Coping with the Highs and Lows of Dating a Diabetic

Living with diabetes is difficult enough, from meal planning, carb counting to finger pricks and site changes. When you add the “Big D” to the mix of everyday life, it can cause a relationship to either grow stronger or fall apart. These extra challenges that are involved with the lifestyle of a diabetic are better when faced together. “In sickness and in health until death do us part” isn’t just a memorized vow you say at the altar, it has a deeper meaning to us diabetics. It means when shit gets hard, you will be there every step of the way. When we become shaky, fatigued and sweaty, will you hand us our favorite candy (yummy glucose tablets) or juice box? How about when we’re cranky and argue for no reason? Will you be the first to apologize and tell us to check our numbers for a high? When we are burned out and don’t feel like diabetes-ing today, will you step in and take over our numbers or cook a low carb meal? When the going gets tough, will you run or accept the challenges of this new lifestyle and face it together?

I reached out for some first-hand experiences and tips on dating a diabetic, and the responses came rolling in. I found them very valuable and have shared them with my valentine of 6 years, and now, with you.

“My husband knows a box of chocolates is just asking for disaster, because if there’s chocolate in the house, I will find it and then eat every piece! Flowers are always a sweet gesture, and I won’t snack on those!” – Ang, @sickoftheprick

“My boyfriend and I were together prior to my diagnosis, which was back in November. I always had so much energy prior! Then things started to go downhill. I felt so awful and tired all the time, so much that one day I stopped at his house on my way home from class so I could nap, and then continue on home.
When I got the diagnosis I felt so calm, as if I had already accepted it. I think at that point I was just glad that I knew why I felt awful. Though, that’s when my boyfriend kinda freaked out about it. Every time I ate, we would go on long walks to bring my blood sugar down, and when I wanted ice cream, he literally read all the nutritional facts on all the ice creams at Kroger until he found one with the lowest amount of carbs. Even when I bought him a cake for his birthday, it was obvious that the thought of me eating a slice worried him. He didn’t quite grasp that I could just use insulin. At that point, he had also done research, which of course revealed all the terrible effects that T1D can have on the body.
Now, I’m the one freaking out. It’s like it has finally hit me that I’m going to be battling this the rest of my life. Luckily, my boyfriend is the calm one now. I cry a lot more, and he just holds me. I have a Dexcom G5, so whenever my phone makes a noise, he checks to make sure it’s not my blood sugar. He knows how to use my glucometer, knows how to work my insulin pen, and he knows what to do if I’m high or low. For me, I sometimes don’t even feel a low, but when I do, he can tell. I also never feel highs unless I’m hitting 500.
He has truly made this process so much easier for me, and I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like had I not had such a supportive person by my side through this. As long as a person cares about you, your diabetes won’t matter. If anything, this experience has made our relationship stronger.” – Rachel Reedy

“My hubby said that he’ll remind me to check my bgl if my movements are slow and/or my speech is slurry. I know he has asked me to check them if I’m cranky and I try to listen without being defensive, where possible! When I initially started on insulin, my hubby learned to carb count with me, and I have to say that I relied on him a lot as I was having trouble remembering things at the time. We go for walks together on the weekend, and he happily changes his pace for my interval walks. He was originally impatient when we went on long road trips, but now makes stops patiently if I need to make frequent toilet or water stops when my bgl is up. We mainly eat healthy, and my hubby has learned to try to keep junk food out of sight. He has also slowly learned not to tell me what to eat! It has been a hard road, and we still struggle with it sometimes, but we’re getting better at it all the time.” – Pauline Cunningham

“We have been together almost 24 years, and I was diagnosed about four years ago. He has been awesome. He knows when I am low, and he knows to be patient when I am high and crabby. He wakes me up in the middle of the night to check my sugar if my sensor is not working. He tries to eat as close to me as possible aside from some ice cream and heath bars when he is dying for sugar. He helps remind me to make sure I have all my supplies on me. In return, I have helped him with his sobriety and this year we were both diagnosed ADHD, so we have been through hell together and are stronger because of it.” – Kelly N Jeff

“We have been together 4.5 years, and I was diagnosed just 2.5 years ago. He’s been great at adjusting! Before I got my Dexcom, he would just magically know I was low when I had no idea. He reminds me to take my insulin even when I’m having a rough day and don’t want to and will do pump changes for me if I’m being lazy about it. We are still working on learning that if I start getting mean when high to remember it’s the sugar talking, not me!” – Alexandra Marie Raxter

