My Life On The Farm With Type 1
I am delaying the early parts of my life with diabetes. My life on the farm while growing up was a very important, after my diagnosis. I will continue with my college education at a later time.
I loved and respected my parents, and I did not question their demands involving my diabetes care. I was NEVER to eat sugar or candy or other items containing sugar unless I was having very low blood sugar. I followed that rule to the letter. Mother was so good to make me wonderful desserts sweetened with saccharin. I loved her desserts so much that I was not tempted to eat their sugar sweetened desserts. Some of my favorites were banana cream pie, cherry vanilla custard pie, baked custard pie, chocolate pie, rhubarb pie, peach pie, and raisin pie. The pies had homemade crusts that were very thick, and they were divided into five pieces for my dinners, and suppers. Can you tell I liked pies??? There was also applesauce cake for my birthday and again for Christmas. The cake contained lots of nuts and raisins, and applesauce to make it stay moist. None of these desserts contained any sugar so they were OK for me, right? We thought they were. Can you imagine how many carbs were in these desserts? A typical breakfast had two kinds of meat, perhaps sausage cakes, and thick ham slices which I ate with my eggs. There were homemade biscuits with lots of butter, and I would dunk them in my saccharin sweetened homemade apple butter. That and a big glass of milk from our own cows completed my meal. Is it any wonder that I had terribly high blood sugar....er....urine sugar? The breakfast was so large because both of my parents were raised on a farm and they, and their families worked hard and needed that food for energy as they set out to do their farming chores. I do not think my parents knew any other way to live. We had three large meals every day, and I am certain I must have eaten more than 500 carbs per day. When the peaches were ripe in our orchard I would climb up on the lower branches, and reach up for a mellow, juicy peach. They were as big as a grown man's fist. I would eat one, and my tummy would hurt. I was covered with juice, so I would go home to wash up. Daddy always sprayed our fruit, and every time I ate our fruit I was eating dangerous chemicals. We did not know any better. It never hurt any of us so far as I know. We had plums, grapes , strawberries, raspberries, apples and pears. I ate too much fruit, but I loved doing that. I was in charge of the melon patch. I planted cantaloupes and watermelons each year. They required sandy soil and lots of water. The were left on the vine until they were fully ripe. They taste so much better that way than when they are picked green, and ripened afterwards. The same is true with all fruit and tomatoes. My mouth is watering as I write this.
Daddy milked the cows at daybreak, and cleaned their stalls. Then he ate breakfast, and went back out to hoe or plow the garden, water and prune trees and shrubs. He did so many other things. He would then go home for dinner, and sleep on the floor for an hour afterwards. He then reported to the post office where he worked from 2pm until 11pm with a one hour break for supper. The lunch pail Mother packed for him was unbelievable. He ate some of what we had at home for our supper. Daddy would get home late, and try to be in bed by midnight. I have never known a man to work so hard. On some days he made time to pick up a load of shrubbery at my uncle's nursery, and plant them at people's houses. We told people that Daddy had three jobs. The farm, the post office, and the nursery. Daddy had a lot of muscle, and was never much overweight. None of us were ever much overweight, even though we ate food like there was no tomorrow. I was always skinny until many years later when I started using modern day insulins. We worked hard, and we all loved each other so much. Good food, hard work, and lots of love. That is my recipe for a successful family, and growing up well.
My parents never smoked cigarettes, or drank alcoholic beverages. They were my guiding light, and I intended to follow in their footsteps. When I was 10 a young lad named Bobby, two years older than me, came to our house. He was in my homeroom when I was in fifth grade. He had failed two times, and had been held back. He had never ridden a horse, and he wanted to ride our old work horse. So Bobby, Larry and I climbed aboard, and we rode through the pasture. Bobby offered us cigarettes. Larry and I had never smoked, but we did not want to be called chicken, so we smoked a couple. After Bobby went home we decided we would continue smoking after school each day. Larry took a pack of Lucky Strikes out of his father's pickup truck, and we headed to his back property where no one would see us. We smoked our way through several packs in a few weeks time. Larry's Father eventually caught on. He was missing his packs of cigarettes, and his Mother had smelled the tobacco odor on Larry's clothes. One night after dark Larry and his parents came to visit. That was most unusual and I knew something was up. Larry would not look at me, and he hung his head down. The jig was up. My parents were shocked to hear what I had done, but they did not punish me. It was not necessary. I was so ashamed that I had disappointed my parents, whom I loved so much. I think they knew I would never do anything like that again, and I didn't. My urine sugar had been 4+ every morning all that time I had been smoking. Now we all knew why. I had not been eating well either during that time. Smoking was the only bad thing I ever did as a child. My parents were good examples to follow, and my sister and I were good followers.
After I was grown I found that my Mother and Dr Davis had been working together for my "benefit". Mother would phone him, and tell him things that she wanted him to tell me, before she drove me in for my appointments. "Now Richard, you can't drink or smoke. that will make your diabetes much worse." That was after my cigarette episode. "Now Richard, you can't participate in gym at school, that will make your sugar go too low, and you may have low blood sugar." I do not know exactly how Dr Davis expressed himself on these occasions, but I can still hear his voice, and his advice. I always trusted him without question. I was very disappointed in my Mother, and the doctor, for their plotting and scheming. He also questioned my going to college, but he did not sound so forceful as he had the other times. Mother admitted that she had called Dr Davis about college. I was onto their wicked ways! HA!! Never again! I never argued with Mother about this. I just told her I was disappointed in her and she apologized. Daddy did not know anything about this. Maybe he never did. I never told him.
When I had just started eighth grade I had intestinal flu. I stayed at home several days, and I could not keep anything in my stomach, not the medicine the doctor had prescribed, and not even water. My parents thought that since I was not eating then they should not give me insulin. They were afraid I would have a hypo. They did not check this out with the doctor. After several days of no food, no water, no medicine and no insulin I was so weak I could not lift my arms, and I was barely able to move my head. The doctor came to our house. He called an ambulance. I stayed in the hospital almost two weeks. I recovered very well, and returned to school. I hope that those of you reading this know that you need your insulin even if you are not eating. You still need your "basal" insulin under these conditions, but you do not need your "bolus" insulin if you are not eating. Of course I did not have basal and bolus insulins back then. I continued to use the animal insulin for many years.
Something has always bothered me about my past. I had so much very high sugar prior to the 1990s, but I was healthy, without diabetes related complications. I must have had DKA, don't you think? I never heard of DKA until I joined diabetes online support groups in 2006. I never tested my urine for ketones. My doctors never mentioned it. How did I avoid terrible sickness if I had DKA? Had my body adjusted to having high blood sugar, so that it became my normal state of being? I know that does not make any sense, but I have no other explanation.