It's fall of 2003. I am living in a cracker box apartment in Chicago's far north side with my roommate of going on three years Jinny, finishing up my four-year bachelor's in sociology in seven semesters. Between the two of us, we have a pathetic collection of dishes, tons of trashy sci-fi/fantasy novels (mostly mine) and romance paperbacks (mostly Jinny's) as well as two cars, Muppety action figures, one sense of direction, and very little furniture that didn't have a former owner or isn't made out of milk crates. As the semester goes on, I am applying to graduate programs across the midwest and learning a great deal about 1960s history, sociology, and journalism.
As October turns into November, I notice that I have a harder and harder time dragging myself out of bed to go to the gym, the walk up the stairs to the apartment gets more and more daunting, and I fall asleep in class more that I ever have before -- that is to say, if there's a movie in class, I'm gone, notes are sometimes spotty, etc.
Said semester sees me going home to the folks in Grand Rapids, Michigan in my (first time at college) beater car only once as my boyfriend of three years has just moved to Cleveland for work and is much more worth the (six-hour, twenty-five dollars in tolls) drive than the parents. Speaking of long drives, my last visit to Cleveland that semester had me noticing that I could barely manage to hold it between pit stops to nurse my dying cooling core in my car (and let me tell you, barely making it off the off ramp before desperately stopping the smoking car to dash into the nearest gas station to pee is one of the funnier parts of this story). Ironically enough, that same trip saw an afternoon hike to (two hours distant) Pittsburgh's IKEA for furniture for said boyfriend's new house where, again, we had to stop at the rest stop just before our exit because I knew I couldn't make it to the house. I manage to kill off an entire twelve-pack of soda in a single weekend. I barely got up on weekends to do homework and then crash back into bed. And yeast infections from hell. Nuff said.
This was my first time feeding myself as well. The apartment was on-campus, and my sole source of income was $125/month from working in the career center critiquing resumes (and whatever I had saved from working at camp and doing an internship during the previous summer). My roommate and I were supposed to buy separate food, but as I was the only one of us who did real cooking, I wound up buying stuff for recipes and making giant piles of curry or casserole or chicken with rice. I ate most of it too, and was hungry enough afterward to eat the leftovers. I can recall making an eight-serving lentil curry with rice, eating enough for three and feeling incredibly full, and still being hungry afterward. My mom wound up sending me fifty dollars a week to help out -- otherwise, I would have been in serious trouble.
And did I mention the thirst? That poor Brita filter we had, never worked fast enough to keep me undry. The only other funny thing I could mention is that my roommate finally complained that I used too much of the toilet paper. Go figure.
Anyway, I go home for Thanksgiving and the first thing my mom says to me is, "Boy, you've lost a lot of weight." Blink, blink. Well, as I'd been living in pjs for the last month, I hadn't noticed that my clothes were all a bit on the baggy side (I did baggy quite well back then, though I'd like to think I've gotten out of the too-big t-shirt-and-blue-jeans look since then). Mom whips out the medical dictionary and under unexplained weight loss, plus the other things I mentioned, came up with diabetes.
Gulp. I was floored. The next day I go to Josh's grandparents' house for turkey and football. I'm scared. I can't deal with this. I'm fairly shy in normal group settings, but here I was practically hiding in a corner. Sensitive boyfriend guy shows up and asks if I'm okay -- I fall apart and tell him what Mom thinks is going on with me. (As sensitive boyfriend guy eventually turns into sensitive husband guy, I'll let you figure out what he says ;)
At any rate, I get through the holiday, manage to make it back to school in one piece, and finish out the semester somehow. As this is my final semester and I'm walking at graduation at the end of it, I also have to move out of said apartment at the same time. By this point, my eyes are blurry and I am soooooo thankful when my final papers and exams are all over. On Friday. The day I'm graduating. And how much packing for the move had gotten done? Pretty darn little. My boyfriend, grandparents and family are all coming to watch me walk at graduation and they wind up basically packing for me. Thank God for them...
In retrospect, I am still not sure how I navigated the three and a half hour drive from Chicago to Grand Rapids in my beater car filled to capacity with junk. I can only imagine that the desperate need to pee won out over the intense sleepiness, though they fought the entire time. When we stopped in Michigan City, about an hour out, I dashed, peed, chugged a Gatorade, refilled it with water, chugged again, etc. until my stomach couldn't hold any more liquid. Another case here of having to stop a few miles from home because I knew I couldn't make it. In any case, it was a miracle I made it back home safely.
Over Thanksgiving I had made an appointment to go to the doctor the Tuesday after graduation -- I told the nurse it was for a yeast infection so as not to set off warning sirens of the medical variety. So Tuesday comes, I go, mentioning the unexplained thirst, fatigue, funny vision issues, and my doctor whips out a little machine thingy -- a OneTouch Ultra, I was soon to learn -- that, when given my blood to sample, beeped loudly and flashed the word "hi" in those little digital letters. She tries again, with the same result. She starts crying and says, "Well, we need to find out whether you're type 1 or type 2, because you're too old for type 1 and too young for type 2." I'm mostly calm, trying to make her feel better by not melting down. She makes a call and gives me an address to go to downtown, a medical center near one of the hospitals, I've been there before. I drive, go in, and the fun begins.
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