Type 1 At A Time
I am happy. I am healthy. My Type 1 Story
By Layne Meloy
I grew up in a family of structure. What do I mean by structure? Well…it went like this. You grow up in a small town. You are expected to make good grades. You don’t date until your 16. You’re active in sports and extracurricular activities. You say yes ma’am and no sir. And when the time comes you apply for colleges and plan for your future. But since you are only 18 and your brain isn’t fully developed, you are a given a grace period of about two years to really nail down the fine details of what your entire life should look like. But only two.
My parents were extremely hardworking individuals. To this day I’m still not sure how they managed to make it all work. My father owned his own successful construction company and my mother climbed her way to the top in the corporate world. My life was not hard. I was lucky. I had amazing parents that managed to stay married and drudge through the hard times. I had a sweet natured and studious brother who was built for the life of structure and consistency.
We were happy. We were healthy.
So, where am I going with all this?
I want to share my story. My story that, unlike my families’ traditional narrative, is filled with a little less by the book and a little more color outside the lines.
I graduated high school in ’08. I would be attending a junior college on a softball scholarship. It had been decided that my personality and skill set would best be suited for healthcare. Because I was not quite suited for medical school (I wasn’t as academically inclined as my now engineer brother), nursing it would be! There were so many opportunities and options in nursing. When the time came for me to “advance my career” as they say, I could go on to receive my Master’s in Nursing and become a practitioner. Or there was the notoriously attractive idea of going on to become a Nurse Anesthetist (This is an aspiration many nurses cling to while going through nursing school). So as summer came to an end that year, I entered into the exciting, nauseating and mostly uncomfortable world of higher education. Besides the couple of questionable boyfriends and the unfortunate incident that resulted in my expulsion from the college dorms, life was good. I had a team and friends, good grades and parents that lived a comfortable 30 minutes away.
I was happy. I was healthy.
Two years at junior college, and an Associate’s Degree in Science and I was off to University. I was accepted into the University of Arkansas’ Nursing Program. The first year seems like a bit of a blur. I can recall the Anatomy and Physiology class that left me in tears on multiple occasions. I was certain I would fail. Turns out that I actually got the hang of things by the time the third test came around. I tried something new. Something called studying. And then there were clinicals. One might compare clinicals to throwing the Kardashians out on a deserted island with only the necessities like food, water and shelter. We had the tools but no idea how to use them. I’ll never forget holding a stethoscope to an old man’s chest and wondering why he didn’t have a heartbeat. Turns out I just needed to turn my stethoscope around. None the less, this is where I found my happiness in nursing. I wasn’t the smartest student in my class, but one thing I always had going for me was my ability to adapt and work hard. That, and I didn’t mind bodily fluids and smells of unknown origin.
My life was on cruise and I was managing to follow proper family procedure in the process. Success in High School-Check. Success in College-Check. No nights in jail or unintended pregnancies-Check.
It was about 6 months into the nursing program that I met Cowboy. And no…his name is not actually Cowboy. But, for obvious reasons, that is what I have decided to call him. Cowboy was not like any of the other boys (I never know whether to call them boys or men…I guess it’s all relative) I had ever dated. My ‘type’ was pretty consistent during my young life. Southern. Athletic. Cute. Church goin. Momma lovin. Arrogant with absolutely no real basis for this characteristic. Cowboy was small town. Very small town. But he was not into sports. He didn’t aspire to be the hometown football coach. He didn’t have a sense of entitlement. He was, as his name suggests, a cowboy. He was hard working, independent and wore a cowboy hat and wranglers. His daily work was in construction and in the evening, he ran his small cattle farm. It was simple, different and peaked my curiosity. Plus, I thought my father would really like him. The construction/farming thing was my father’s love language.
Fast forward about 10 months and I found myself living back in my hometown with Cowboy and engaged. I was 21. I still had another year left of nursing school, which meant a 45-minute commute to classes and clinicals. But Cowboy would never leave that small town. So, there we stayed. We got married in June of 2012.