“I have been with my husband for 6 years. I was diabetic when we first met. It took him a while to get his head around it all, but he’s my rock. Now, he will always take interest in my sugars and remind me to take them if I am unwell. He does it for me at times. He’s good at recognizing symptoms of highs and lows, and he’s been there for every hospital admission, and I would be lost without him.” – Stacey McAinsh

It does’t end here. If you want to give your valentine a shoutout or share some experiences you’ve encountered, please comment below.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
XXXX
P.S. splurge the day away, just don’t forget to bolus 🙂

 

 

 

Sherry Davidson RN, CDE Educates Patients How to Live Diabetter

Q&A with Sherry Davidson RN, CDE


I interviewed Diabetes Educator, Sherry Davidson who was actually the first nurse I met after my diagnosis. Sherry has a passion for education and is full of information. She knew at a young age that she wanted to be a nurse and after occasional fill-ins at the hospital, Sherry earned her career as an educator full time. Sherry answers questions from the correlation between stress and diabetes to the do’s and don’ts of drinking alcohol. Read how my favorite nurse educates people on how to live diabetter!
I’m Sherry Davidson, I’m a Registered Nurse and a Diabetes Educator, I’m the Diabetes Coordinator here. So 70% of my job is diabetes education, mostly outpatient education, I do see patients in the hospital as well. The other 30% is checking in on in patients, I look at lab values and blood sugars and try to make sure we’re managing patients well.

