I initially started writing a blog post about what it’s like to live a healthy life with type 1 diabetes, that includes regular workouts, eating healthily and some of the challenges involved. That turned in to what you’re about to read below, my recollection of being diagnosed at age 9 and how my family shaped my opinion of the disease.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was nine years old, today I’m almost 36. At this point I don’t really remember a life without the finger-pricks, injections, pump therapy, drastic highs and lows, A1c hemoglobin tests, wondering if I’ll drop low in the middle of the night or in the middle of an important event, not to mention constant carb counting among other things. It’s been a way of life, something I hate and often despise but nonetheless it’s the way it is so I make the most of it and take every effort I can to not let it, type 1, over-take me.
I was a taller than average kid with a slender build and spent a lot of time playing outside with my brother, reading books and being me. To be honest I don’t remember being tired. I don’t remember losing 12 pounds. I don’t remember being thirsty all of the time. I don’t remember going to the bathroom all the time.
I don’t remember being in the diabetic coma my mother found me in.
I do remember the doctor’s office and being told that I was going to the hospital and then crying. I remember being told I had dia… something but I didn’t know what it was, although my doctor, he promised me I’d still lead a normal life. I remember the sweet nurse who shared my name and learning how to give injections to an orange so I could start to give them to myself because now, without injected insulin, I would die. I remember learning I wasn’t supposed to eat cake anymore, and the diet soda my mom never let me drink because it was bad for me, was now the only kind of soda I would ever really be allowed to drink. I remember seeing my mom cry but not understanding why and I remember my dad being the only one of us strong enough to know we really needed to learn how to give and take those injections. I remember feeling like I wasn’t a little kid anymore.
After I left the hospital a week later and returned to school and life, I remember my friends missing me but now they knew I was different and something was “wrong” with me. I had a free pass to excuse myself from class without a hall pass and I could keep snacks in my desk…Man, I was a lucky kid!
A lucky kid who had an unknown virus that attacked the cells in my pancreas that produce the hormone insulin, which is required to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy.
That one week was like growing up at warp speed. At home we tested my blood sugar at least 4 times a day and once in the middle of the night. We changed all the foods we had in the house. My bother and I had a baby-sitter after school instead of after-school activities. I had test strips, a glucose machine, syringes, two types of insulin, keytone test strips, alcohol swabs, lancets, glucose tablets, glucagon, and charts telling me how much insulin to take depending on both my blood sugar and what I was about to eat.
Then there’s a blur…I don’t remember anything super specific about my type 1 diabetes only a few instances stand out. Except for the diabetes stuff, my life was normal, or at least normal to me. I spent the night at friend’s houses, I was on the swim team, I chronologically grew up. I was me and me included having type 1 diabetes. My family played a huge role in this, I wasn’t different to them. We had to change a few things, be aware of many other things, but I wasn’t different to them. I was still my parent’s daughter and my little brother’s big sister.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, that shaped my opinion of this disease. I wasn’t going to let diabetes win. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I started to become aware of people thinking I was doing such great things with my health even though I had type 1 diabetes. This confused me. Why wouldn’t I do everything I could possibly do to be healthy and live a normal life? Why is it so hard to believe that even though I’m a type 1 diabetic, I chose to empower others by example to also lead a healthy lifestyle?
I don’t avoid exercise because I have type 1 diabetes, exercise is just sometimes more frustrating, complicated and difficult because I have type 1 diabetes.
I don’t eat healthy because I have type 1 diabetes, I eat healthily because I want to have a healthy life and I believe in choosing foods that are real and full of vitamins and nutrients, it’s coincidence that my type 1 diabetes life benefits from eating like this.
I don’t use my type 1 diabetes as an excuse for anything because that would mean that my diabetes beat me and I refuse to let type 1 diabetes beat me or anyone else for that matter.
Please help me in creating awareness for type 1 diabetes, it’s the best chance we have in continuing the momentum of finding a cure. Pass this article along, forward it to your friends and family, even to someone you know who has type 1, you never know who you’re going to have an effect on. Let’s create viral awareness of such a silent disease that effects the day to day life of people living with type 1 and those who are close to them. There is no cure, there’s only a treatment. We can’t let type 1 win.
In November, I’ll be running the Philadelphia 1/2 Marathon on behalf of JDRF – Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, please consider supporting me: Support JDRF