Diabetes Doesn’t Have Me


Editor’s Note: Jasmine is a member of the Diabetes Scholars Class of 2020. Diabetes Scholars is a program of Beyond Type 1.

Relief. That was the first thing I felt when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. 

I was mildly sick for about a year and a half before my diagnosis. My skin healed slowly and I hardly slept. My mental health was pretty much nonexistent, but the most distinct memory I have is feeling like I had totally lost interest in the world around me. Then, a few days before my junior year of high school, I went to a physical exam and got a simple blood test. My resting blood glucose level after fasting was between 16.6-22.2 mmol/L300-400 mg/dL, but everything else came back normal. I was told immediately that the most probable diagnosis was type 1 diabetes. 

At that moment, I felt relieved. Suddenly, there was an answer for all the things I couldn’t explain—why I felt so sick (out of range blood glucose levels), why I constantly felt dehydrated, and why I felt like my life was spinning out of control. I decided right then and there that I would embrace my diagnosis and live with a positive attitude. 

My education

Over the next few weeks, I went to lots of appointments and met different doctors, nurses and certified diabetes educators. The best thing I did in the days after my diagnosis was reading the book, Think Like a Pancreas, by Gary Scheiner. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. I gained an understanding of diabetes that I would not have otherwise received.

From the beginning, I managed my diabetes myself. I counted carbs, calculated the insulin I needed, and kept myself healthy. I didn’t feel like I needed emotional support because for me, science has always been my way of coping. The more I learned about the immune system and diabetes, the more I felt in control, and I slowly began to regain confidence in myself.

I was extremely lucky when I was diagnosed because I received a continuous glucose monitor less than a month after my diagnosis, I met my first diabetes buddies a month after that, and I was training to use my insulin pump by Christmas. Thanks to the people I met at CarbDM and Tidepool, I learned about Diabetes Youth FamiliesAltitude 14,505 program. The program is a nine-day backpacking trip to climb Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States, with a group of type 1 teens. I applied for the program in January, and I began training and buying lots of gear. 

Last summer, before my first diaversary, I climbed Mt. Whitney. It’s one thing to know that you are physically and mentally capable of going on a long backpacking trip, but it’s another feat to actually do it. I carried thirty pounds on my back for over 75 miles. Some days we had thousands of feet of elevation gain, and other days hiked a (relatively) flat route for eleven miles. At one point, part of the trail and been blown off, so we had to climb along a cliff to keep going. There was a rest day at a natural hot spring, where we hopped back and forth from freezing river water to the steaming springs. On the day we reached the summit, we each enjoyed a Snickers bar—and it was delicious.

Coming full circle

After climbing Mt. Whitney, I felt much more confident about my ability to travel alone and to deal with any diabetes surprises. I knew that if I could manage my health out in the wilderness, I could certainly do so in another part of the world. It was also my first diabetes camp and it was one of the most fun times I have ever had. I quickly felt empowered to keep managing my health and to keep going on adventures. I also made a lot of lovely diabuddies.

I realize I certainly had a whirlwind introduction to the diabetes community, but I learned that it’s all too important to know people your own age with diabetes, because the way you deal with diabetes is both similar and different from others. The things I worried about this time last year are so different from what I am worrying about today. I am fortunate enough to have diabuddies that I can rely on and commiserate with so I can share my experiences—both the good and the bad.

When all is said and done, I’m mentally and physically in a much better place now. I have diabetes, but diabetes doesn’t have me. I don’t hide my continuous glucose monitor or my insulin pump, and I don’t mind when people ask me questions about them. My devices are just accessories that I wear. If anything, I am more in tune with my health than I was before. I still have good and bad days, days when I am completely in range and days when I don’t feel like putting in a new infusion set. I know that diabetes will always be a challenge that I have to face, but I am optimistic about new treatments and research. From open source projects to clinical trials, I make a point to read about new developments every day. 

I had my diaversary earlier this year, right around starting college, and I’m pretty excited for the future since I will be pursuing a degree in biology and hopefully doing diabetes research.

Editor’s Note: Diabetes Youth Families (DYF) is a non-profit organization that provides education and recreation for children, teens, and families impacted by diabetes. Their camps, adventure programs, weekend family education programs, and more offer a supportive community that encourages personal growth, knowledge, and independence. Photos included are shared with permission from DYF. To learn more about their programs and offerings, visit DYF.org.

WRITTEN BY Jasmine Wiese, POSTED 11/10/20, UPDATED 06/06/23

Jasmine is a native Californian and an incoming freshman at Carnegie Mellon University. She intends to major in biological sciences and hopes to pursue autoimmune research. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2018 and has become active in the diabetes community including DYF Altitude 14,505 Mt. Whitney Trip, JDRF and CarbDM.