Diabetes Crashed My Wedding + Stole My Ring
Editor’s Note: Early warning signs of Type 1 diabetes include: excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, and exhaustion. Seek immediate medical care if you or someone you love is experiencing these symptoms. Share this graphic to help raise awareness.
To learn more about the warning signs of Type 1 diabetes, DKA, and help spread the word to save lives, check out our DKA Campaign.
Diabetes was an uninvited guest to our wedding. It crashed our honeymoon and then it stole my wedding ring.
Our big day
I was 43 years old when the initial onset of symptoms hit me in late May 2017. Like many others, I was unaware of the warning signs of Type 1 diabetes. I didn’t know about The Four T’s: Toilet, Thirsty, Tired, and Thinner. In hindsight there were quite a few other signs too, like fruity breath and blurry vision.
Around the same time that the symptoms started, my fiancé Ashlee and I were making final preparations for our wedding in July. I was feeling healthy, practicing hot yoga daily and training for road races. It was during a half marathon in May that I felt excruciatingly painful cramps in my hamstring and I limped the final mile to the finish line. At the time I was telling myself that I must’ve just taken a misstep, but in hindsight, the pain I felt during that race was the first physical indication that there was a physiological imbalance in my body. Additional warning signs persisted but we didn’t know how to recognize the symptoms or draw a connection to diabetes. I brushed off the signs and created all sorts of excuses for the way I was feeling: fatigue from wedding planning, stress from work, allergies, getting older, etc.
The suit I was going to wear for the ceremony hung in our closet until a few days before the wedding when I decided to try it on. The jacket and pants were tailored just 5 months ago and the suit had been a perfect fit, even a little snug. This must be a mistake, I thought. The pants were HUGE! It was too late to alter them to fit my suddenly smaller frame. I couldn’t have lost that much weight from sweating in the yoga studio. A new belt, one that could be adjusted smaller than any of my current belts, was the only thing keeping my pants from falling down to my ankles.
I didn’t sleep the night before the wedding but it wasn’t because I had cold feet. It was because of a combination of RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome), muscle cramps, and, like most nights during the past month, I was waking up every two hours to use the toilet.
Thankfully, our wedding day was spectacular. The morning rain evaporated a few minutes before the guests arrived and I swear the sun’s rays shone through a break in the clouds at the same moment Ashlee stepped onto the aisle. During the reception that evening, I struggled to stay awake. Ashlee and I danced to a few slow songs but I sat in a chair for most of the night slugging back yet another cup of coffee and swiping another slice of cake from the dessert table.
We intentionally postponed our honeymoon in Cape Cod until a few weeks after the wedding, and we both went back to work. This was when my symptoms really intensified. Ashlee became more and more concerned. I’m sure she was thinking, What the heck is wrong with the guy I just married? He’s lethargic. Distant. Disinterested. He just wants to sleep. Is he depressed? There was no explanation for why I was so tired.
Getting down to it
I came home one evening and laid down on the couch. Ashlee sat next to me, and we talked about my symptoms and my odd behavior. I recalled a recent episode where I drank a gallon of lemonade in one sitting to try to quench my thirst. Ashlee chided, “I hope you don’t have diabetes,” followed by a long period of silence. After Googling my symptoms and seeing a match for T1D, I picked up the phone to see how soon I could get an appointment at the clinic.
Two days later, I found myself sitting at the doctor’s office. It was the last appointment of the day. Back at our apartment, our bags were sitting by the door, ready for our trip to Cape Cod. We planned to leave early the next morning. After checking in with the receptionist and reciting my symptoms to a nurse practitioner, I was ushered to a windowless room for a blood draw. The phlebotomist had a button on her scrubs that said, “They Call Me the Vein Whisperer.”
My blood glucose level was tested for the first time in my life and it was 26.7 mmol/L480 mg/dL. My A1C was 14.1%. The Vein Whisperer jotted down notes, bundled the tubes with the documents, and motioned for me to follow her back to the exam room. I sat on the edge of the table and waited.
There were now two doctors, a nurse, and my new wife squeezed around me as I sat on the edge of the exam table. The Attending asked me to exhale through my mouth. He said my breath was ‘fruity’ but didn’t explain what that meant. Words came out of the mouths of both doctors, but I wasn’t comprehending what was being said. I remember hearing the words ‘Diabetes’ and ‘Type 2’. Both doctors looked concerned. They wanted us to know the location of the closest hospital to where we were staying on Cape Cod. They prescribed metformin, a glucometer, ketone strips, and offered advice to avoid eating carbs. To which I responded, “But what about my favorite ice cream shop?”
