Diabetes. Yep, I’ve got it.
Thanks to the growing epidemic, it’s becoming a well-known disease, but did you know there’s two types ? Yeah, yeah, we know all about type 2 and it’s link to obesity and heart disease. But what about type 1 ….the one that can be managed but not cured.
Each diagnosis is its own story, here’s mine:
From the beginning
I don’t know life before shots and blood tests, I was diagnosed when I was 3 & 1/2. Some of my earliest memories are from those days. But you know what? I’m grateful for that, in my opinion it is far harder to adjust to such circumstances than to imagine what’s it’s like before.
So there’s that whole debate of “what’s normal” “what’s regular”. Who knows. But I can tell you this is how Diabetes impacted my childhood:
– I had to sit in the front of the bus so that the bus driver could keep an eye on me to make sure I didn’t faint [I actually remember my first time being able to join everyone in the back].
– I spent a lot of time with the school nurse. A lot.
– I got to select a buddy to walk me to the nurse [the shy girl, I felt popular getting to choose!]
– If my blood sugar was high I would walk the halls reading a book [nerd alert].
– There was the time my mom made cupcakes with sugar-free pudding on my birthday and no one realized it wasn’t icing.
I no longer would escape to the nurse every time but do blood tests secretly during class. This was also the time I learned to start sneaking snacks. The first day of school as teachers were laying out the rules, there was always the “no snacking in class.” Now they knew and I knew that I was exempt from that. However, after kids spotting my granola bar/rice krispies treat/gushers/dunkaroos/ they would instantly become hungry and want one. I learned to keep my granola bar under my desk, in my backpack, in my pocket and try to eat it without noticing.
I remember consciously counting out 6 lifesavers during an assembly to equal a juice box when I was low and reassuring my teacher that I knew what I was doing.
5th through 8th grade brought plenty of sleepovers! It was for a friends sleepover birthday party in 5th grade that I learned to do my own shots…and earned a sleeping bag.
We grew to field trips where parents no longer joined ….except for mine on any extended adventures. My dad got to join the 7th grade to Boston and the next year when we stayed over in DC. Lucky for me he was pretty popular (cool?). Oddly enough, having him along gave me greater independence because I didn’t have to call and check in with anyone.
Those were the years when intramurals and sports began and the game of balancing out my blood sugars with exercise.
It was when I learned choices and consequences.
By this time I was in charge of my Diabetes, I knew more about it than my parents did. I knew more about it and my lifestyle than my doctors did. I had worked with nutritionists, I had counted carbs (and self-assigned, counting calories).
Freshman year I made the decision that I wouldn’t drink because of the Diabetes. My A1C level was never great and I vowed until I got it under control I wouldn’t try it. This was when I, like many teenage girls, battled with self-control. Therefore, there wouldn’t even be a sip – because a sip isn’t prepackaged with a nutrition label and during that time that’s how I operated. Open (whole?) food scared me.
Lucky for me I had some pretty awesome friends that never made an issue of it – hell, they were lucky because they had a constant DD.
There were also sports teams, part-time jobs (ahem, catering ie: food) – each day a test at how to balance it with numbers.
Made it another 4 years without drinking while still participating in the antics. Only this time the DD gig was more fun – b/c we all went home to the same place, road trip style vs. taxi driver!
New schedules, constant spontaneity, open buffets, dessert bars, gym routines, drunk munchies (even for the non drunk), lining up with other people’s schedules & group dinners all provided new challenges. Being with a whole new group who didn’t know me since I was 5, who didn’t know about Diabetes, who didn’t know my mom or who to call. Finding new doctors after many awful experiences. Having to explain overandoverandover why I didn’t drink (which people were pretty cool about). People not understanding my decision-making process of why I would pick one indulgence over the other because they would have chosen differently.
A semester abroad in the land of pasta & gelato. Trying to figure out european nutrition labels. Traveling. Having to trust judgement and my body. Learning to deal with lows in the middle of a city. Walking everywhere. Running outside – without the safety of retreating to a locker room. Taking any previous schedule and normalcy and chucking it out the window. Being adventurous, carefree and out of my comfort zone. Later dinners, even later nights out, late mornings in. Trying to communicate the disease internationally : to pharmacies, to locals, to new (international) friends, to airport officials. Having to trust people.
Gone are the nutrition labels (hello daily lunch take out). Dealing with the sudden halt of a low blood sugar in the momentum of craziness of NYC. High levels of stress at the office with long days. Attempting to increase fitness and general well-being. Diagnosis of Hyperthyroidism. Discovery of allergy to insulin. Open awareness and communication through social media – something I shied away from. An open network of friends and strangers and explaining your situation over and over. To explain what works for me. Explaining to people that I have to stop and get sugar rightnow. Educating people of nutrition, diabetes, self-care.
It’s a lot of trial & tribulation. Conscious decision-making and being tuned in to my body. It’s math. A lot of math. Counting units of insulin, carbs (that’s not completely gone), blood sugar levels. Its learning more information on nutrition than my most recent consultant. It’s being aware. It’s being responsible.
On my 25th birthday I had someone randomly ask me what I thought about a cure. My honest opinion – I don’t know. I can’t imagine my life without Diabetes. I guess it depends on what is considered a cure and at what cost it comes. Many people probably don’t feel the same and I respect that, but after many years of people “advising” me, it was interesting to have someone understand that I might not want to name my first-born after the person who cures Diabetes.
This has been largely my issue alone, so what’s it to anyone else?
That said, I am ALL for health awareness and encouragement and support full efforts. I think providing children the healthy resources from the start are crucial but no one is too old to make positive changes.
So to sum up:
– Had it since I was 3 1/2
– Type 1 Insulin dependent not on the pump
– Don’t drink, loosely count carbs, nutrition focus, with an evil sweet tooth (will choose a cookie & a salad over pasta).
– Trying to improve health & wellness daily >> diabetes or no diabetes.
– Have always had a distorted relationship with food given the fact that every move I make is a precaution or reaction.
– Yep I have it, sure I get frustrated and want to punch my shots right back in the face but there aren’t too many why me moments , all things considering, I’m pretty lucky. Now who wants to hand me some chocolate? kiiidding….maybe….not really.
[I tried to find you fun pictures but guess what? Not too many of diabetes – some are actually creepy in that old school cartoon after school special kind of way – so until I get creative – use your imagination!]
Want to know more ? Want to hear fun stories? While I have no business advising anyone as a I’m not a professional, I’m more than happy to share my experiences.
Oh and need an endocrinologist in NYC? I would be happy to give my recommendation as I’ve finally found one that makes me laugh instead of cry.