  1. Is there a correlation between anxiety/stress and diabetes?
    That’s a form of stress… anxiety, stress and being scared so any type of stress can make your blood sugar go up or down, most people they go up but a lot of people they go down. One of my patients was learning to drive and he was going for his test and he took his blood sugar before the test and he failed. He took his blood sugar after and it was way sky high, so the next time he went, he did better and didn’t fail. It showed immediately how that one little event really made his blood sugar skew.
  2. Can I reuse a syringe?
    That’s always a hard one, everything you read will say no. There’s a lot of literature that has looked at that just for cost and disposal and all those issues. They do say that technically you can, there’s no risk necessarily of infection to the person, which is what you would be concerned about. The needles are so fine that they do tend to get dull faster and when you look at some of the research that shows the actual needle, after one use it gets a little jagged. It certainly can if you’re using it too much can definitely irritate the skin, but as far as infection risk and everything there’s not really. So I don’t recommend it but I do tell people if you’re out somewhere and you forgot to bring an extra one or you’re over night somewhere and didn’t bring one, reuse it!
  3. Tips on drinking alcohol
    Always have food with alcohol because a lot of people think depending on the alcohol they’re drinking, it’s going to make my blood sugar go up so I better not eat as much. It’s actually the opposite because when you’re drinking alcohol your liver is metabolizing the alcohol and it can’t do anything else. So people actually run the risk of a low blood sugar because one of the functions of the liver is to also release sugar that’s stored and it can’t do that when you drink. The rule I have with that is, women 1 alcoholic beverage, men can have 2 and just always make sure you have food if you’re going to drink.
  4. What is diabetes burnout?
    One of the things I hear patients say is, “I just want a diabetes vacation” because it’s so much work and you’re thinking about it 24/7. I think there are ways to take breaks from certain parts occasionally depending on what your regimen is and maybe having another person be responsible for parts of it for two days so you can kind of have a little break.
  5. Is a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) necessary?
    A continuos glucose monitor is such a great tool, I don’t think it’s a “must” but I think they’re times when it’s helpful. I do think if people are having hard times managing their blood sugar or their a1c isn’t matching because you can’t test 24/7, then it might be necessary. I think the CGM for me is more meaningful to do spot checks. Some people do it all the time, but like you said it’s expensive. Maybe do it 3 days a couple of times a month, just to see where your baseline is and if there is an issue you’re not aware of.
  6. Tips on sick day management?
    One of the big things with sick day management is balancing the carbohydrate beverages with the non-carbohydrate beverages. There’s a difference between staying hydrated, you want to stay hydrated with the sugar-free gatorade, broth, sugar-free jello and water, just things that don’t have carbs in them. Drinking lots of sugar-free beverages to stay hydrated but balancing that with apple juice and ginger ale. So usually what I tell people to think about how many carbohydrates you normally have in a meal and have that same amount even though it might look very different. It might look like apple juice or sprite and alternating with the non-caloric and non-carb.
  7. Does insulin aid in weight gain?
    Insulin is a fat storage hormone and so it stores fat if you have extra you’re not using. I tend to see this with people who have type 2 diabetes more but it definitely can be with type 1 as well. You have insulin that’s not being used, it’s not causing low blood sugar, it’s sitting there so it does cause you to gain weight. So making sure you are using all that insulin and exercise is the best way to do that. Women tend to run their blood sugar higher to avoid weight gain because they know that if it’s high, they’re burning off the calories which is not good. Sometimes when people are first diagnosed, they’ve lost weight and they put it back on and they are like “uh oh, am I going to keep gaining weight?” No, it’s just initially it’s stabilizing, you shouldn’t continue to gain from that if so, we need to look at the ratio you’re using because you’re not using it all.
  8. How can someone manage diabetes without insurance coverage?
    Diabetes is definitely a tough disease if you don’t have insurance coverage. I would say that typically they would be on a different insulin regimen. Some of the newer insulins cost more but we have older insulins that still work fine. You can buy a bottle of insulin for $20 at Walmart if you’re on a generic brand. It can be reasonable but it can be the $200 bottle too. With glucose testing, you can buy name brand which the strips are $1 a piece or you can buy the others that are $15 for 50 strips, so they’re ways to help.
  9. Is it safe to use expired supplies?
    Technically yes we do say that you’re not supposed to use them, I don’t really know what happens. One of the things they say with insulin is that a bottle of insulin is good for a month, 28 days. If you go past that it’s not like it isn’t working, it’s probably now 98% effective. So it does lose its potency, I don’t think something bad is going to happen.
  10.  What is hypoglycemia unawareness?
    A lot of times after you’ve had diabetes for a long time you just aren’t as sensitive. Those nerves that usually warn you that you’re having a hypoglycemic event aren’t there. So people get really low, 20 before they would have any symptoms but then your brain can’t remember what to do and it can be very dangerous. People tend to run themselves higher so they avoid that. What they do say is that if you run yourself a little higher for a while, your body can reset itself. That’s not always true if you’ve had diabetes for a long time.
  11. Any advice for those battling diabetes?
    Staying focused on what the end result is. A quality life is so important and I think enjoying life too. So many people have diabetes controlling them instead of them controlling their diabetes and initially I totally understand because it is self-absorbing and trying to learn everything, but eventually we want to get people where it’s part of what they’re doing. Some people deal with that better than others, I think support systems make a big piece of that.
  12. Will there ever be a cure?
    I do think that sometime in the future. They say every 5 years they say, “Oh, in 5 years…” and they’ve been saying that for the last 30 years but we’ve learned so much. Treatments have definitely improved, so I don’t know that will be exciting one day if they can. I think we know why, we just have to figure out how to fix it.

Ms. Sherry is one of many who has encouraged me to turn my diagnosis into a positive by choosing to live diabetter every single day.

Who has helped you on your diabetic journey?

Do you have more questions you want  me to ask on my next doctor’s visit?

Leave a comment below 🙂

Living Diabetter in 2017

It’s day 6 of 2017 and many of us are still thinking about our New Year’s Resolutions. As we enter the new year and leave 2016 behind, we have to say goodbye to that long list of resolutions. Everyone knows that you will never keep them, so why waste the time and energy creating let-downs. That dreadful list is only holding you back from reaching your full potential this new year.


Let’s say your 2016 list looked like this:

1. Eat Healthy
2. Lose Weight
3. Be Less Stressed
4. Save Money
5. Quit Drinking

Like where do you even start? This looks like a homework assignment you forgot to do so you copied your friend’s work right before class. No thought, no meaning, vague, thrown together answers. You have a sense of relief upon completion but there’s a feeling of guilt after turning it in.
As a type one diabetic, I look at this list and cross through all five resolutions, not because I don’t think they’re doable… they’re just not realistic!

