By: Meagan Esler
I once had a doctor ask me what I’d do if someone offered me a drink or a cigarette. I was a teenager, recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and it was the first time that I had seen her. When I told her that I didn’t drink or smoke, she kept hounding me with questions as if I were lying. I grew tired of telling her the same thing over and over. She just didn’t seem to hear what I was saying. Maybe she was just trying to scare me from starting, but I left feeling annoyed and convinced that I needed to find a different doctor.
My next doctor was extremely nice. While that sounds great, it actually posed a problem for me. When I arrived for my once-yearly visit, she’d just say “Hmm, it’s been a year since you had blood work done.” It was obvious from my towering A1C that I had poor control, but because I didn’t have insurance, I hesitated to ask for more help. I’d leave her office with another year’s worth of prescription refills, and we’d repeat the identical visit a year later, never getting anywhere with regard to gaining better control of my diabetes. I just wasn’t getting the help I needed.
At this point I was years into my diabetes diagnosis, and my faith in doctors was waning. I’d seen a few other doctors for check-ups and illnesses over the years, but none of them offered any real help with my diabetes. My out-of-control diabetes was like the elephant in the room: No one, including me, wanted to talk about it. I knew that I needed someone to help me fix myself. I knew that I couldn’t handle diabetes all alone. I felt bad about my poor control and often wondered if there were a doctor out there who could help me.
Finally, after attempting to get an appointment with my regular doctor without success, I happened to stumble upon an amazing doctor. He listened and seemed to genuinely care as he ordered me to go for blood work immediately. He left the room to ask questions of a diabetes educator when he didn’t have the answer to a question. He insisted that I see a new diabetes educator because mine had retired, and he made sure that I visited the nutritionist for a refresher on carb-counting. When I complied, I learned that I was making some huge mistakes with my diabetes. For one thing, my insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio wasn’t working for me. I was also using older types of insulin.
Once I was armed with a new medical team, modern insulin, a better dosing scale, and tons of new information, my A1C improved substantially. I wish now that I’d found the right doctor when I was younger. Finding a great doctor changed my life for the better, and I believe that it literally added years to my life. I’m still a work-in-progress, but I have a doctor whom I trust and can ask for help. No one can handle diabetes successfully alone, and no one should have to.