provider-showing-empathyEvery time I go to a doctor, whether it is my endocrinologist, family doctor, optometrist, or even a student health doctor, I get the question, “How are your numbers?”

I find this a rather difficult question to answer. Of course, my most recent numbers are almost perfect when I see my endocrinologist because I wake up an extra hour early to ensure they are in range. While I am very aware that one day’s numbers cannot truly impact my A1c, I have been able to delude myself into believing it makes some semblance of a difference. Plus, the nurse always asks me what my last blood sugar reading was, and I feel somewhat proud saying it was 100 although I had to combat a high a mere half hour earlier and was probably going to be low in five minutes.

When I was in high school, I would have preferred taking a five hour ACT prep course than go see my endocrinologist who I felt was merely there to judge me and my far from ideal numbers. In junior high and early high school, I felt I was fortunate to go to a doctor who had to read my name before she entered the room and the only question she would ask me (no matter what my A1c was) was whether or not I changed my sites when injecting insulin. I would smile at my newfound friend and tell her that I was always changing my sites. She would give me an approving nod as if by changing my sites, I was doing everything in my power to better my numbers. If changing your sites of injection was the key to good control, many diabetics like myself would be golden. I don’t ever remember discussing with this doctor my carb ratio, correction rate, or why I was correcting highs to a point where I would end up in hypoglycemic levels.

While this doctor’s lack of concern worried my mother, I found her to be quite helpful, as I was never judged because she simply did not seem to care enough about my numbers or my health to make any substantial difference in my diabetic care.

After another uninspiring visit to this doctor, my mom told me that she wanted me to change doctors to one that actually cared about my health. Although I was content with the fifteen-minute appointments where the hardest question I had to answer was whether I tried injecting in my stomach, I knew my mom was right. I had to go to a doctor who cared about my health because I needed someone to motivate me to care more about my numbers and long-term health.

In the northern suburb area of Chicago, there are limited options for pediatric endocrinologists.Therefore, my mom found a doctor who was known for his innovative take on managing diabetes and we thus decided to try this new doctor. The downfall was this doctor was in the city and an hour (without traffic) from our home.

I knew after my first appointment with this doctor that my time sailing by without taking any real steps to improve my numbers was over. This new doctor did not care as much about my sites as he did about what I did day-to-day to manage my diabetes.

As a teenager, I did not want to explain that I forgot to correct my blood sugar or that I didn’t test more than a few times a day. I felt as if I was in the hot seat trying to formulate excuses, which really amounted to me simply not doing my best to manage my diabetes. It took a couple of years for me to understand that I needed to care, because if I didn't, I was the one who was going to have to face the consequences down the road.

And rather than viewing this doctor as the enemy, I began counting my blessings for finding someone who cared so much about my health. He was always recommending new medicines or technologies that made diabetes that much more manageable.

While it was easier to go to a doctor who did not seem to be very concerned about my control, this did not work to my long-term benefit. Although I do make a habit out of changing my sites, I now know that I must take control and learn to care about my numbers. If I wake up at 200 for the third day in a row, I do not just take some insulin and get on with my day. I look at my overnight numbers and decide whether or not I need to adjust my Lantus dosage.

Diabetes can be a tricky disease, but it is much easier to manage when you have a team of doctors and educators who care about your health and make you want to care about your health. Therefore, I would advise others to always find a doctor who cares so that in time, you care too.