Type 1 Diabetes ruining a military career and how you've reacted to it.

By roxygyrl1970 Latest Reply 2015-02-12 21:40:37 -0600
Started 2012-08-15 04:13:00 -0500

I was wonder if anyone else out there was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes after serving an extended amount of time in the military.

After serving 4 years active duty (Desert Storm Vet.) on a ship, I was finally able to accomplish my life long dream of becoming an Equipment Operator in the US Navy Seabees, just like my grandfather (my hero) had been. I normally spent at least three months out of the year on extended military orders, and if they called me the day before asking me to go, I would drop everything and head out. When I was home, I wanted to be on orders. I loved operating all of the heavy equipment. Everyone who knew me, knew I was an EO in the Seabees. It defined who and what I was. I wanted to stay in forever. I was an adult who got to play in the dirt with huge "tonka" toys. You can't get better than that. We worked hard and played harder. Even if I didn't particularly care for someone, I knew when push came to shove we had each others back. Then diabetes happened to me.

I had just came off orders from a fence line project at Goose Creek and hadn't been feeling well. I just thought I either had the flu or had bitten by a tick. I started drinking so much water that I was throwing it back up and still was thirsty. No one thought to say I might have diabetes. I was very active in the military. When it got to the point that my vision was so blurry I couldn't read a stop sign, I decided to go to the walk in clinic. I figured it would be some sort of rounds of antibiotics, slap a band aid on it and life would go on as normal. Well I told them my symptoms and they tested my blood sugar and it was over 600. When I told the old doctor I had driven (it's what I did for the navy) the look on his face was utter disbelief. He gave me a shot of insulin, a prescription for the pills (he misdiagnosed me as a type 2) and sent me home. The only thing he did right was to have me come in the next day. I had no carbs, had taken the pills and when I came back my BS was back over 600. There was a younger doc there with him that day and I heard them arguing in the hall. The young doc was telling the old doc that he REALLY needed to look at me (i.e. my 103lb build) an realize I was not a Type 2 but was in fact a Type 1. The old doc insisted I was Type 2 because of my age. I literally could hear them yelling at each other in the hall. Needless to say the young doc proved his point that yes, even someone my age could develop Type 1 diabetes. When that young doc came in to give me the "good" news that in fact I was not a Type 2 Diabetic but a Type 1 (insulin dependent) the first words out of my mouth were "This is going to ruin my military career isn't it?" and I busted out crying. I knew as a Type 2, I could still serve in the military, but as a Type 1 everything I was and had worked so hard for would be ripped away without even a "by your leave". What made it even worse was that I was suppose to deploy to Iraq with my Battalion in six months and had been gearing up for it. With one sentence, that young doctor ripped away one of the very defining parts of my personality and lifestyle. I wanted to be a type 2 so badly, that I made them test to make sure I was a type 1. I struggled to be able to stay in the Seabees. I was hoping the test would be a "Hail Mary" and come back saying I was Type 2. But that didn't happen. I was entirely lost. Until I received the definitive test results, I kept my head down and proceeded with the military. I only told the people who absolutely HAD to know in the Navy. I just "Carried on and proceeded with the plan of the day". When I put my BDU's and combat boots on though, somewhere inside of me knew I was wearing them on borrowed time. I WANTED to go to Iraq, I DID NOT want diabetes and the changes it was bringing to my way of life. Iraq was better than insulin shots (I'm still afraid of little needles and can't watch when someone else is giving me a shot or drawing blood-I get faint). Iraq was something I was familiar with, that I had trained and prepared for. Type 1 Diabetes though, was entirely out of my scope of understanding and had never once been in my personal realm of existence. I just could not fathom, how this had happened to me and what I had done so terribly wrong to deserve this hell. This wasn't something I could put my hands on and make all right so I could proceed with what was a normal life (up to that point for me). I was at a loss of what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I had already met all the goals I had set for myself since I was little and was happy with my accomplishments. Then all of the sudden I had A LOT of free time on my hands and really nothing I wanted to do with it, because I had been satisfied with exactly how my life had been. I DID NOT want a different life. I DID NOT want to have to deal with the fact I couldn't be and Equipment Operator. I DID NOT want to lose the camaraderie I had with my Seabee buddies. I WANTED to be deploy able. I had known I was going to Iraq and my mind and actions were already prepared to deal with that. I was NOT prepared to deal with such an invisible, evil, sneaky, thieving disease like Type 1 Diabetes. My buddies whom I had just been one of the guys started to treat me different. They started to subconciously treat me like I was a delicate flower. Should I be doing this or that? How do I feel? How's your sugar? You can't eat or drink that…The more they did that the angrier I became at my body for it's default and what that default was costing me. I rebelled. I still am rebelling. I can't seem to get it out of my system. LOL!! Now instead of being military cut, I've become punk rock cut. I'm sporting blue hair, have facial piercing and sport tattoos on both my fore arms. I enjoy standing out with the spiked, funky colored hair and with such an appearance that when people first meet me now, their not quite sure what to make of me. (At least until they get to know me.) My attitude has changed and now has an underlying vein of anger that never entirely goes away because of my resentment towards this disease and what it took away from me. (That deployment to Iraq I was suppose to be on-We lost seven good men in two days and that guilt of not being there, even though it probably wouldn't have changed anything-Never goes away.) This disease has made me a harder person inside, than I EVER would have been in the military. A small part of me is ALWAYS bitter. I get tense and angry when I see others wearing BDU's because I still to this day want to be serving in the Seabees and am jealous that they get to do it and I can't anymore. If I get in one of my "moods" and begin dwelling on it, I still want to put a hole in the wall, I have that much anger about it. I'm not self destructive but I've started to do things (like the tattoos on my forearms) that make me stand up tall and with attitude like I used to when I wore my uniform. To be a female my size, with tattoos on her forearms, funky hair and facial piercings and at my age to have started doing it, is unique to say the least. It seems to make me carry myself taller and have the attitude that nothing can touch me and to REALLY look at me, instead of hiding behind the disease and crawling into a hole and laying their waiting for the disease to kill me, like some people treated me after my diagnosis. Unlike the military, it really doesn't have a purpose except to make me have enough attitude to carry this look off and be good and comfortable with it. It seems to keep a spark inside me alive and to not give up even when the poo hits the fan. (8 hospital stays in the past year and a half and a quick onset of some complications from the stupid disease.) It seems that I traded one way of looking (military BDU's and combat boots) for the exact 180 degrees opposite. BUT it still gives me THAT feeling of how I carried my shoulders in uniform (If you were in the military you KNOW what I'm talking about) to the everyday civilian life. Like I owned my uniforms, I OWN my new appearance and it is the one thing I CAN control and that diabetes CAN'T take savagely away from me. It is the one thing that I have ENTIRE control over with no if, and's or buts. Now I just have to figure out what outrageous thing I'm going to do next.