I was happy-ish. I was healthy.
When I married Cowboy, it meant that I would no longer be able to be on my parent’s insurance. When the topic was discussed with my husband it was made clear that he was unwilling to have deductions taken out of his paycheck, which would allow me to be added to his insurance. I feel it’s noteworthy to mention that we kept our finances separate. His rules. I would be finding a full-time job with benefits. I searched for job openings that would accommodate my nursing school schedule which was basically a full-time job in itself. I was left with no other option than to work nights. I found myself at a women’s hospital near the University. I had recently done a rotation in labor and delivery and much to my surprise I enjoyed it. It was a start. I would be a full-time patient care assistant in the labor and delivery and med-surge units.
I look back during that time and know that it taught me so many lessons. One thing it taught me…you can function on very little sleep. Another was how valuable a family support system is. Or at least should be. There would be times when my schedule consisted of waking at 5:30 to be at the hospital by 6:30 for clinicals. We would convene for the day around 4:30 or 5. I would hop over to the hospital to then start my 12-hour night shift as a PCA. Somewhere in there I worked on assignments and studied for tests. Some of these days left me tired and emotional. When I needed to vent, it was always my parents. They encouraged me. Let me cry. And sometimes they brought me food.
In hind-site, I think they felt it was necessary to bring food because I looked a little more skeleton-like with every passing day. This was new for me. I was never big; but I was also never stick skinny. When someone would mention my new-found appearance, I chalked it up to stress and exhaustion. Turns out this would be one of many symptoms to come. By the time I finished school and started my nursing career I was having chronic UTI’s and my vision had taken a turn for the worse. That stress and exhaustion sure was taking its toll on me.
But hey. I was happy-ish. I was healthy-ish.
Shortly after starting my job. I found out I was going to become a mother. This news was thrilling. I would have a little buddy. A partner in crime. And someone to entertain me on the weekends when I wasn’t working. That may sound silly. But sometimes the truth is silly. Cowboy was busy. Always busy. When he finished his 7 to 5:30, Monday through Friday, job he went straight to work on the farm until 7 or 8 at night. The weekends consisted of more work. Up early to fix fence, feed hay, and run his other side business in excavation and dirt work. The arguments that existed around this topic were so frequent that they finally just stopped. It was getting nowhere. Neither of us were going to change.
Around 5 months into my pregnancy we decided to go on trip to the Dominican Republic. And when I say we, I mean my mother, sister-in-law (who was also pregnant) and myself. It was going to be a baby moon of sorts. I took my almost blind-at-this-point self and hopped on the plane. Unfortunately, my grandfather had fallen very ill right before the trip and my mother stayed behind to help care for him. So here we were. Two young preggos on our way out of the country by ourselves. Don’t worry. We’ve been told 200 times how dumb this was after the fact.
It was on this trip that my life changed forever. Some people talk about turning points. Defining moments that change life as you know it. Yep. This was mine. As the week in the Dominican Republic progressed, so did my poor health conditions. My belly continued to grow and at rapid speed I must add. But carrying that big belly was a set of scrawny legs and a disturbingly visual ribcage. I had lost 10 lbs over the course of two weeks. My energy level was non-existent. I drank more water than most people drink in a year. And the jelly. To this day my family still laughs when my sister-in-law tells the story about how many mini jars of jelly I ate over the course of a week.
By the time we left the resort and headed to the airport to fly home I had my doubts on whether my lifeless body was going to make it. Of course, I didn’t share this with anyone. I just kept telling myself that I would make it home and schedule to go see my OB at that point. We made it onto the first flight and landed in Miami, FL. for our layover. As we waited in the hour-long customs line my body just quit. I vaguely remember dropping to my knees and I became absent of any real vision. It was blank and I was in too much pain and exhaustion to care. The EMS came. I was laid on a gurney and placed in the ambulance.
I spent a week in the Obstetrical ICU. My first week of life as a diagnosed Type 1 diabetic.
