If someone ever asks me to describe 2021 in two words, I’ll say “medical complications”. Quite literally, too. The year kicked off with me developing food poisoning after a friend’s birthday party on January 18th.
We all laughed about it, but it was the first of many medical problems that would plague me throughout the year. After that lovely encounter, I found myself experiencing an allergic reaction too.
The Miso Soup from Hell
I’d ordered miso soup from an amazing Chinese restaurant near my place, and for some reason, they added spinach- something I’m allergic to. Of course, I’m fine now. I had a laugh about it, but we’ll come to that later. Right now, I’d like to address two things.
First of all, I specifically learned the Turkish words for “please no spinach (ıspanak yok lütfen),” so the language barrier wasn’t an issue. I’m sure they understood me. Also, I’ve ordered from that place a million times, so I know for a fact that someone there can speak in English. So, were they purposely trying to poison me? I will never know.
Secondly, who adds spinach to miso soup? Of all the things they could’ve added, they chose spinach? Why?
Then again, I’m not a chef, so I don’t know where this epiphany came from. For those wondering, I have a very interesting reaction to spinach. It’s not life-threatening per se; I simply develop rashes all over. Of course, this can be amusing because it looks as though I’m thirteen again and experiencing acne for the first time.
Said sudden outburst of acne is always followed by a consistent, persistent tingling sensation but it’s not painful, so I have to get used to it. However, if I consume large amounts of spinach, I also have trouble breathing since my mouth swells up so that’s a good science experiment.
But enough about my allergies; let’s talk about the next issue I faced this year: PCOS.
Journey into Unknown…I Think
I’ve had PCOS for a long time now. I’ve already written an article about it so I won’t go further into detail. Long story short, my mother finally came around to taking me to an OBGYN, and because of trust issues, decided to take me to her OBGYN- the lady who delivered me. And no, it wasn’t as awkward as you’d imagine.
She’s one of the best doctors in England and Pakistan, I’m told, so even before my appointment, I knew I was in good hands. And boy, was I right.
One look at me (and my tests and the ultrasound of my ovaries), and the OBGYN went, “There’s something else that’s happening here which has brought on the condition.”
And that is when the gates through medical health burst open for me.
Tests, Scans, and Everything in Between
My OBGYN was extremely concerned about my condition. While it isn’t uncommon for a woman my age, she just wasn’t convinced that I had the genetic makeup to have PCOS. Sure, I have a family history of such issues from my paternal side, but it didn’t make sense to her.
I was a healthy child; my mum was a healthy child. Surely, she’d argued, something was missing. And that’s how we began with medical tests.
As an aspiring engineer, I’ve never been interested in Biology. I don’t know how many hormones the human body has. I didn’t even know how closely connected hormones are with how we’re feeling. As a rule, I don’t like assuming that the emotional aspect of being a homo sapien has anything to do with the actual function of the human body.
When I think of people, I think of us as a mass of fat and congealed blood somehow attached to some brittle bones. That’s it. But the more my OBGYN explained, the more it made sense.
For some reason, I’ve always believed that the physical manifestations of mental health resulted from our own actions and loss of motivation. I didn’t know that stressing or overthinking could actually affect the way our body functions. I just assumed that I was looking sullen or gaining weight because of bad decisions and no sleep. Turns out, you could go to the gym, get six hours of sleep every day, monitor your diet, and still experience the effects of things like depression and anxiety.
Because that’s exactly what happened. My tests were fine. Nothing was wrong. I was prescribed some medications, given a PT to work with; I was supposed to overcome and manage PCOS in two months with signs of improvement after the first three weeks.
Then Came the Diagnosis
But nothing happened. And that’s when it hit my doctor: we hadn’t done an insulin test. I mean, we had. But there were two types of tests. There’s something for blood sugar levels; there’s something for insulin. There’s something called a random test, and then there’s a fasting test.
My OBGYN suggested the one aimed specifically for patients with diabetes. Two days later, I found out that I had Type 1 Diabetes, and in typical Pakistani fashion, we’d never thought to check.
Which is pathetic because that’s a very common disease in my family. My Dad’s got it, as do both of my grandmothers. We pass these things off as a sign of aging, but it’s actually a reflection of poor diet.
Well, poor diet, and bad genetics.
I Didn’t Understand What Had Happened
I didn’t understand the significance of Type 1 Diabetes in the beginning. My parents were alarmed. My father would turn pale whenever I’d take my pills during the day.
Finally, a friend of mine who’s studying medicine found out and explained what had happened to me. For some reason, I just assumed that it would go away.
But it won’t. It won’t ever go away. This is something I’m going to have to live for the rest of my life. Even though I’d known about it for a few weeks at that point, when my friend told me, it felt as though my entire world had come crashing down.
This wasn’t just a temporary thing. I had to take the advice I was being given seriously, or the repercussions would be bad. Suddenly, I wasn’t having tea with sugar anymore.
I was calculating the carbs, sugars, and all sorts of things I never knew about when deciding what to eat. No more cake for me, and I can’t even have normal bread anymore. It seemed too much, and I tried to deny the truth for the first month, but then came my second test, and it wasn’t better.
In fact, it was worse, and the insulin levels were affecting other hormones as well. I was hysterical because I’d gone to the doctor to get rid of PCOS. How did I end up getting a disease that required needles?
Worse yet, why was it affecting other hormones?
It seemed as though I had many questions, and the medical professionals couldn’t give me answers. The worse thing was because I hadn’t studied Biology beyond ninth grade, I couldn’t really understand what my doctors were trying to tell me. Because, yes, at one point, I had an OBGYN, a GP, and a couple of other specialists to help me understand what was happening.
It felt as though my body was shutting itself down. Weekly appointments at the doctor’s just revealed bad news. I started getting these crazy stomachs (or so I thought), and my sides would be killing me. Sometimes, standing up was just too painful.
In The End, It All Came Down to One Thing
It was a mess, and I was a mess too. My doctors told me to sleep eight hours a day, to destress, but I couldn’t do that. I drove myself to the edge just by thinking about what was happening, and my body was responding to it at an accelerated rate.
Finally, my therapist sat me down and laid all the facts: it would get worse. Everything the doctors told me, from kidney failure to heart problems to seizures; everything would happen to me because I was allowing it to. Somehow, without consciously accepting it, I had given up and assumed that I’d die at an early age because almost every diabetic around me was pushing seventy.
It’s a weird concept that I would normally categorize as the placebo effect, but there’s this phenomenon in medicine where a patient doesn’t get better if they believe they can’t. I’d allowed the diagnosis to consume me. This was something I’d have to live with, but a lot of people have diabetes too. They’ve had it since childhood. I wasn’t special. Sure, not many people get diagnosed in their early twenties, but no one lets a disease consume them.
Somehow, I’d done that. In my ignorance of human anatomy, I’d just assumed that my entire life would be wrapped around this condition. So, even if I don’t know what the future will look like, I decided to take a step back and allow my doctors to help me.
Most of my medical issues are because of how long this disease went untreated, but now that I understand it and what it means for me, I’ve stopped panicking. Sure, sometimes, I am extremely afraid of the future and the implications this could have.
But I have to accept it, and for the time being, that’s all that matters.