Best Friends Diagnosed with Type 1 a Year Apart

4/27/16
FacebookTwitterEmail
 

 

Sometimes a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis can actually bring people closer together. In the case of Alexi and Sarah’s friendship it was two diagnoses.

Alexi and Sarah met in high school, before either of them were diagnosed with T1D. They hit it off because of their mutual interests such as literature and travel and became very close.

In October of 2003, Alexi was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Sarah watched as Alexi navigated the first year of having the disease during school and otherwise. Sarah was always there for her, but little did they know — she would soon be there for her in a much more profound way.

In November of 2004, the news hit that Sarah, too, was now a Type 1 diabetic.

From the first daily nurse’s office visits together at lunch time in school to growing up and supporting each other through going to different colleges and various moves — Alexi and Sarah have always been T1D partners-in-crime — (Dia-buddies!)

Here’s what they had to say on Type 1 management and how it’s shaped their lasting friendship:

 

  1. What is something that Alexi/Sarah taught you that helped you manage your T1D better or differently in some way?

 

Alexi: 

Sarah is always very knowledgeable about random facts and T1D studies because she never stops learning. She’s always researching and sharing new things with me. But there is also a very literal answer to this question. She actually taught me how to use my Dexcom!

I was a little too eager to wait for a diabetes educator to show me the ropes when my Dexcom came in the mail (oops, sorry. I know.) — but Sarah had already been using one for about a month when mine arrived, so if there was something on the online tutorial that was unclear, she walked me through it like a true diabadass.

 

Sarah:

Honestly, Alexi has taught me a ton of things over the years, especially since she was diagnosed with T1D first. In the beginning, she helped me immensely with helpful tips and tricks like where she took her shots. As we’ve gotten older, I’ve been really impressed with how Alexi can tweak any recipe into a diabetic-friendly, lower-sugar option. She’s always coming up with great ideas like little eggplant pizzas and low-sugar cookies. I honestly hope she writes a cookbook someday. Her eating habits have certainly rubbed off on me a bit and that’s been great.

 

  1. What do you admire most about Alexi/Sarah with regard to how she handles her diabetes?

 

Alexi:

I love that Sarah doesn’t let T1D stop her from being adventurous with what she eats. Andrew Zimmern’s catchphrase is “If it looks good — eat it!” And I feel like this should be Sarah’s too!

She absolutely loves food, and diabetes never deters her from exploring different kinds of cuisines, no matter what the carb count. She knows her body well enough to know how much to bolus and how it will affect her. And if a blood sugar malfunction does occur, she keeps her composure and does what she needs to do to correct it.

I tend to eat very high protein and avoid carbs to a certain degree. While that decisions stems mainly from what works for my body, I sincerely admire Sarah’s no-fear attitude when it comes to carbs.

 

Sarah:

I’ve always admired Alexi’s consistency throughout the years. She’s always known how she prefers to eat and she sticks with it. A doughnut could stare at her right in the face and she’d be able to turn it down every time. I think we all have our foods that are “worth it” for taking more insulin but Alexi does exhibit an admirable amount of self-control.

 

  1. What is the funniest memory you have of navigating T1D together?

 

Alexi:

The two of us go to Disneyland together quite a bit because we both live in California, but one time we ventured all the way to Disney World in Florida, and it required multiple “T1D breaks!” It can get hot, humid and miserable walking around for hours and it’s not always easy to just head back to the hotel for a full on break in Disney World, so we would seek out shady spots to sit and whip out all of our supplies. BG checks … Dexcom calibrations … Novalog injections, pump boluses, or a quick snack — and then it was off to the races again! We are pretty hardcore Disney parks enthusiasts, so we came up with the hashtag #diabeticsatdisney!

 

Sarah:

We’ve had a lot of silly moments with T1D so I’m not sure I can pick just one. We are constantly tagging each other in funny diabetes memes. I know in high school very well-meaning people (bless their hearts!) would ask us if we checked our blood pressure and her and I would laugh about it later. A lot of times when diabetes is stressful, you just have to laugh about some of the craziness. Especially now that we have the Dexcom, her and I will send screen shots and joke about our trends and how we’re feeling about them.

 

  1. What was one of the scariest or toughest T1D moments you can remember about Alexi/Sarah?

 

Alexi:

The scariest moment by far was when I first heard that Sarah had been diagnosed. It had been one year and one month since my own diagnosis, and I could not believe what I was hearing. We were both still in high school — and I had just returned from a trip with our other mutual friend, Erika. Erika’s mother told us both what had happened and that Sarah was in the hospital. I remembered Sarah being very thirsty and losing a bit of weight in the days leading up to her diagnosis. I kicked myself a bit for not recognizing the signs, since the same thing happened to me so recently.

I went to visit her in the hospital as soon as I could, hoping that she was handling it alright so far. There she was, reading her books as usual with a smile on her face. Same old Sarah. I was incredibly proud of her, and I knew from that day that we would be in this together.

 

Sarah:

Alexi keeps her composure quite well and therefore, I can think of a lot more moments where she is cool, calm and collected. I do remember her going through a period a few years ago where she was experiencing a higher amount of anxiety (than normal) about low blood sugars and that was hard to watch. They’re scary of course but I do remember being at Disneyland and she started to panic a bit with thoughts like, “What if I have a low blood sugar while I’m ON the ride?” Thank goodness we both have the Dexcom now because that has helped tremendously. Alexi has certainly seen me with my own struggles, so it’s been wonderful that we can both support each other. Often times I’m freaked out about different things than her and vice versa so we’re a balanced pair together.

 

  1. How do you each handle the stresses that diabetes can bring?

 

Alexi:

Mindfulness, meditation and yoga help me exponentially. Staying in the moment and trying not to get in my head about the future or the past. Also, trusting my body and having a strong support group that I know I can always reach out to — like Sarah.

(Check out the piece I wrote recently about anxiety as it relates to T1D!)

 

Sarah:

Normally I handle it the same way I would with anything else that stresses me out — yoga, good music or coloring books (so glad those are a thing again!) If I’m having a particularly hard day, sometimes it helps to vent to Alexi or read blogs of other diabetics so I don’t feel so alone. If the stress is brought on by uncooperative blood sugars, I’ll take a walk to try and calm myself down.

 

  1. How do you think diabetes has shaped you as a person?

 

Alexi:

Being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes definitely afforded me a certain kind of strength and independence that I don’t know that I would possess if I didn’t have the disease. It also forced me to often see the bigger picture in life, whereas I think a lot of people take so many things for granted. The daily struggles that T1D presents me with also makes me consistently grateful for the simple things, and I have an enormous sense of empathy for others.

 

Sarah:

Diabetes has made me a stronger, more compassionate person. I feel that it’s not only given me a greater understanding of a good portion of the population who have diabetes but also for those with chronic illness and autoimmune disorders (especially since T1D isn’t my only one). It’s given me a greater understanding of nutrition and biology as well. I do feel I eat way healthier with T1D because I can see how it affects my body.

 

  1. What would your diabetic superhero name be?

 

Alexi:

“Protein Princess!” Because who says that superheroes can’t also be royalty?

 

Sarah:

“Dia-Betty – Fighter of Hyperglycemia.” Unfortunately Bionic Woman is taken!


Read Alexi’s My Balancing Act – Overcoming type 1 Anxiety by Embracing Inner Peace and The History Of Diabetes: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going.