1. Eat Healthy– Overall I eat a healthy diet but when I get low, I just want to eat everything in the fridge. Am I the only diabetic that gets this way? I get hangry. Hungry because my body is going into survival mode while I’m shaky, sweaty and incoherent. Angry because I was correcting a high an hour ago and now I’m low and now I’m hungry and now my emotions are coming into play and now the whole world is over because I can’t go one full day without perfect numbers! This is a reminder that I fight this unpredictable disease on a daily basis.

treating-a-low
2. Lose Weight– I’ve never had weight issues prior to my diagnosis, but it seems like ever since the doctor said “Diabetes” I slowly started gaining unwanted weight in areas I never thought would be possible. My insulin injections and site changes leave my sides, inner thighs, back of arms with hard fatty tissue. So I guess losing those 15 pounds in 3 weeks before I was diagnosed will never happen again.
3. Be Less Stressed– This makes me LAUGH OUT LOUD. If you look up Diabetes in the Dictionary, right next to it will read “stressful.” I mean c’mon… checking BG’s, pricking your finger, counting carbs, changing your pump site, buying all the supplies, experiencing highs and lows, finding test strips in random places, eating snacks, wasting insulin on the floor, the list goes on and on. If this doesn’t sound stressful then I don’t know what does. But we’ve got this!
4. Save Money– Diabetes isn’t cheap. Period. Even if you do have insurance, some policies don’t cover everything.

save-money
5. Quit Drinking– I mean, can a girl have a cocktail or two every once and while? It is recommended that you don’t count the carbs in alcohol, but you should eat before consuming… so bolus with your meal.


Just looking at that long list gives me anxiety, which is why my 2017 tip to you is to figure out one goal you want to accomplish. One goal sounds more reassuring than a New Year’s Resolutions list doesn’t it?
Here are my tips to kick off 2017 living diabetter:

1. Figure out 1 goal– keep it simple and focused.
Are you making bad snacking choices?
2. Replace unhealthy snacks in your pantry with fruits and vegetables. It’s fine to splurge every once and awhile when you’re low but don’t make it a habit. Keep glucose tablets and juice boxes with you at all times.
Are you having trouble getting up in the morning after waking up in the middle of the night to a low?
3. Set your alarm clock across the room, so that you have to get out of bed to turn it off.

all-night
Are you not motivated to go to the gym?
4. Sleep in your gym clothes…. don’t forget to check your BG before exercising.
5. Write it down! Place that goal somewhere in your house as a constant reminder. Speak it into existence. 2017 is YOUR year!
6. Have an accountability partner… this can be a friend or family member who you will have weekly check-ins with to stay on the right track.

My goal for 2017 is to keep a low A1C. What’s yours?

Happy New Year!2017-is-your-year

Cheers,

Living Diabetter xoxo

How Mallory Richards is Living Diabetter

Q&A with Mallory Richards
I met with Mallory Richards, a Junior at Parish Episcopal School (my alma mater) who is redefining what is means to live with diabetes. Diagnosed at the age of six, she not only raises awareness in her community but raises money for a foundation close to her heart. Mallory is a true example of what is means to Live Diabetter!

Q: When were you diagnosed?
A: I was six at the time and we thought that I was using the restroom a lot and I was super thirsty all the time. We thought it was strep throat or a bladder infection, so we ended up going to the doctor and my blood sugar was above six-hundred. So they put me in the hospital right away.
Q: How has your lifestyle changed?
A: It’s definitely made things harder because it’s just one more thing to have to deal with on top of everything else going on in life. But it’s also taught me time management. When I’m having a bad day, I have to learn to get back on my feet and keep going and push through, and realize that some things are more important.
Q: What are your daily struggles?
A: Accepting the fact that when my friends run off and do things that I have to stop for a second and pay attention to it, and not let it affect me when everyone else is doing other things and I’m held back.
Q: How did you tell your friends?
A: As I started getting older, my friends just automatically started to take care of it as if they had the disease as well. They were always there to have my back and they’re sometimes when they understand it better than I do. They’re able to take care of me. One of my friends even knows how to changed my insulin pump, which is very impressive!
Q: What are your proudest accomplishments?
A: One of my proudest accomplishments with this disease is raising awareness throughout the community. When I first got diagnosed, I was a part of the walk, I lived in North Carolina at the time, but I think I raised over $10,000 for JDRF.
Q: What is the biggest misconception with Type 1.
A: Automatically when I tell people I have Type One they always just jump straight to “Oh, you can’t eat sugar, you can’t eat this, are your sure you can do this? Have that?” You know I have teachers who start to hand out candy and they skip right over me and I’m like “I’m still here, I can still eat candy.” I don’t have this disease because I ate poorly or because I don’t exercise… it’s because my body literally stopped working.
Q: How do your treat lows and highs during school?
A: It’s hard when you’re low or you’re high and you’re in the middle of class, especially I’ve had instances where in the middle of tests and quizzes, I’m not feeling great but I try to push through and even some of my teachers have come to notice. It’s hard to tip-toe around having to excuse myself from class, especially when we’re learning important things and I’m like “I need to go tot he nurse.”
Q: What are your extracurricular activities?
A: I’m very involved in theatre, I’ve been doing it since the fifth grade. The reason I think I came to love theatre so much is because I was able to go on stage and be a completely different person. I wasn’t Mallory with diabetes which was nice.
Q: Explain Parish Family Performs?
A: I’m directing Parish Family Performs which is a Broadway revue show that’s performed by faculty, staff, parents and alumni. Every year a Junior directs it for the Junior Service Project and they get to benefit a cause of their choice so this year I decided to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. All proceeds from the show along with a free shoe day that we did with our uniforms, all the money collected is going straight to JDRF.
Q: What advice do you have for someone battling Diabetes?
A: You’re not alone. This disease doesn’t define you and that you’re going to have bumps in the road and it’s not always going to be easy but you can get through it. We’re searching for a cure.
Q: What does living Diabetter mean to you?
A: Living Diabetter means taking care of yourself and taking the action of being in control of this disease, that way you live better with Type One.
I’m Mallory Richards and I’m Living Diabetter!

