Hey there, friends! Happy Monday! I hope that your weekend was relaxing, fun-filled, and everything you hoped it would be :)
I'm checking in on this Monday morning to talk about a topic that's very important to me: Type 1 Diabetes. My good friend Lisa - remember the one I went to the engagement party for a week ago? Well, her brother, Marco (stay with me, pals) was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in January 2015. It's important to note that Type 1 diabetes is not related to diet and lifestyle. T1D (Type 1 Diabetes) is an autoimmune disease in which a person's pancreas stops producing insulin, which is a hormone that is ESSENTIAL to turning food into energy. Adults and children are both diagnosed and affected by Type 1 Diabetes.
Marco is an AWESOME guy and each day he, and many other individuals with Type 1 diabetes have to constantly worry about their blood sugar levels. I asked Marco to write up a blog post to give you all a better idea of what it’s like to be diagnosed and live with T1D, so without further ado, let’s dive right into his post!
It’s funny how in an instant, your entire world could be turned upside down. Sounds like a cliché, I know, but it’s the truth, and exactly what happened to me. All it took was a phone call and three words—and my life was changed forever.
“You have diabetes.”
Now I know what you’re thinking, “that’s a little dramatic.” But let me give you a little background. It was January 2015, and life was getting back to normal after the holiday season. Work and school were picking back up, and I was ready to attack 2015 and make the best year of my life thus far. Little did I know what lied ahead. Slowly, I noticed that I was beginning to lose weight. I wasn’t too concerned—I thought that maybe I wasn’t eating enough. It made sense, after all I worked in a salon and I rarely sat down. It was basically like I was doing some form of cardio all day. It was a simple fix, just eat more and you’ll be fine. It didn’t work. As a matter of fact, I continued to lose weight. Now, this was concerning to me. I had always had a slender build, but at that point I was significantly thinner. In a matter of two weeks, I went from 130lbs to 97lbs, and standing 5’9” tall, I looked like a skeleton. Then other symptoms began to emerge: a thirst that couldn’t be quenched, frequent urination, exhaustion, blurred vision, severe back pain, and extreme weakness (just to name a few).
It was time to go to the doctor.
A simple blood test is all it took to reveal the culprit. Type 1 Diabetes. To be honest, I was shocked. I had always thought you were born with it. There I was, 21 years old, being diagnosed with what I assumed was “Juvenile Diabetes.” But, blood tests don’t lie. A normal person’s hemoglobin A1c levels range between 4-5.6%. Mine were 14%. My fasting blood sugars were through the roof at over 400mg/dL (compared to 70-90mg/dL for a healthy individual.). It was pretty clear that I was in DKA or Diabetic Ketoacidosis (look it up, it isn’t good), and if I didn’t get the necessary treatment, I was faced with death. Still think I’m being dramatic?
Time to start the insulin.
Initially, I used insulin injections. Four per day to be exact. Into my stomach. I had to get over my fear of needles quite quickly to say the least. I injected a fast acting insulin at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a 24-hour insulin at nighttime. This was where it got tricky. I now had to measure every single morsel of food I consumed. I wanted to be sure that I knew how much insulin I needed to give myself to cover the amount of carbohydrates I was eating (carbs metabolize in sugar). Getting these calculations correct is extremely important. Too little insulin? Major blood sugar spikes (running the risk of DKA). Too much insulin? Sever low blood sugars and possibility of a coma and death. It’s no joke.
Needless to say, I wanted to find other ways to help control my blood sugars. I did my research, and found that the best way to do that was diet and exercise. I want to make it clear that Type 1 Diabetes CANNOT be cured with diet and exercise. THERE IS NO CURE. Nowadays, my diet mainly consists of high fiber, high protein, low carb foods. I eat a lot of chicken, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and fruit. They are all relatively easy to count carbs for, except for fruit. Fruit tends to be high in sugar and carbs, so that is taken into consideration when figuring out how much insulin I need to inject for meals. In addition to changing my diet, I began exercising. I try to run 4-5 times a week, and I lift weights about three times a week. The increased activity helps the insulin to do its job better, and keep my blood sugars in manageable ranges. These changes significantly improved my health. Remember my A1c? 14% at diagnosis. Now I am happy to report that it is down to 6.2%.
Pump It Up!
As you can imagine, got sick and tired of sticking myself with needles. I felt like a human pincushion (especially when you think about all the times I have to prick my fingers to test my blood sugars in conjunction with the injections). I decided that I wanted to begin pump therapy. It was the best decision I’d ever made. Now instead of using injections, insulin is delivered into my body via a small cannula and tubing that is attached to my body. I change the cannula pump “site” every three days. If you do the math, that’s like going from approximately 1,460 injections a year to about 122. Obviously it was a no brainer. In addition, my pump is paired with my Dexcom CGM Device. CGM, or continuous glucose monitor, is a small sensor that is inserted into the skin once a week and monitors glucose levels in body fluids. Every five minutes, a glucose reading is sent to my pump screen, and notifies me what my glucose levels are doing. Rising too quickly? I get notified. Falling fast? Notification. Low blood sugar? It beeps. Blood sugar too high? It beeps again. It is a huge help when it comes to managing my diabetes.
Family, Friends, and a Strong Support System.
I see myself as one of the luckiest people in the world. I mean don’t get me wrong, having diabetes sucks, but the way I see it, I have two options. Sit around feeling sorry for myself, or get out there and live my life to the fullest. Obviously, I chose the latter. I am so incredibly blessed to have a strong support system of family and friends that have educated themselves and others around them as to what T1D is, and how they can help in an emergency situation—if it ever came to that. Knowing that I have a network of individuals for support is one of the best feelings in the world. I thank each and every one of my family members and friends for supporting me each step of the way.
How can you help?
On October 23rd, Marco, his family, friends, and other supporters will be joining countless other individuals at the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research) One Walk to help JDRF continue to fund life-changing type 1 diabetes research and create a world without it. With T1D, there are NO days off for the individuals affected by it, and there is no cure...yet.
Marco's team, Beat the Beetus, has the goal of raising $2,000 to contribute towards research. I would be so appreciative if you would click the link below and donate towards this cause. No donation amount is too small!
Click HERE to donate towards Marco's Team.
By donating towards Marco's team, Beat the Beetus, you can help fund research that impacts the lives of millions of children, adults, and families challenged by T1D everyday.
Let's turn this disease into a memory.
I'll be leaving the link to Marco's team at the bottom of every blog post leading up to the walk on October 23rd, so if you don't get the chance to click today and donate, you can catch the link on the next blog post.
Thank you all for reading this post and for considering donating to Marco's team. It means so much.