One of the doctors caught The Vein Whisperer on her way out the door and asked her to take me back to draw more blood. I had plenty of time to think while she tried to coax blood from my other arm, but the only thought in my head was, Why is it taking SO LONG to fill each one of those vials?
Later, it dawned on me that a few weeks earlier I had tried to give blood and, despite squeezing a rubber ball continuously to keep the blood flowing, I was unable to fill the bag during the allotted time for the donation. I was told my blood would be rejected because it was under the required volume of one pint. The Red Cross technician advised that I “hydrate next time” I volunteered to donate blood.
So here’s my recommendation for a fifth “T” for warning signs of diabetes: my blood was THICK*. This was another missed opportunity to recognize one of the warning signs of Type 1.
(*According to the Mayo Clinic, if your blood sugar level tops 33.3 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)600 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), the condition is known as diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome. When your blood sugar gets this high, your blood becomes thick and syrupy.)
So there I was: newly (and incorrectly) diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Shocked, confused, scared, worried… What do I do now? Should we cancel our trip? What was I supposed to eat?
Carrying on + finding a tribe
We decided to get in the car and go on our honeymoon the next morning. We made note of the nearest hospital to where we were staying and before we left town we stopped at a pharmacy to fill prescriptions. Although my readings were still in the 13.9-16.6 mmol/L250-300 mg/dL range, and I still really didn’t know what that meant, Ashlee kept the diagnosis from dampening our spirits or our honeymoon. Our memories of that week on Cape Cod are mostly happy ones – late-night mini golf, swimming in the ocean and a taste of my favorite ice cream.
My follow-up appointment was scheduled for a couple of days after we returned home. The test results were back from the lab. My PCP looked at me and said: “We’re diagnosing you with LADA, a form of Type 1 diabetes.” One of the tests analyzed my C Peptide levels. C-peptide and insulin are released from the pancreas at the same time and in about equal amounts. So a C-peptide test can show how much insulin your body is making. A normal C-peptide range is 0.5 to 2.0 nanograms per milliliter. My C Peptide levels indicated that my pancreas was producing a miniscule amount of insulin, but that trickle was possibly enough to keep me from DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis).
My doctor handed me pamphlets with stock photos of smiling middle-aged adults that looked like the people you’d see on commercials for prescription medications. You know, the ones with stock images of people enjoying an active lifestyle, Riding bicycles, playing tennis, and pretending to be happy.
This time I was sent home with prescriptions for insulin (Lantus and Novolog). I was instructed to record my daily carb intake and insulin dosage on a sheet of paper and they asked me to schedule another appointment in one month.
Within a few weeks of my diagnosis, I discovered Beyond Type 1. From there I started following T1Ds on social media and eventually stumbled upon Type One Run. Through these online connections, I felt relief and reassurance that things were going to be okay. I saw people who weren’t just living with T1D, they were thriving. Beyond Type 1 led me to discussions within the T1D community that provided treasure troves of information about the disease plus advice and tips for managing it. I learned about new technology and found support for people who, like me, were recently diagnosed or for others who were feeling fatigued and burned out.
I also discovered that Beyond Type 1 was co-sponsoring a weekend retreat in Maine with the Canada-based non-profit Connected in Motion. I jumped at the opportunity to attend. I got to spend a weekend with 70+ other T1Ds and it was truly life-changing. It was my first chance to meet other people with Type 1.
So… what happened to the wedding ring?
Not only did my tailored suit pants no longer fit my frame on the big day, but the ring that was perfectly sized for my finger five months prior slipped off and went unnoticed a few days before my initial diagnosis. We searched for it, but it still hasn’t been found. I wasn’t going to let diabetes take that from me. Instead of a replacement metal ring, there’s now a tattoo inked on my finger in the outline of the ring. That tattoo is not only a symbol of my love and commitment to Ashlee, it also serves as a reminder that I am strong and resilient.
Jay shared his diagnosis story around the campfire at the Connected in Motion x Beyond Type 1 Northeastern Slipstream in Maine, May 2018 and looks forward to when we’ll all be able to share stories together again.