Power to the Pump: No Need for Needles

If you ask someone their birth date, they can tell you. If you inquire about life changing moments they will describe them to you. Dates hold a special place in people’s hearts. Dates mark tragedies, birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, heartbreaks, and celebrations in one’s life. Dates have become very important to me since I’ve been diagnosed with t1d. They’re the good, the bad and the ugly that shape up my life. I remember the exact date of graduation, my diagnosis, my first car and the date of my first job. On October 18, 2016, I became a “podder”…. One of the best decisions I’ve made.
Insulin pumps are small computerized devices that deliver insulin in two ways:
1. In a steady measured and continuous dose (“basal”)
2. As a surge dose around mealtime (“bolus”)
aka God’s gift to type 1 diabetics!
The American Diabetes Association explains it best, doses are delivered through a flexible plastic tube called a cannula. With the aid of a small needle, the cannula is inserted through the skin into the fatty tissue and is taped in place. The insulin pump is not an artificial pancreas… This delivery system most closely mimics the body’s normal release of insulin.
I’m new to this whole insulin pump thing but I’m loving it so far! For almost 5 years, I’ve been giving myself injections using the Novolog (during meals) and Levemir (bedtime) Flexpens.
That’s 12,698 insulin needle injections to be exact.
You can find your T1D Footprint at https://www.jdrf.org/t1dlookslikeme/
The injections were convenient starting out. I just did some carb counting and adjusted how many units of insulin I needed for my meals. Then before I went to bed I would inject 14-18 units (depending on ratio at the time) of insulin (Levemir).
Sounds easy right?
Not exactly.
As time past, I noticed fatty tissue began to build up on my injection sites. Yes, I changed site locations frequently but the fatty tissue was still there. I felt self conscious wearing certain clothing during the warmer months and injecting under the table at restaurants and/or in the bathroom when your pen cap rolls under the neighbors stall didn’t help matters either.
The result of injecting yourself 3-4 times a day, not including corrections and snacks can take a toll on your body’s physical appearance.

no-need-for-needles-2
After many discussions with my endocrinologist and nutritionist, I decided that the OmniPod was more compatible with my lifestyle and here is why:
– The OmniPod is tubeless and wireless (no plastic tubing) which is perfect for my active lifestyle… no stuffing tubes in sports bras during a workout or bulging dress shirts in business meetings.
– Patch-style adhesive allows discreet wearing and makes it easier to camouflage with seasonal clothing.
– PDM (controller unit) has a built-in fingerstick meter for checking BGs… no separate meter required = more purse space!
– The Pod (insulin unit) is waterproof up to 25 feet… Costa Rica here I come!
– PDM (Personal Diabetes Manager) provides precise doses down to .25 units… regulates blood sugar = lower A1C levels!
– User friendly… if you are new to an insulin pump, the OmniPod comes with a quick and easy setup and site changes.

podder
I chose the Pod Life because of the fewer injections, discreet site locations and control of my insulin intake… I can set a “temp basal” when I exercise or “extend” the insulin during 1/2 price appetizers. Being on the OmniPod eliminates the need to guesstimate when I eat because there is a built in food library and it allows a more accurate dosage of insulin delivered throughout the day.

