“I have had type 1 diabetes for almost 15 years. I was diagnosed when I was 7 years old, so I have very little memory of what life was like without finger pokes, carb counting, and lots and lots of insulin. T1D can be a very misunderstood disease. Those in the T1D community resist calling it a disability, but it takes up so much of my life that I consider it to be one. The largest misunderstanding is that insulin is an easy fix, and doesn’t require much thought. When I manage my T1D, I am trying to replicate a natural body function, that of an organ which is tucked deep under the stomach: the pancreas. If my blood sugar gets too low, I am in danger of passing out or experiencing symptoms that aren’t very fun, including seizures. If my blood sugar gets too high, I just feel gross and lethargic or could even slip into a diabetic coma. If it’s high for a long time, or I don’t control my BG levels, I could face lots of complications later in life like blindness or even limb loss.
“That is why I take it seriously; I use as many tools as I can (including an adorable dog) to manage my T1D. I have a constant dialogue running through my head each day to make sure that I’m safe: ‘How do I feel? Did I remember to take insulin? Should I eat something now, or let my BG fall a little bit more? Is my dog alerting me? Should I exercise, or put it off until my BG is a little higher? How many carbs is in this piece of toast? This orange?’ It’s a lot, but it’s all I know!
“As strange as it sounds, T1D is a part of me, and I can’t imagine living life differently. Having diabetes has opened up so many doors for me, and has helped me realize my passions in life. It has made me a healthier, more caring person, as well as more responsible. Because I have had such an intimate look into the healthcare system as a patient, I feel the need to go into the system as an adult. I can safely say that, because of T1D, I will be starting nursing school in August to become a pediatric nurse practitioner. The compassion and care I got as a young child has pushed me through school, and I can’t wait to inspire other young kids with chronic illnesses.
“T1D is hard to manage, but I am lucky enough to have the tools to manage it safely. It takes a lot of work and a lot of thought, and sometimes I just want to throw everything on the ground and give up. But in the end, my health is more important, and it is rewarding to see how well my hard work pays off!” -Emma, California
Good morning!! I woke up about an hour earlier than normal because I didn’t feel well. The number that you see on my blood glucose meter is a bit high (target range is 90-150 for me). Waking up with high blood glucose (BG) is no fun because my mouth gets super dry, I have to pee, and I get a bit nauseous, but a bolus of insulin should fix that pretty quickly. I need to stay awake to make sure that my BG starts to come down (if it doesn’t, I will need to change my insulin and pump site). While I wait, I can entertain myself with my kitten, Oliver, as he viciously attacks my feet. The day is off to a roaring start in my T1D world!
My BG is coming down slowly, but not quick enough for my liking. I usually take this medication with breakfast, but it doesn’t hurt to take early. This is Victoza, and it is typically a medication for type 2 diabetics. However, I am very insulin resistant so I take it to help keep my BG levels in tighter control. By taking it early, it’s going to help the insulin work a little quicker.
Here are some of my management devices. The blue rectangle-shaped thing is my continuous glucose monitor (CGM, made by Dexcom, which is what I call it). It works by measuring my BG levels every 5 minutes through a wire under my skin. It can be inaccurate though, which is why I still use a meter to check my levels every so often (the white rectangle). This proves that I’m almost in target range!
I can’t go long without introducing Fleur. She is a 5-year-old puppy, and works for me as a service dog. She also LOVES to play. She alerts me when my BG changes or is about to dip low or high. Here, she’s warning me that I still have a lot of insulin working in my body, and my BG might continue to fall until it gets dangerous. This is helpful for me right now because I’m about to go to a kickboxing class. Time to drink some juice just in case!
Kickboxing is so much fun! And I made it through the class without going low. I always bring a lot of stuff with me wherever I go. Gotta make sure I have my monitors, my insulin pump, and enough sugar in case I go low. Especially when I’m about to exercise! I decided to take my pump off for this class because my BG was still dropping, but I sometimes leave it on too.That grey thing on my arm is the wire that is under my skin for my Dexcom. I usually can’t feel it, but when I hit the bag really hard with that arm it does sting occasionally.
I have a tradition of going to coffee after kickboxing, every time. Caffeine is my weakness! I have to remember to check my BG, count how many carbs I’m eating, and take an insulin bolus for whatever my pump tells me to.
Time to drive home, but I do need to keep a really close eye on my BG. It is generally not safe to drive with a BG under 100, and my dexcom says 94 and dropping. I do occasionally find myself sitting in parking lots with a juice box, just to make sure that I’m safe while I’m driving.