Has anyone else out there been through this? And if so, what have you done to compensate for the loss of your military career?

19 replies

jcarlisle 2015-02-12 21:40:37 -0600 Report

I was in the Navy for 6 years, but was lucky and got out before type-1 grabbed me… No diabetics in my family… went through the summer losing weight and feeling run down, but being stubborn I just kept going… when I finally dropped… I had went from 190 pounds down to 145… I wanted to drop to 175 or 180… hahaha… so I started drinking a bunch of water before Diabetes started kicking me… then it went to thirsty all the time, and could not keep enough in the fridge, so I bought a water cooler… and was swapping out the Jug every other day… when I finally got hauled to the hospital my sugar was over a thousand… but I just wanted out of there… LOL! Stopped me from reenlisting after my wife left though… would love to go back in!

Tony5657 2013-04-02 08:47:25 -0500 Report

Roxygyrl1970, (M for short),

It's so good to have you back here and Welcome Aboard & please don't salute me - I was enlisted while in the Navy. I do admire your stamina, courage, P & vinegar, etc.. :o) You make me laugh and cry at the same time. Speaking of hair, what I have left is mostly white. I guess it would go pink easily?? LOL or maybe after a few more years I'll have the Dr. Phil look.

Keep on keeping on my friend. ol' Tony5657 in New Braunfels, TX

SgtFoster2010 2013-03-26 17:05:43 -0500 Report

I was a Sergeant in the Marines and I was coming to the end of my second enlistment when I had some 'routine' blood tests taken and my b/s was over 500. They told me I had T1 and continuing my path in the military was no longer an option. I had a career ahead of me and felt like I had just gotten a hold on my PTSD symptoms when life, as it so well does, throws another another curve ball. I really appreciated your story and sharing. It hit very close to home. Know there are many out there and you are not alone. God Bless.

ambaxte 2012-11-25 22:46:42 -0600 Report

Hey! My dad is a Type 1 Diabetic who was diagnosed in his mid 30s after 20 years in the Air force. He was medically retired soon after that. He too loved his job and was really upset when he no longer could be on the EOD team any longer. Do you know of any support groups for people like you and him? I know he would like to talk to others who have gone through this! It's a constant struggle because no other job compares to the passion he had for the air force.