It was in that hospital that I learned the undeniable love one has for their child. I heard on multiple occasions that it was a miracle he survived in those conditions. I don’t think I will ever forget the sound of his heartbeat on the ultrasound. I learned another thing in that hospital. I learned that unlike my son, my marriage was not going to survive.
There were many reasons for this bold statement I just hit you with. Some of those reasons were his doing. Some were mine. I was certainly not perfect. But the one thing I knew, was that I needed a partner. One that jumped on a plane to be by my side when he received news that his pregnant wife was in the ICU. One that helped me through what was to inevitably be a very long, very difficult road ahead. Cowboy did not jump on a plane. So instead, my father came to be by my side. Once home, I began the journey of learning how to not only count carbs, inject insulin and take blood sugars regularly, but to do it while almost 6 months pregnant. This was no easy task.
On December 20th, 2013 my beautiful, cone headed, son was born.
He was happy. He was healthy.
I was neither.
My child brought me the greatest joy I’d ever known. Yet, here I was feeling dejected. Navigating the world of Type 1, working long hours and hiding my unhappy marriage from family and friends was turning out to be quite draining. Never did Cowboy attend my doctor’s appointments. To this day I am not sure he truly understands what Type 1 diabetes is. When I suggested counseling, I was quickly shut down. I moved out and had filed for divorce a little after our son turned one.
Divorce. Such an unpleasant tone to it. As you might expect my family was not familiar with this situation. They had a daughter with a chronic disease who had suddenly become a single mother. It was all so unconventional. What would the rest of my life look like?
I am sorry to tell you that my life never got ‘back on track’. Instead, it is filled with step in front of the word dad, half-brothers, split custody and any of those other words that many view as the brink of derailment. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My life….my beautiful, messy and unpolished life is more perfect than I could have ever imagined. Cowboy and I are successfully raising an amazing child. We finally have something we agree on. Our son’s happiness. And we focus only on that. And it works.
I am married to a man named Tony. He’s Florida born and raised. He came here for residency. We met at work. He was different than anyone I had ever met. He’s open and honest and never judgmental. There are no such things as lines to follow in Tony’s life. And more important than any of that he is supportive. Supportive of my child that shares no blood with him. Supportive of my disease that often-times effects our whole family. Supportive of my dreams and passions. When I said I want to start running, he said let’s go buy some running shoes. I’ll be running my first marathon March 3rd. When I have a hypoglycemic event, he is always prepared. He hands me my preferred fast-acting carb and lets me be grumpy until the feeling passes. He attends doctor’s appointments when he can and works with me through dosage and medication changes. Because with diabetes…its always changing. There is no such thing as perfect. And that’s what diabetes has taught me about life. That it won’t be perfect, but there is happiness in that imperfection.
Years ago, I mentioned to my parents and Tony that I would like to start a non-profit. One that centered around helping families who have a Type 1 child with the financial burden of the disease. We had experienced first hand how insane prices can be when purchasing insulin, my Dexcom (CGM) and Omnipod (insulin pump) all in one year. “How do some people manage it”, I wondered. When I became active in online support groups and the JDRF, I realized that some simply don’t. They ration their insulin and they use second-line brands or devices. There was a need and I wanted to help. The thought of starting something so significant and capable of failing scared me. But scary things just didn’t seem so scary anymore. I had failed before. And life still continued. I had become a yes person. Someone ready to face any challenge that came my way. Even if it was a tad unconventional.
In July of 2018, I stepped away from my job as a nurse and began to set my sites on this organization that I had dreamed up in my head. I partnered up with my brilliant, business minded mother and we dove in. The last 6 months have been filled with confusing state and federal applications and paperwork, networking events, meetings, tutorials and any other contacts or resources we could find. It has been an adventure and there is still so much to come. We hope to launch in March of ’19. From the beginning my motto has been this. I don’t care if I help one family, one-hundred families or ten-thousand. I will consider this a success.
Type 1 diabetes has changed my life. Without it, I would not be where or who I am today. And there are two things I consider myself to be.
I am happy. I am healthy.