After some time, I’m back home. I’m going to eat a real breakfast (fried egg and toast with peanut butter) while I work on newsletter emails for Carb DM, an organization that I work for that strives to expand the T1D community in the Bay Area. They’re pretty awesome!
Back in the car, I need to go grocery shopping! This time Fleur is coming with. Good thing too, because she’s warning me to watch my BG while I drive. She doesn’t like me going under 100 either! I ate a few fruit snacks just to be safe.
In public, Fleur wears a vest that signifies she’s a service dog. Service dogs must perform tasks for their handler in order to be legit. Fleur’s official task is “medical alert.” It’s always tough in public because I have an invisible disability, so some people don’t believe that Fleur is a legit service dog; I don’t look like I need her.
I’m making banana bread. I love baking, partly because it occupies me and partly because, if I bake a treat, I’ll know exactly what went into the treat and will be able to bolus accordingly. It is so hard to estimate the amount of carbs in baked goods from the store.
Even though there are no diet restrictions for type 1 diabetics, I try to eat healthy and low glycemic. Over the years I’ve learned that it’s easier to control my BG when I eat lots of vegetables (no carb) and whole grain foods (low glycemic). However, I can’t resist the occasional carb load!!!
Banana bread in the oven, I start taking selfies with Fleur, who tolerates me. But she interrupted my selfie game to let me know that my BG is dropping (again). Man, I love exercising but it is exhausting chasing all the low BGs for the rest of the day.
The juice I had to treat the low wasn’t enough, so I’m adding a juice squeeze. Sometimes I think that I just take in all the calories that I burn during exercise from feeding my low BGs.
While I recover from my low (and wait for the bread to bake), I get to sit and watch Daredevil on Netflix (no spoilers, I know). That low was one of the bad ones, even though Fleur gave me plenty of warning I wasn’t able to treat it well enough to avoid it. These lows make me weak, dizzy, and tired. Even though they’re quick, it takes longer for the symptoms to go away.
Aaand the banana bread is done!! I can promise you that it tasted as good as it looked. Plus, the cream cheese has a lot of fat in it so it helps to slow the inevitable BG spike that comes from eating a piece (did I say 1 piece? I meant 4).
Whenever I shower, I have to plug my insulin pump in to charge it. It can usually hold a charge for 7 days, but I like to charge it every day so that it stays at 100%. There’s no way to replace the battery, so if I lose power, I need to have it at as high power as possible so that it lasts as long as possible.
The best time for site changes is after a shower! I have to change my insulin pump site every 3 days or so. If I don’t change it, I can run the risk of infection, scar tissue build-up, and high BGs. It’s a small needle that is used, but I still have to count to 3 before pushing the injector buttons!
After giving Fleur her dinner, I guess I should make my own dinner too. I mentioned that I love vegetables because they’re easy on the BG levels. They are also gorgeous!
The final product for dinner: beet and zucchini salad, with a lot of fixin’s on the top. This has barely any carbs, so because my BG has been running low today, I’m not going to take insulin for dinner. This is always a risky judgement, because sometimes the smallest amount of carbs can send my BG skyrocketing up, but I would prefer that over eating more sugar to treat a low today.
It’s good to relax with a beer as well, and it’s my favorite beer, Deschutes Fresh Squeezed. Alcohol can throw everything out of whack for someone with T1D, which is why I prefer beer over any other alcohol. Too much alcohol is dangerous for anyone, but for a T1D it can cause some very dangerous low BGs. Add in the fact that alcohol inhibits good sense! I’d rather stick with the beer, because the alcohol kicks in slower. Plus, it tastes great.
The reason for the beer? It’s a Duck game! In case you didn’t notice my subtle Oregon obsession earlier, I am a huge Duck fan. Go Ducks, beat St. Joseph!
My Dexcom says that my blood sugar is going up! That could be for a few reasons. First, I didn’t take any insulin for dinner. Second, I watched basketball which gets my adrenaline up, and that can cause BGs to rise as well. Either way, I’m going to take a small bolus of insulin to stop it from rising more.
Here’s my derpy kitten. He doesn’t do anything for my diabetes, except for make me laugh!
Last BG check before bed. Looks like I calculated correctly, because this is a perfect BG level to be going to bed at. If I hadn’t exercised today, I would prefer to go to sleep around 120. However, because exercise can cause low BGs for up to 24 hours, I would prefer to be safe than sorry. Goodnight! (And no, Fleur does not sleep on my bed).