Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dear 10 Year Old Self,

You are stronger than this.

Type 1 diabetes is going to be incredibly challenging, frustrating and scary but you are stronger than it. There will be times where you do everything perfectly and everything will still go wrong, there will be times when you forget to check your blood sugar but you will learn from those moments, there will be times when you feel as though there is nothing you can do to move forward – but you will.

Diabetes is going to turn your world upside down but you will stand tall on top.

Juice boxes and Gatorade will save your life, literally.

You will quickly become an expert at putting jeans on with one hand while you hold your insulin pump in the other.

You will become an expert at knowing your body and the changes that occur all day long inside.

You will gain the unique talent of looking at a plate of food and instantly being able to know how many carbohydrates are on that plate. Food will become a form of medicine, you will look at it differently.

You will become a super human, capable of living life and acting as a pancreas all at the same time!

Diabetes will not define you but it will be a huge part of who you are. You are going to create a vision for your life full of goals and you will achieve them despite the odds and with each of those goals met, you will continue after larger ones to conquer.

Diabetes is nothing to be ashamed of; it is not a well understood disease by most – be the change you wish to see and step up on your soap box and appropriately tell the world how serious diabetes is so they can stop giving you that look of “really, you have diabetes?”

Be open to what life has to offer you; always turn those lemons into lemonade and yes you can drink that lemonade with type 1 diabetes and you can eat whatever you wish as long as it is within moderation, just like someone without diabetes should not drink an entire gallon of lemonade and an entire pizza box in one sitting.

Tell everyone you interact with that you have type 1 diabetes – that too will keep you safer. The more that know, the more you will also dispel those ridiculous myths out there.

Do not let diabetes be an excuse for anything in your life. If you don’t feel well, do what you can to feel better and move forward; don’t miss school or work unless you really need to. Sure, you have an incredibly valid reason, but why when you can prove your strength fighting through the bad? Don’t give in to diabetes and let it control you, you need to be in control of this disease.

You can literally do anything you want with your life but you will have to make the constant, conscious decision to do so.

You are stronger than this and you will prove that to yourself time and time again.

-18 Years Later Self 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Diabetes does not get better with age.

I was asked once, if over time, Diabetes becomes easier: yes and no.

Since 1999, the diabetes world has seen incredible technological advancements which have transformed the lives of those living with type 1 diabetes. This is what my first insulin pump in 2000 looked like versus what I wear today, along with the apple watch that pairs to my phone and then pairs to the continuous glucose monitor attached to my arm to read my blood glucose level every 5 minutes:
Minimed 508, 2000

t:slim, 2017
Apple Watch Paired to CGM
The Minimed was life changing, literally pumping life back into me. But it was not waterproof, it was bulky and loud and did not have automatic plungers to insert the tubing below my skin – it looked exactly like a beeper. My t:slim is waterproof, touchscreen, holds more insulin – yet slimmer and is prepped to one day communicate as part of an artificial pancreas. I have had several pumps in between these two, but to this day the t:slim has been my favorite.

To go back to that original question, you learn how to respond to different scenarios of lows and highs, you learn how much exercise is a factor in increasing and decreasing your blood sugars, you learn what foods hurt and help, you learn how to explain what diabetes is.

Yet unfortunately, diabetes does not play fair, you can apply the same set of facts but receive varying outcomes, every single time. However, those applications of logic are important, because they are the foundation to winning the marathon not the race. The marathon being a very long, happy and healthy life despite this life threatening disease – type 1 diabetes.

With every life event, diabetes is a factor in the development of that event. When I went from childhood to adolescence and then from high school to college and college to my first professional job, I had to learn how to live with T1D at each of those intervals and will for the many to come.  

When I first learned how to drive a car, I needed to factor in testing my blood sugar before driving and realizing if I was approaching a low, I needed to eat or drink something before driving. When I took the SATs, the exam proctor needed to know I had T1D in the event I needed to test my blood sugar so my test would not be disqualified. When I drank my first alcoholic drink, I needed to understand how that would affect my blood sugar. Jump ahead a few steps and I am now figuring out how T1D will factor into my wedding day which is 85 days away! I am thinking about where I will wear my pump, who will hold onto my phone to watch my blood sugars, what if I am low right before I walk down the aisle, what if I don’t eat enough because I am too busy visiting with family and friends? Diabetes will certainly be a part of my big day, because I don’t go a day without it, but I am thinking now how to let it sit in the backseat on such a special day.

So learning to live with diabetes is not a short term process, but one you stick with for as long as you are in the ring.  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

October 27, 1999

I wish I could remember exactly how October 26, 1999 occurred. It's the day before my life would change forever. 

On October 27th I was diagnosed with a life threatening auto immune disease which immediately required daily injections, sleepless nights, quarterly appointments with specialists, a strict diet, unexplained highs and lows and routine battles with insurance companies. It's a disease many do not understand. It's a disease where if I was diagnosed with it just 100 years ago, it would be a death sentence and unfortunately in some parts of today's world it remains as such. It's an exhausting disease. It's a shameless disease. It's a disease where you can do everything "right" as outlined by medical professionals, and it is literally a luck of the draw as to what will happen. It's a disease where I've purposely left the name out because too jump to a conclusion. 

At ten years old, on October 27, 1999 I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after experiencing clear signs and symptoms for one month. I was 20 pounds underweight, dehydrated, urinating frequently and so sick. So sick, I had to miss school - I absolutely adored school so this was a huge red flag. It took three attempts by my Mom to get the pediatrician to test for what was wrong with me after blindly sending me home to "rest" several times. 

From a very young age I had this innate understanding to be strong despite this terrible disease, to do everything I could to take care of myself to avoid complications, to not allow it to get in my way. So I haven't. It has been over 17 years of battling this disease 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It doesn't rest, it is tireless; so am I. 

That same determination has not allowed as much of the "scary" of this disease to be visible to those around me. See, every morning, I wake up and put a shield on because I want to do what I want to do with my day and I don't want diabetes to think it can interrupt my plans. It still tries, hard at that, daily, sometimes hourly. 

I've been very fortunate to create a growing platform over these past 17 years of turning this disease into something relatively positive. It's this very platform that has lifted me up when I've needed it. 

I envision this blog to be a reflective space for myself, maybe a bouncing pad of ideas or a place of acceptance for others but hopefully also a hub of passion and empowerment.