How Being Open about Type 1 Changed My College Experience
Editor’s Note: Olivia was a member of Beyond Type Run‘s 2018 TCS New York City Marathon Team sponsored by Dexcom and Insulet, makers of the tubeless Omnipod Insulin Management System. Learn more about the 2019 Beyond Type Run team here.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on July 12, 2010, the summer before middle school. Two months later, I joined the cross country team as a way to help lower my blood sugars. My coach thought I was crazy for wanting to run after just getting out of the hospital, but with my giant fanny pack filled with everything I needed for high and low blood sugars, I was determined to prove him wrong. I decided that having type 1 would be a motivating force instead of a setback. I quickly fell in love with running and was lucky enough to have incredibly supportive coaches and teammates for seven years. One of my best friends was so in tune with my needs that she was able to sense when I was going low before I even went low.
Last year, I moved 3,000 miles away from home to go to Amherst College and ran cross country and track there. I chose to go to Amherst College because it was my dream school and I wanted to prove to myself that I could live across the country and successfully deal with type 1. My parents, my best friend Allison, and my amazing teammates were suddenly gone—I felt alone and scared.
It wasn’t easy at first.
My blood sugars fluctuated constantly from the dining hall food to living in a completely different environment. Being a freshman can be challenging enough as it is, but managing type 1 on top of it, didn’t make it any easier. I struggled with being open and vulnerable about diabetes with my teammates because I never wanted to burden them.
As I began to open up more to my coaches, they were shocked that I had been dealing with this on my own. My coaches, Cassie and Danny, quickly became second parents to me and would constantly check in with me before runs. They even got the Constant Glucose Monitor app on their phone to see my blood sugars, which was particularly helpful in cross country races and in the 10k on the track. When I opened up to my teammates, who are now all my best friends, I was in awe over how much love, care and support they gave me. My best friend Sarah made me promise her when she asked how I was to not just say I was fine, but to tell her my actual blood sugar. On long runs, my running group insisted on stopping if I was going low and felt dizzy.
As people with type 1 diabetes, a lot of us have the tendency to try to deal with it ourselves because we are scared to talk about how hard it can be. It’s so important to be open about what we deal with on a daily basis, and the people that love and care about you want to be there for you no matter what. And when we do feel alone we have to reach out to other type 1s because no one should ever feel alone. We are in this together.
To learn more about the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon Beyond Type Run team click here.