Seeing My Diabetes Through a Clearer Lens

5/4/16
WRITTEN BY: Jesse Lavine
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I’ve never really believed in seeking support for my diabetes. I never made an effort to meet other people with diabetes. I went to a diabetes camp the first summer after my diagnosis, and I loved it! – but I never went back.

I had always convinced myself that I wasn’t going to let diabetes hinder my ability to be a regular kid. All of my friends were equipped with working pancreases, and I wanted to keep up with them, even though I lacked one that produced insulin.

I wanted to eat pizza with them, and drink Coke ICEES with them. If they were doing it, why shouldn’t I be able to also? Plus, my first endocrinologist told me that I could eat whatever I wanted, as long as I took insulin for it. So I did.

It wasn’t until years of this constant practice that my body began to reject inordinate amounts of sugar, no matter how much insulin I pumped. But I kept pushing. I still wanted to be “normal.”

At age 18 I moved to California for college and tried to do the same thing there. I experienced parties, drinking and college dining halls. And oh my goodness, college dining halls. They’re like the ones in Harry Potter. I used to get a slice of cheese pizza and put pasta shells and a chocolate chip cookie on top. I’d wash that down with some orange cream soda that I kept cold, and fully stocked in a 54 ounce rainbow jug.

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Eating like this put my blood sugars on extreme roller coaster rides, and as a result made my productivity as a student quite volatile. Something had to change. Lucky for me, small liberal arts schools are hotspots for discussions and critical analysis about food. One professor lent me The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I was hyper conscious of the foods that raised my blood sugars (and still am). That’s when my experimentation with food began. It started with the idea that if I could find foods that don’t make my blood sugars erratic, then I can live a normal life without worry of being incapacitated by a blood sugar episode, and then not being about to hang out with my friends as a result.

I didn’t want to think about my blood sugars anymore. With efforts to stabilize them, diabetes crept to the forefront of my every thought, and became all-consuming and extremely mentally exhausting. I learned that diabetes is a permanent lens that I will live my life through. With that realization, I turned my efforts every day towards making that lens less blurry. However, I was in a tricky situation. I was a college student. I still am — but at the time when I decided to take better control of my diabetes management, college was not a conducive environment for achieving good results. I had to reinstate health as a number one priority, all the while remaining confident that once I achieved good health, all the other pieces in the puzzle that life is would fall into place. The last week of February of my second semester, Sophomore year, I woke up one morning, walked to the office of the registrar, and withdrew myself from school. I took a medical leave of absence so I could give my full attention to figuring this whole diabetes thing out.

During that time, I got a new endocrinologist who thinks about diet as an essential part of diabetes care. He provided me with resources to get over my fear of food, and cajoled me to hook up to a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). The CGM is the perfect tool for the process of optimizing diet because it gives instant feedback on every morsel consumed. That summer I went to Boston on a whim, and immersed myself in the world of diabetes. It turns out that ten years living with Type 1 comes with a name tag that reads “expert” — something to do with a 10,000 hour rule or something. I made friends with people who have diabetes, and friends who have made it their life’s goal to improve the lives of those affected by type 1. With their support, I became more comfortable speaking about my diabetes, and that comfort transferred into my social life outside the world of diabetes. It’s a big part of my life, and the people who are close to me should know what it means to me, and how it affects me.

Now I’m back at school, and continuing my journey with a clearer lens. California is quite a few miles from Boston, where I felt the majority of my support, so I decided to form my own support, and bring a CDN chapter to my college. I learned about the CDN in Boston. Their mission hit really close to home, and I wanted to be a part of it. College is tough, especially while living with diabetes. I don’t dwell on whether or not the time I took off from college could have been avoided had there already been something like the CDN for me. Now I’m just a little bit wiser, and I’ve learned how important support is for success in diabetes management. With that knowledge, I’m excited to offer my support to anyone who is fighting similar battles with their diabetes, because they shouldn’t have to go through it alone — I know I didn’t.


The College Diabetes Network (CDN) is a non-profit organization, whose mission is to provide innovative peer based programs which connect and empower students and young professionals to thrive with diabetes.  To connect with other young adults, or to find out more, sign-up for more information HERE.


Read more:  Diabetes Burnout and Common College Foods + the Impact on BG



Jesse Lavine

Jesse Lavine is a junior at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. He's been living with Type 1 diabetes for 10 years. He enjoys yoga, laughing heartily, playing guitar, reading good books and constantly thinking about ways to invert himself into a handstand, no matter the social situation. He's recently become involved with the College Diabetes Network (CDN). His experiences have prompted him to start a chapter at his college. Pitzer is one of five colleges in a consortium called the Claremont Colleges. The CDN chapter is open to students from all five colleges. It’s brand new, and he's still on the prowl for members, but he's very excited for the opportunities that it presents!