I Am A Type 1 Diabetic
I was 25 years old, newly married and I had just completed my first triathlon. It was a time when I should have felt my strongest and healthiest, but something was “off”, just not right. Guzzling over 100 ounces of water a day and looking for more (and the closest bathroom) should have been a signal. The total lack of energy probably should have been another clue. It really wasn’t until my far vision completely blurred that I started to take notice.
I didn’t know it then, but these were all classic signs of Type 1 Diabetes. Thankfully I had an annual check-up already scheduled and thankfully my doctor had the forethought to check my blood sugars.
At the age of 25, I became a Type 1 Diabetic.
Thirteen years ago, I was instantly thrown into a world I knew nothing about, and I quickly found I was not alone in my confusion. It was a challenge to explain my new life to my family, friends and coworkers, and I was repeatedly asked “What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2?”, “Do you have the bad kind? (insert audible sigh here), and complimented with “You don’t look like a diabetic.”
The following are a few small tidbits that might shed a bit of light on Type 1 Diabetes. Please remember when reading this that I am not a medical professional and I do not claim to have all the scientific answers. I am just a mom with a busted pancreas trying to spread a little awareness.
3 Things to Know about being a Diabetic Parent
1. Type 1 Is Different From Type 2
In the simplest terms I can muster, the difference between Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes is all in the life of a pancreas. A Type 1 Diabetic no longer has a working pancreas which does the important job of making insulin. Insulin is the chemical needed
to digest sugar. Due to the pancreas no longer working, insulin must be injected.
It should also be noted that while Type 1 is commonly called “Juvenile Diabetes” it is possible (consider me exhibit A) to get Type 1 at any age. Additionally, all the Type 1’s who were diagnosed as kids will grow up and continue to have Type 1.
Lastly, there is no known cure for Type 1 Diabetes. It doesn’t go into remission and its symptoms and treatments are constant. The insulin we take only manages it. Insulin does not remove the symptoms.
Type 2 Diabetes is different in that the pancreas is still working and making insulin but the body has lost the ability to fully absorb it and put it to use.
Side Note: There is no “good kind”, so I guess maybe I have the bad kind???
2. Classic Signs of Type 1 Diabetes
- Excessive Thirst – well beyond being thirsty after a workout. Imagine feeling that you will die if you don’t get more water, not exaggerating in the slightest.
- Frequent Urination – This is caused by the body trying to flush out the sugar. In little kiddos it is typically seen as bed-wetting despite being well potty-trained.
- Fruity Smelling Breath
- Blurred Vision – No, your vision should not change overnight. I literally went to bed with great vision and woke up unable to clearly see the pastor in the front of church.
- Rapid Weight-Loss
- Fatigue – There are lots of reasons we get tired but this is a new level of exhaustion and it is combined with the other symptoms above.
- Irritability and Behavior Changes
In my humble, non-medically trained, opinion, any combination of these symptoms should be an immediate reason for a blood sugar test. This simple test has the potential to prevent a very dangerous medical situation.
3. Thank Goodness for Modern Technology
It was not long ago that insulin pumps were the size of backpacks, blood sugar was tested by peeing on a stick, and insulin was injected using reusable, glass syringes. Diabetes technology has come a long way in a considerably short period of time. Each new advancement allows us
to live a safer and more healthy life. Listed below are some of the most common medical devices by diabetics.
- Blood Sugar Test Kit – Testing requires a small poke in the finger in order to draw a drop
of blood onto a test strip. This test is typically performed 6 or more times a day. The
result of this continuous need to test? Calloused fingers and thousands of used test
strips (which we find everywhere!)
- Continuous Glucose Monitors – While blood sugar test kits provide a quick snapshot of blood sugar in that immediate moment it is much more useful to see the movement of blood sugar levels throughout the day. In order to provide constant data and readings without a constant finger poke many diabetics are beginning to use Continuous Glucose Monitors.
- These little devices are injected into the skin by the patient every 7-10 days. The small wire like material that sits just below the skin then sends data to a receiver and collects data. This technology allows Type 1’s to simply look at a screen and see not only their current blood sugar but also see if their blood sugars are trending up or down.
- Insulin Pumps – Insulin pumps, in their simplest definition, serve as an external pancreas. An insulin pump carries a small vile of insulin and is connected to the body through a small tube sending insulin into the body. Pumps allow the user to set a program for the amount of constant insulin needed throughout the day (Basal Insulin) and allow the patient to take larger amounts of insulin based on the amount of carbohydrates eaten (Bolus Insulin).
This Is What Type 1 Diabetes Looks Like
I am a Type 1 Diabetic.
I am a mom, wife, gym rat, dog walker, and a lover of all things food. I just happen to have a pancreas that’s taking a permanent nap.
Those early days, weeks, and years can be summed up with one word, overwhelm. The only way to learn was to live each day and be patient. As the years passed and a new sense of “normal” settled in, the overwhelm began to be replaced by a new word…strength.
Diabetes taught me to celebrate the small successes in life and to truly appreciate the ability to do the things that I really loved. There is only one consistent thing in Type 1 Diabetes and that is, inconsistency. Hormones, stress, temperature, weather, fat, fiber, sickness are only tiny
piece of the list of things that can affect blood sugar. This inconsistency has taught me tocelebrate small moments like a spin class completed without the need to eat halfway through or a birthday dinner out without an extreme high blood sugar.
If you would have told the 18-year-old me that I would have Type 1 Diabetes and be the mom of twins I would have requested a leave of absence from my future. Instead I am grateful every day for the life I have and how my challenges have shaped me into the person I am today.
Life as a Type 1 Diabetic has taught me that a positive attitude is a choice and has humbled me to accept that I cannot live this life without the support of my friends and family. Living with a freeloading pancreas teaches me every day to remember that we all have unseen battles we may be facing. I am grateful that this Type 1 life has proven that we each have the power to be stronger than our situation and stronger from our situation.