at stake, I felt the world crashing down.
I can deal with my own diabetes. This is my life. But my husband? He is the strong one, the one with no health issues who is tough and barely ever gets a cold. He has cared for me during serious low blood sugars, and has sat on the side of the road with me while we waited for my blood sugar to rise during our evening walks. He has been my undeniable strength in times that I wanted to throw my meter through a window.
I’ve found myself wondering how I can help my husband transition to the life of a person with diabetes. I’ve sent him encouraging texts and asked him if he’d checked his blood sugar before eating, but I know these things don’t work. I know they don’t work because I used to get those questions, and they would only make me dig my heels in deeper and tune out my caregivers. I keep reminding myself that I want to be his wife first and caregiver second, but the person inside of me just wants to scream and take away all of his worry.
Stages of Grief
I go from disbelief to anger to sadness. I haven’t moved on from disbelief entirely. I keep telling myself that maybe this was a mistake. I know things happen in labs all the time where the little vampire vials can get swapped and names and addresses get mixed up. Maybe this was another person’s blood work who already has diabetes and they deserve a congratulations for a 6.8% because they’d been working oh so hard.
My anger is confusing me. I am not angry at my husband, how could I be? I am angry at his doctor for being dismissive about the entire situation. I am angry that the doctor didn’t prescribe test strips, or a visit to the diabetes care center in our city. I am angry because this disease was supposed to always be only my problem. I keep everything close in my diabetes life, I take ownership and care. I try not to involve anyone else. I am angry because there is no support for my husband other than me unless he looks hard for it. I am angry because every day there are people living with this disease who feel they cannot be public with their diagnosis due to shame and stigma. I am angry because I can’t take diabetes away from him.
My sadness feels deep. I feel sad because now my husband has to face a future of unpredictable ups and downs. I have had almost 30 years to come to terms with that fact. I am sad that my husband has to think about his every move with food and exercise now. I am even sadder that he hasn’t been taught any of this by a medical professional. He knows because he witnesses my life day in and day out.
In addition to the negative feelings that are associated with a diabetes diagnosis (or in his case a non-diagnosis), I feel that my husband is lucky. He is lucky because I am not going to be as uninterested like his doctor. I understand that early intervention in diabetes care has positive long-term results.
I feel overwhelmingly supported by the diabetes online community. I know that I can log on to a variety of sites and get well-researched information, or personal support. When my husband is ready, he will be able to join the online community to feel less alone, and less guilty.
I know that this (non-)diagnosis isn’t the end of the world. There are lots of resources out there for people living with diabetes, and it is – for the most part – manageable condition. I believe that my husband’s life won’t be altered too much once the doctor comes around and makes an official diagnosis, because we are working on the acceptance well before the doctor insists.