National Diabetes Awareness Month: Q&A with Jasmine Amerasekera

Like with a lot of things, you were patiently waiting for it to be over… when we told you it wasn’t going to end, you just took it quietly.

Jasmine Amerasekera

As National Diabetes Awareness Month comes to an end, I wanted to share a Q&A from a diabuddy of mine.

Jasmine Amerasekera and I went to the same school (Parish Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas) our entire lives and while I’m 3 years older, I remember casually seeing her in the nurse’s office giving herself insulin before lunch periods or treating a low with juice boxes; not knowing of her T1D diagnosis at the time.

Jasmine reached out to me recently after reading my bio in our alma mater’s newspaper and was surprised to find out I was diagnosed with type one diabetes in college. She was excited to see a fellow alum/diabetic in the community after so many years of feeling alone during her time at Parish.

Jasmine’s story is your reminder that diabetes is not a one-size-fits-all. Read her diagnosis story and how she chose to tackle T1D both as a young child and an adult. She also shares great tips for when you are feeling defeated and burned out.

1. What do you remember from the day of your T1D diagnosis? 

Some of my earliest memories are from my diagnosis, but they are mostly in short, very vivid snippets. I was about one month shy of my third birthday. I remember being very ill in the days leading up to my diagnosis, especially on Halloween when I had dressed up as a bride but was too sick to leave my bed to even say hi to the other neighborhood kids when they came to the door. I remember the hospital very well, it was the Children’s Hospital in Dallas. There was a working model train in the lobby that my parents would take me to see once I was well enough to walk around a bit. I remember receiving visitors in my hospital room and some of them brought gifts that I kept for a very long time and even some I still have. I loved inviting people to sit down on the bed next to me and then pushing the buttons to move the whole thing up and down when they tried. I was only there for 3 days, after which they sent us home with a couple of Rufus and Ruby teddy bears from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and a few picture books for educating children and basically said good luck. 

2. What was your first reaction when you found out? 

I don’t remember much of this myself, but I think I was probably not very understanding of just how much this would impact my life and how different it would be from then on. I asked my parents if they remember and this is what my dad replied: “You didn’t really know what it was, but knew that you were ill. About a couple of months later you asked us when you would be well again and not need to take medication, etc. Like with a lot of things, you were patiently waiting for it to be over… when we told you it wasn’t going to end, you just took it quietly. I think you felt like you got an answer and that was sufficient at the time. But you definitely decided that you did not want to go back to the hospital. You made a promise with Caroline [Mitchell, my classmate at Parish and best friend] about that if I remember.”

3. What resources have been of help to you? 

I had a great set of pediatric endocrinologists growing up, who were very helpful and empathetic. In adulthood, I’ve turned to social media, Twitter especially, where there is a large and vocal community of all types of diabetics who are quite helpful with questions about lifestyle, insurance, the healthcare system, access to supplies, etc. My greatest resource in my life has always been other people with type one diabetes, and I find that our community is always very eager to help each other out in any way that we can.

4. Any advice you have for new diabetics? 

Find other type one diabetics. Diabetes can be hard to navigate alone, both from an emotional aspect and logistical one. Organizations like the JDRF or the ADA will sometimes have conferences and summits, sometimes free or not very expensive, and if you can attend something like that you definitely should go to meet other people who can understand what you’re going through. If you’re a kid or a parent with a diabetic child, look into what summer camps for type one diabetics might be available to you, they even have day camps for kids who aren’t ready to go to a sleepaway camp. These places are also great resources for more information about type one diabetes, since their keystone is always their educational component. Make sure that your friends, teachers, coworkers and other people around you are educated on your disease so that they can both be more supportive and empathetic and also so that they can react in an emergency situation, and get yourself a medical alert necklace or bracelet. I’d also like to emphasize that everyone is different. What works for some T1Ds might not work for others, so don’t feel like you have to follow the crowd when it comes to lifestyle or technology choices. Whatever gives you the best control over your life and let’s you feel the healthiest—do that. 