Although there are cons to the Pod Life like the alert beeping noises, higher risk of DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), changing your site every 3 days or the fact that I could be allergic to the adhesive?? does not change all of my positive experiences I’ve had so far.
Please check with your endocrinologist before considering an insulin pump.

t1dlookslikeme

Turn Thanksgiving Leftovers Into Healthy Snacks

Tis the season to be healthy right? Well… somewhat healthy. I cooked up a sugar-free cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving and my family didn’t even taste the difference. I researched different recipes and found the perfect flavorful dish on dietdoctor.com. Do you find yourself always cooking too much during the holiday season? Or trying to turn the leftovers into new dishes but in actuality you’re just eating the same plate from 4 days ago? I used cranberry sauce, a well known holiday side dish, and spiced it up into a few healthy snacks. I’m no chef so please don’t judge me on my cooking techniques or presentation 🙂

Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce dietdoctor.com
Ingredients
1 lb frozen cranberries (1 cup = 12g of carbs)
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce (1 cup = 26g of carbs)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (1tsp = 1g of carbs)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (1 tsp = 0.5g of carbs)

Instructions
Put spices, berries and unsweetened apple sauce in a pan.
Bring to a boil.
Lower the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with turkey and stuffing.
Cranberry Sauce and Greek Yogurt Popsicles shelikesfood.com

Ingredients
2 cups cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup or sweetener of your choice (1 tsp = 1g of carbs)
1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt, non-fat (1 cup = 9g of carbs)

Instructions
Add all of the ingredients into a food processor and process combined.
Spoon cranberry mixture into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 4 hours.
Run popsicle molds under host water for a few seconds to loosen them up.

**Gluten Free
Turkey & Cranberry Quesadillas littledairyontheprairie.com

Ingredients
2 flour tortillas (1 tortilla = 13g of carbs + 9g of dietary fiber = 4g net carbs)
1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheese (1 cup = 4g of carbs)
1 cup shredded turkey (0g of carbs)
1/4 cranberry sauce
1 tablespoon butter (1tbsp = 0g of carbs)

Instructions
Butter skillet over medium heat
Sprinkle grated cheese all over one side of a tortilla.
Add turkey.
Then add another layer of cheese.
Next spread cranberry sauce over those layers.
Put the other gorilla on top of the whole thing.
Let fry golden brown. Flip over and let the either side get golden brown.
Remove quesadilla to a cutting board. Allow to rest for a minute or two.
Cut into wedges.

My favorite snack was the turkey and cranberry quesadillas. They were
quick and easy to make and tasted amazing! It’s hard to believe these
tasty recipes take less than 10 minutes to make…. Now
that’s my kind of cooking! How do you revamp your Thanksgiving
leftovers?

How the Step Out Walk Helped Me Step Out of Hiding

The Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes has been an annual event for 20+ years all across the country, but it was the first time for me.

You would think once I was diagnosed I would have been eager to participate in all of the walks to show my support and to raise awareness, but that wasn’t the case. Being diagnosed with Type One Diabetes was something that I was ashamed of and lived in fear of owning up to.

After years of ignoring and deleting consistent emails from the American Diabetes Association, I finally decided to register for the November 5 walk. It was time to let my fears and insecurities go so that I could start encouraging people to live better while being an inspiration to others. It was time to step out of hiding.

I registered as a Red Strider, “A child or adult who has type 1, type 2, gestational, or pre-diabetes. Red Striders are the reason we walk and raise funds through Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes to help find the cause and cure of this ‘silent disease.’”

When I arrived, there were so many things going through my head… What if my sugar drops during the walk? What if my Omnipod needs to be changed (knowing I changed sites the night before)? What if someone judges me for wearing the Red Strider hat? What if, what if, what if…The questions kept coming, but were quickly halted once I saw hundreds of people walking around with red numbers and hats (indication that you were a Red Strider), families with t-shirts of names/faces of who they were walking for. Dozens of doctors, nurses and nutritionists gathered around the info tables. I finally witnessed people that were living the lifestyle I had been ashamed of for years.