roxygyrl1970 2012-08-31 20:06:34 -0500 Report

My legs REALLY hurt today, so let me tell you what I did. You guys will probably get a laugh out of it. Times have been tough lately and I worry about paying for my insulin while I wait to get approved for my VA benefits. I got thinking how fortunate it is that I went to Desert Storm, played in the sand and will have the VA to fall back on when the military finishes up with the "Hurry Up & Wait" BS paperwork. I began to think of all of the Type 1's out there, with no insurance, no friends & family to fall back on & no hope because they haven't made an affordable generic insulin. I decided to email the White House & ask why could they make a generic form of Viagra (which is for you know what) & not a generic form of insulin (which is life or death). Those stupid lawmakers are pretty much legally committing murder in my opinion and should be charged with it. They probably figure if one of us dies today, later on we won't have more complications & costly medical bills. I also told them that I was a veteran & deserved & was demanding an answer. I just don't get it. Sex in one hand, possibly deadly disease in the other & which one do they choose to make affordable to John Q. Public? If I could still serve I would, without a second thought but first I'd make a quick trip up to D.C. and like I told them in my email "I'd like to put my combat boot so far up their backsides they'd taste it in their tonsils." I also told them that they could tell those lawmakers my name & what I said. I was VERY blunt with them & can't wait to see if they respond or just send me the generic thank you for contacting us. It was just that when I got thinking about all the other Type 1's out there who are not as fortunate as me, my legs hurting, I got EXTREMELY FIRED UP about it. I seriously think that they owe all of the people who have chronic, life threatening diseases that will die without their meds. deserve answers to that question. Maybe one day they'll get their heads out of their butts and do the right thing. Can you tell I REALLY miss my combat boots..LOL!!! I'll let you know if I receive any sort of reply and what it was. I get a little cranky when my legs hurt like this & my attitude was HOT so I just sent it straight to the top of the chain of command. If my chiefs from the navy had seen it, they would just shake their heads, laugh & be like "that's Melissa"!!!

Tony5657 2012-09-02 10:58:02 -0500 Report


From one "squid" to another (I'm a U.S. Navy Viet Nam veteran - USS Tappahannock AO-43) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Tappahannock...), and you REALLY impress me. What ship were you on?

With your courage & stamina, your intelligence, your fortitude and your above average ability to communicate you just might cause these much needed changes. Keep on keeping on and you just may cause the "system" to take notice & listen to you and be changed for the better. Please DO NOT give up. You ARE needed! This type of change, as you well know, needs/has to happen and YOU just may be the catalyst (the royal kick/boot in the butt) to make it happen. (Don't throw your combat boots away!!) Surely someone of intelligence/compassion will listen and act and get 'er done or at least, start the process.

In the military and in the government in general (I worked as a government national defense (avionics weapons control) contractor with Lockheed for years), sometimes changes are v-e-r-y slow, but again, please do not give up. One person CAN make a huge difference and you may well be just THAT ONE PERSON. You are on a very important mission, not just for yourself, but also for many, many others and I wish you the best.

Thank you for your patriotism, your service, courage and the willingness to use your over average ability to get 'er done. Again, I wish you the best.

Tony5657 in New Braunfels, TX

roxygyrl1970 2012-09-02 19:28:44 -0500 Report

Hey "squid" there's a "SEABEE" in the house and I gave up my my "sea legs" to get to play on the Navy's BIG tonka toys in the dirt and am VERY proud of that upgrade. LOL. While I was a "squid" I served aboard the USS Puget Sound AD 38 out of Norfolk and went to Desert Storm on it. The one thing I do miss about boats though is that their like big cradles while "Haze Grey & Underway" and I used to get the BEST sleep while we were underway because the boat would rock me to sleep. LOL.

Since you worked for Lockheed for years in avionics weapon control I want to guess you were probably an Airdale in the navy and rating was either an AO or an AE. Am I right? I knew a bunch of Airdales because I dated an AO while I was in the navy for about 2 years and they were a lot of fun. They were never as crazy as my Seabee friends (NO ONE can EVER beat them) but they came close. They also thought that my TERROR of flying (which I either HAVE TO be medicated-I DO call my Dr. for something when I absolutely have to get on one of those EVIL DEMONS or have a few Guinness for "liquid" courage) was hilarious and would constantly tease me about it. But I got even with them sometimes with a little bit of fiberglass out of the Lag Shop and would tell them what I had done and laugh AT THEM while they were scratching. I'd finally tell them to go take a cool shower and not a hot one because if they took a hot one the fiberglass would sink into their pores deeper instead of being washed away with a cool one. (I was young and it was the best payback I could come up with at the time which wouldn't harm them, but would just make them a little uncomfortable for a short while. I must say that I DID get a GREAT amount of amusement watching them scratch their arms like dogs for a few minutes and not know why until about after five minutes I told them what I had done and not how I did it. (They never figured that one out and I will take my delivery system to my grave!! The best part was that the delivery system fell so far under the K.I.S.S theory that it made it even more hilarious!!)