5. How do you manage diabetes with every day life? 

I make sure to be really open with the people around me about what I need. If I don’t feel well or need to step out of a meeting or class or any situation to take care of a low blood sugar, I explain why T1D is contributing to that. I also try to be really kind to myself. Our blood sugars can be affected by almost anything—food, stress, hormonal changes, exercise, the weather—and it doesn’t make sense to beat ourselves up when our blood sugars and control are really composites of all of these factors plus a thousand tiny decisions we don’t even know we’re making all the time. It can be easy to try and point out one thing you did and blame yourself for making that mistake, but make sure that it is constructive and empathetic feedback in the context of your life, not harsh and unforgiving criticism. I once heard from an endo of mine that there are no “bad” numbers, only data. I try my best to remember this, and that makes managing every day stuff seem a lot less daunting. 

6. What devices do you wear? Are there any other products you use that make living with T1D easier? 

I use a Tandem T:Slim insulin pump with the Dexcom G6 CGM sensor. In all the years I’ve had diabetes, the single thing that has made living with T1D easier has been the closed loop system. I was never able to get my A1c below a 7.0 until the closed loop system, and it also helps me sleep at night knowing that if my blood sugar starts to drop it will wake me up. 

7. Explain how it was to manage diabetes in college. 

I won’t lie, I had a difficult start with managing my diabetes in college. I was still taking injections and despite having had diabetes for years at this point was struggling with social anxiety around it, probably due to being in a new place where people weren’t aware of my T1D as they’d been at the school I’d gone to for my whole life. Luckily, I found out pretty early that T1D counts as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and I was able to receive accommodations from the university because of that. That meant that if my blood sugar went really high and I had to miss a class or a test I was more easily able to explain this to my professors and TAs, and even if they didn’t understand what I was going through they had to accept it because I was protected by my accommodations. I also had accommodations during exams so that I could bring in juice and snacks and check my blood sugar as needed and even get extra time to do these things. After a pretty rough year and a half of really unstable blood sugars, I decided that the multiple daily injections were not working for me and switched to the insulin pump, which really helped a lot. Now I could be more discrete about taking my insulin, which meant I was more likely to take it when I needed it and not wait until I was alone. It was definitely much harder to handle diabetes in college than when I was a kid and had my parents to help me with everything, but it was an important step in my transition to adulthood. Learning to be a diabetic on my own had to come sooner or later, and college provided the catalyst for  that—it was a steep learning curve but in the end I knew a lot more about my T1D and myself. 

8. How has your support system been of help to you as you navigate the highs and lows of T1D? 

I am lucky to have a wonderful support system. My parents have always been my biggest advocates and a huge resource to me—they’ve always done their best to take some of the burden of T1D off my hands, and they’re always staying up to date with diabetes news and technology. They have spent many sleepless nights with me when my blood sugar was going low in the middle of the night. They educated my teachers and classmates at school so I never needed to worry. They have been very involved in the community and organizations with other parents and people with diabetes, asking for and giving advice based on their experiences. When I need help deciding between doctors or insurance plans or insulin pumps, they’ve done the research with me. And those are only just a few examples! I also have a boyfriend who I have been with for almost 7 years who has been a lifeline to me in adulthood. He took it upon himself right from the start to educate himself on type one diabetes and learned how to count carbs, the differences between recognizing and treating high and low blood sugars, and also understanding the emotional weight of T1D so that he can support me without me needing to explain myself. I don’t even know how I would navigate the highs and lows of T1D without my support system.

9. Does it ever get easier? Are you used to it by now?

I’ve seen both the technology and the rhetoric around T1D improve drastically throughout my life. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of issues around accessibility to this technology and even just the basic need of insulin for us. But it is really heartening to see more people talking about it and more awareness being granted to our struggles. As far as the day-to-day living with diabetes, it definitely gets easier—for example, carb counting is almost second nature to me. I no longer struggle with social anxiety around diabetes, fortified by the community on social media that has fully propelled us into the continuing body positivity movement. I think humans are really resilient, and as long as we have the right tools we can rise to so many difficult challenges. 