This big event showed me how many people are affected by this chronic disease. Each person had their own story and experiences but the one thing we had in common was living with diabetes. My motivation for attending was to be an inspiration to those who were struggling with this lifestyle. Little did I know I would be inspired by those who I came in contact with.

I talked to a handful of people that day, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this eleven year-old girl I had met. Ryleigh is a Type One Diabetic who was diagnosed in 2013. As we began exchanging stories, I realized that this little girl was who I wanted to become. “How cool!” she said with excitement in her eyes as we showed each other our Omnipods. Within the first few minutes of meeting Ryleigh, she practically told me her whole life story… and she wasn’t afraid to share with me, a complete stranger. I will never forget what she told me, “Diabetes is just for the stronger people, not for the wimps in the world.” That little girl doesn’t let diabetes define her and I’m striving to be that brave example she is to me.

Remember, we are greater than our highs and lows. Managing life with diabetes is a journey and with all journeys, they start with one step at a time. No matter the age difference, we can all learn a little something from somebody. I was skeptical about going to this walk for years but I went and left with more than I could’ve imagined. Hearing people’s stories and seeing the smiles on hundreds of faces, I knew I wasn’t alone. My heart was full that day and I’m counting down the days to the next Step out Walk.

“Just live it as a marathon, not a sprint. Life will get better.” Tony Atchison

My Diagnosis

December 17, 2011 was the day that changed my life forever…

I was a freshman at Texas Tech University at the time and volleyball season was coming to an end.

I was experiencing symptoms of extreme thirst, hunger and weight loss. Even my teammates noticed I was losing weight, but we all thought it was a result of the intense workouts finally paying off. It wasn’t until October that I knew something was wrong with me… I couldn’t go an entire practice without using the bathroom. Every night I would wake up and sprint down the hall hoping to make it. I remember one time, my roommate invited me and my other teammate to spend Thanksgiving with her family (30-45 minute drive from our dorms). I couldn’t make it 10 minutes without squirming in my seat like a toddler learning how to potty train.

I’ve peed in my pants, peed in cups, peed in the bed. I had bottles of Dasani and red Gatorade lined up on my bedside. Something was not right!

I took my concerns to our athletic trainer who scheduled an appointment at the Student Wellness Center.  Visit 1, they prescribed me medication for a urinary tract infection. Visit 2, they refilled my prescription… Visit 3, pregnancy test???

It couldn’t be.

So one night, I found myself searching the internet for my symptoms.

On December 17, I came home for Christmas break. I had a gynecologist appointment scheduled for that afternoon to figure out what was really going on. At the end of the check up I did a urine sample and the doctor came back in the room and said I had a lot of sugar in my urine. She continued to tell me that I should go to the emergency room to do further tests.

My BG level was 493! The doctor was surprised I didn’t go into a diabetic coma. All of the signs were there… losing weight, extreme thirst, hunger and fatigue. Why didn’t anyone catch this sooner?

After running a series of tests, it was confirmed that I had type one diabetes.

Now the closest thing I came to diabetes was seeing my grandfather check his blood sugar and take his oral medication. I also witnessed my teammate from high school experience the same symptoms I was experiencing and that month she was diagnosed with T1D.

I never knew there were two types of diabetes. I never knew I would be diagnosed with a chronic disease. I was the healthiest in the family, how could this happen to me?

I sometimes think about how my life would be if I didn’t have diabetes. Would I have finished my volleyball career in college? Would I have not transferred to be closer to home? Would I have taken my first job offer without worrying about how my body would adjust? But then I think about how I would not be the person I am today, if it wasn’t for my diagnosis. I met one of my best friends at Tech. I transferred and won a championship ring. Junior year, I chose my career path over the sport I loved and made some amazing connections along the way. I turned down my first job offer out of college and made the best decision by patiently waiting for the job I have now. All of these life events happened because of my diabetes. During those moments, I made decisions out of self-pity and self-hate. I hated my body for doing this to me. As I look back, those decisions shaped me and made me stronger.

Every day I wake up and decide to fight this living battle. Yes, some days are better than others but that’s what makes me stronger. Sometimes I want to quit taking my insulin, stop checking my numbers and eat whatever I want, but what is that achieving? God gave me type one diabetes because he knew I was strong enough to handle it. After almost 5 years, I’ve finally decided to share my story.