I REALLY appreciate your compliment and will remember when my legs are killing me and try to figure out ways to "put" my combat boots on and act INSTEAD of react. I'm sure I can figure out more people I can email and give my opinion to and try to get a reaction out of them. It probably will help that when my legs hurt that badly, I get REALLY cranky and would normally be up running around instead of not wanting to even stand up. I can let my fingers do the running instead of my legs. Too bad they didn't have little combat boots with steel toed tips for fingers!!! LOL. Plus I have that hurry up and wait thing TOTALLY under control (for the most part) and understand that ANYTHING that has to do with the government -Except Captain's Mast- can takes months if not years to get anything done.

TTYL, Melissa

IronOre 2012-08-16 00:24:46 -0500 Report

Well Roxy . . . at least you were able to serve, even if it ended not in a way you wanted.
I was diagnosed with T1 37 years ago, at age 14. I wanted to be a military pilot in the worst way when I got out of HS. Of course that never happened.
One of the first things that I did when I got home from the hospital, after being diagnosed, is throw a couple big piles of my flying related magazines in the garbage. I just hated that feeling.
No Roxy, I don't know what it's like to go thru what you did, but to say that you did serve, and enjoyed that camaraderie, is not something that a lot of T1 diabetics can say.
Now that I come to think of it, I guess it was best that I got T1 when I did . . . because I can't miss something that I never had. But for some odd reason I still feel it inside of me and get tears in my eyes when I see a military plane flying above, or really any military personal in uniform. Jeez I wanted that so bad.
Sorry I couldn't help you here. I guess it was my turn to vent. Thanks for that.

roshy 2012-08-15 20:24:30 -0500 Report

i think everyone who has t1 can relate to your post to some degree. We all fear that this disease will hold us back, stop us from flurishing or distroy our dreams,and sometimes, unfortunitly it does. For me, i always wanted to travel, work and live abroad. Now im very hesitent in moving anywhere because im frightened whether i can manage myself, stay healthy and work and live away without the support of my family and friends; and i put this down to being completlely dependant on insulin. I suppose i can blame diabetes and be resentful and bitter about it but that does me no good and is pointless. The way i look at it is i can try my best and be happy and thrive for a healthy life or i can keep denying my body what it needs to survive and cause distruction to me and to everyone who cares and loves me. I may have had an initial plan for myself but at least now i have the choice to create a new plan and still be happy. life is too feckin short to dwell on what could of been and dwelling is just wasting time!!!

Best of luck in the future, and on a more personal note, i believe from reading your post you are a strong, intelligent, powerful woman and youd be the last person in the world to loose a battle to typ1 one diabetes!

jayabee52 2012-08-15 14:55:21 -0500 Report

Thank you for your service to our country. I have 3 sons in the military my eldest in the Navy (who wants to be a lifer) and the other two are with the army in some capacity or another. (i have a pic of them and me in 2004 in my pics tab)

I am really sorry to hear of your plans being destroyed by t 1.

Blessings to you and yours!

James Baker

CJ55 2012-08-15 13:55:08 -0500 Report

First and foremost, thank you so much for your service. I have never been in the military so I truly cannot understand what you are going through. However, I use to live a totally different lifestyle, however, due to my illiness' I had to change things in my life. Am I bitter that I cannot do these things anymore, hell yes, but I try to turn the bitterness around and do what I think is best for myself and others. I hope you can as well. Also, Welcome to DC. This site is full of wonderful , caring people with great knowledge and concerns for everyone. I do hope things will get better for you. My prayers are with you. God Bless. CJ

Lizardfan 2012-08-15 13:11:13 -0500 Report

Thank you so much for your service! I can hear the pride in your words and so appreciate everything you have done for your country. I have no advice for you, just wanted to let you know I hope things will get better for you. God Bless.

Nick1962 2012-08-15 08:43:35 -0500 Report

First and foremost, thank you for your service. Second, welcome to the group. This is a great place for support as well as a place to vent your frustrations. Even though most of us here have not walked the same path as you, frustration is something we’ve all experienced.
After reading your amazing story, I can’t help but get a different take on it. I’m not a religious person, but it would seem to me that there are other things in life you are destined to accomplish, and this diagnosis was the way to turn you in that direction. You said yourself that the deployment you should have been on lost seven good men. You could have been one of those, but for reasons unknown, you were not.
You obviously have an energy, and the diabetic community really needs someone with an energy to not only motivate us to do better, but advocate for us for better treatment. Maybe your “orders of the day” have been changed?

AF Retired 462
AF Retired 462 2012-08-15 07:50:27 -0500 Report

I can understand how hard it must have been for this disease to end your military career. I was diagnosed Type 2 soon after my 20 years in the AF. To think that that could have been cut short…Thank You for your service.

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