One Day in the Life of Type 1 Diabetes
DAY 4161 Living with Diabetes
As I sit up in bed, my head spins. It’s 7 a.m. I’m shaking, sweating and scared. It’s only then I realize that I missed dinner last night. I know that my blood sugar is dangerously low. I also know that apart from my 13-year-old sister, I’m home alone. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a muesli bar sticking out of my handbag. I try to get out of bed and reach for it, in an attempt to bring my blood sugar up. That’s the last thing I can remember. My name is Shelby. I’m your average 21-year-old, aside from the fact that I have had type 1 diabetes since I was 9.
One morning in January of 2014, my blood sugar dropped so low that I had a seizure and knocked myself unconscious after hitting the back of my head on my bed frame.
It was the first time that an ambulance had ever been called for me. Apart from this instance, I have had several serious hypoglycemic episodes—I’ve had a seizure whilst on camp visiting a crocodile farm, I’ve smashed drinking glasses in my hands in an attempt to fix my blood sugar and I’ve buttered my hands whilst trying to make myself a sandwich. If you haven’t already guessed it, I’m extremely stubborn and independent. I don’t like asking for help; however, it’s because of my diabetes that I have had to learn how to ask for such.
Diabetes is debilitating. Diabetes is devastating. Diabetes is draining.
We’re allowed to have good days and bad days; just like everyone else. We just need to be prepared. Even on our bad days, we are still people with diabetes. We still have to stop and test our blood sugars and give insulin. We have highs (fun fact: we don’t understand how odd it sounds to others when we’re in public and say, “I think I’m high”) and then we also have lows (literally). Our blood sugars can jump to 457 mg/dL25.4 mmol/L then plummet to 38 mg/dL2.1 mmol/L. We deal with the unquenchable thirst, headaches and emotional meltdowns when we’re high, then later deal with the ravenous hunger when we’re low. Diabetes is in absolutely no way, “easy” to manage. In fact, sometimes it feels like you can’t manage at all.
What you may not understand is this: diabetes is not as simple as simply doing a blood sugar test, accompanied by an insulin injection or the touch of a few buttons on an insulin pump. Diabetes is like I’m running a race with a weight belt on. The course is the same and it has hills and valleys just like for everyone else, but every step, every moment and every time I push myself to the max, I have to work a little harder than everyone around me. It’s a constant weight on our shoulders that for most people with diabetes will never go away and is sometimes difficult to manage and live with.
Usually, type 1 diabetes is diagnosed in children and young adults, although it’s not confined to that. As young kids, we are usually able to rely on parents to carb count and to remind us that we need to change our infusion sets and batteries. But as adults, we don’t have that anymore. More often than not, we live away from our families. We know how to take care of ourselves. It’s just hard sometimes. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve been at work and have run out of insulin, resulting in high blood sugars hours later.
Anyone can develop Type 1 diabetes. No, it isn’t a lifestyle disease, and no, it’s not infectious.
One day, your pancreas can simply just stop producing insulin. It can hit you at any age; it can affect both sexes and any race. Diabetes does not discriminate. In Australia, type 1 diabetes accounts for around 10 percent of all diagnosed diabetic cases. This number is rising.
I have had type 1 diabetes for 11 years, five months and 10 days. I have had over 30,000 blood sugar tests and 18,000 injections/site changes. I am only 21. In 1974, researchers claimed that a cure was only five years away. It’s now 2015. I don’t wish to live another 11 years, five months and 10 days with diabetes. Diabetes is hard; however, we are more than a disease, a disorder or a sickness. We are children and young people with love in our hearts and beauty in our souls. We have the power and our health is in our hands. We won’t let our diagnosis rule us. We’re far more than that.
Read Diabetes—Your Frenemy by Dana Maxx Pomerantz.