Guest Post: The Not-So-Great Unknown by Jacquie Wojcik
The Not-So-Great Unknown
One of my favorite guilty television pleasures is the show Mystery Diagnosis on Discovery Health.
If you haven’t seen it, it’s sort of a real-life House, but each case is told from the point of view of the patient and her close family members and friends. The patients recount their bizarre-o symptoms, the dozens of unsuccessful doctors appointments, and then a series of reenactments and interviews brings us to the patient’s final diagnosis — usually something like Myasthenia Gravis or Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency or Uiodhgihoehojkljshgn-9 Disorder (Okay, I made that last one up.)
I used to watch the show and see a patient whose legs would inexplicably turn black on random occasions, or a parent whose child’s arms wouldn’t bend, and I’d always think, “Diabetes sucks, but at least I know what I’m dealing with and how to handle it.”
In the last few months, though, I’ve grown less certain in that knowledge. Of course, my diagnosis hasn’t changed, but the way I view diabetes and its weird side effects has.
First, there’s my heart. I’ve been dealing with crazy chest pains on and off for the last 7 months. I’ve had stress tests, echocardiograms, chest x-rays — even a cardiac catheterization — but no one can find anything wrong, except for the fact that my heart’s not as strong as it should be. I’m taking an ACE inhibitor and a Beta blocker, and at my last cardiology appointment, it was revealed that some parts of my heart had grown stronger, but overall it had grown weaker. I asked the cardiologist what was going on — what the cause could be — and he gave me some vague explanation that involved diabetes, a virus I had last winter and — essentially — the random cruelty of fate.
Then, there’s the unthinkable death of a 13-year-old girl with Type 1 diabetes that suddenly has all of us feeling lucky just to wake up in the morning. Dead in Bed Syndrome. What happens? What’s the cause? The only explanations anyone has to offer involve Type 1 diabetes, possible cardiac issues and the random cruelty of fate.
It seems the longer we live with diabetes — in any of its nasty forms — the more surprises we potentially face. Suddenly I’m hearing about complications like diabetic mastopathy, gastrointestinal neuropathy, weird bumps and blisters that show up on people with diabetes. It’s almost enough to make one long for the tried-and-true scare-tactic complications: the familiar amputation, blindness and kidney failure. At least everyone’s heard of those.
The thing is, diabetes is always changing. No two days are the same, and while we may share an official diagnosis, there’s no telling where that diagnosis will lead. Even the best control isn’t always enough to ward off side effects and complications — familiar or bizarre.
No matter what, I’m grateful for the allies, the advocacy and the friendship that my official diagnosis has brought me. The DOC makes all the unknowns a little less scary, and it’s something that those poor folks with Uiodhgihoehojkljshgn-9 Disorder probably wish they had.
Read more about Jacquie on her blog Bad Pancreas
You can follow her funny tweets @badpancreas