‘Ketone’ the cat – by Alexander Wellington

I may be a lot of things, but I never thought a diabetic would be one of them!

Of course, the denial is still there. The idea of ‘a normal life’ seems to resonate deep in my mind along with names I’ve forgotten and things I used to believe in; the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus and the memories of my past 17 years as a non-diabetic. It’s been eight months since my diagnosis, yet I still hesitate before each meal to remind myself, ‘you’re a diabetic – you need to take insulin’. I guess old habits die hard.

There’s no ‘getting stuck in’ anymore. There’s the testing, the recording, the carb counting, the dose adjusting, the checking for any bubbles, the injecting, the counting, 1 2 3 4 5 … all the way up to 10 and, if it couldn’t get any worse, there’s the cleaning up! By the time my endless pre-meal ritual is complete, I’m not even hungry – is it all worth it? That’s what I say, especially if it’s my mother’s cooking!

I’ve noticed, especially over these past few months, it’s much more difficult to rebel than it is to comply. It seems my past 17 years account for nothing; being born and raised as a non-diabetic to now live as a diabetic – doesn’t nature know, a square peg cannot possibly fit into a round hole? And no matter how old I get, I’m still going to force size 10 feet into size 8 shoes.

Whilst, everybody’s diagnosis is unique, regrettably the lifestyle is not.

When I was diagnosed, I said to my parents, “I may have diabetes but I’ll never be a diabetic”. I don’t intend any disrespect but I’ll always be me first and foremost and not even diabetes can take that away. We all may share the same condition but the impact is individual and, for me, I don’t want diabetes to define who I am.

All in all, I STILL haven’t quite put my finger on it – am I a diabetic or the same person who just happens to have diabetes? I’ve had many sleepless nights pondering over this ‘identity crisis’ so I guess you could call me ‘Sleepless in Wales’ – although I bet even Tom Hanks had more sleep than me!

My mother hated to see me like this so she tried everything to cheer me up although very little worked. Except one, she took me on a hunt for a cat – yes, a cat! There’s something you need to know about me – I LOVE CATS! Call me Hell Boy! And, as it happens, there was a beautiful white kitten with black spots just waiting to be adopted at a local cats’ home. It’s as though I could hear him call out for me, “I’m here, I’m here!” Needless to say, he was officially adopted there and then.

He fitted in right away. Usually, you’d find him perched on your shoulder like a parrot or playing fetch and sleeping in front of the fire like a dog. It was a pleasure watching him grow. However, there was still something missing – his NAME.

Like me, the cat was having an identity crisis. I just didn’t feel like myself – my ‘old’ self or my ‘new’ self? Was it physical or psychological? Of course, I checked my sugars and ketones which were fine so it couldn’t have been my health so it had to be ‘in my head’. Although, there was one thing I knew for sure, it had to go.

We thought of everything. My father took the traditional approach, suggesting ‘Fluffy’ or ‘Snowball’ (which I swear he stole from ‘Stuart Little’). Whereas, my mother took the ‘no-approach’ approach. She knew the cat was a sign of my growth with diabetes – as he grows, I grow too. He was the only good to come out of all this!

It must have taken a week trying out so many different names. I came to realise that this wasn’t unlike me – trying to come to terms with having diabetes. It finally came to the point, as it must in every newly diagnosed diabetic’s life, where everything seems to be centred on diabetes. It would creep into my favourite TV show or the morning paper or an argument with a friend. It was harder to avoid than the pimple on my forehead!

But, then it suddenly hit me like a lightning bolt – “hadn’t I learned anything?”

I battled DKA for much longer than I should have – but why? There would have been a hospital bed with my name on it with my ketones at 3, 4 or 5 so why did I make it harder for myself and wait until they reached +8? I don’t want to make the same mistake and, if that means I have to accept or admit that I’m a diabetic, then so be it!

It’s only then I appreciated that the only ‘true fight’ was going the distance – looking after my health in its entirety and not going back into hospital. This is the only real struggle.

So, it seemed right to name my cat ‘Ketone’.

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