10. Are you a part of any diabetes organizations? Participated in any walks, raised money, etc. 

I used to be quite active in a couple of organizations. I did the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes (now called the OneWalk) every year as a kid and got all my friends to join me. My family used to raise upwards of $10,000 some years thanks to donations from some amazing friends and family members. I also volunteered as a counselor and nurse’s assistant for a camp that the North Dallas chapter of the American Diabetes Association put on called Camp New Horizons after attending it myself as a child. I personally am not super active in any large organizations anymore, participating more often in mutual aid efforts online for people who are struggling to access their supplies and insulin, but my mom is still a very active volunteer in JDRF especially, as a mentor to newly diagnosed families and others.

12. When is your diaversary?

November 4th, 1998. It complements Diabetes Awareness Month perfectly! I just celebrated 23 years since my diagnosis. 

I want to thank Jasmine for allowing me to share her story!

Just because NDAM is over, our constant battle of living with type one diabetes never ends- T1D is a full time job with zero PTO.

As Jasmine explained, what works for some T1Ds might not work for others, so don’t feel like you have to follow the crowd and compare yourselves when it comes to lifestyle or technology choices.

There are days where we are just plain tired of it all and days where we feel like we can conquer the world. It’s important to surround yourself with a community who is not only educated but who supports you throughout your daily highs and lows.

Let’s celebrate eachother today and every day because we’ve made it this far.  

Happy National Diabetes Awareness Month! 💙

I had a 2 pound Fibroid removed!

I had 4 uterine fibroids removed on Monday, September 20. My gynecologist, Dr. Tiffany Jackson (Baylor Scott & White- Plano, Texas) was able to perform a robot-assisted laparoscopic myomectomy which is a minimally invasive surgery leaving me with small incisions on my stomach.

After a successful surgery, Dr. Jackson came into my room to go over home care and told me one of my fibroids weighed 2 POUNDS!!! She said and I quote, “It was heavy! It’s like you gave birth to a premature baby.”

What are fibroids?

Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors in the uterus. Fibroids can develop inside, outside or on the surface of your uterus.

Black women are up to 3x more likely to develop fibroids more often than women of other races, and can have more severe symptoms.

I had no idea about this shocking statistic until speaking with my doctor!

Come to find out, my mom had her fibroids removed after giving birth to me and my brother. Both surgeries didn’t affect her pregnancies and made it to full term.

My Symptoms:

  • Prolonged menstrual periods- I didn’t know when my period started and stopped. Doctor visits were fun because when they asked “When was the last start date of your period?” I had no idea.
  • Pelvic pressure or pain
  • Enlarged stomach- I truly felt bloated and LARGE. I was carrying around 2-3 lbs of unwanted weight.
  • Pain during sex- Fibroids + Newlyweds = No bueno
  • Lower back pain
  • Frequent urination- It was almost reminiscent of when I was first diagnosed with T1D.
  • Constipation

I was told that my stomach looked like I was 5 months pregnant.

I’ve been carrying around this extra weight for more than a year and there I was thinking it was the COVID- Quarantine 15! I wasn’t seeing results from my Chloe Ting home workouts and recent Zumba classes, my energy levels were at an all time low, my sex drive was non-existent, I was bloated all the time and I could feel the cantaloupe sized fibroid in my stomach. I had back and pelvic pain for so long and thought it had to do with my newly inserted Kyleena IUD (this is me self-diagnosing myself) and had it removed back in March.

That didn’t fix anything.

Pre-Surgery Prep:

In one ear I’m being told by my endocrinologist that I need to workout more to improve my overall health and well-being to get my A1C down and in the other ear I have my gynecologist telling me I have 4-5 fibroids that have grown significantly in the past 2 years and that I will feel discomfort in my daily life.

*My interpretation* Your fibroids are hindering you from becoming your best self. These fibroids are the reason diabetes was dictating my life. I couldn’t be active like I was accustomed to which meant my diabetes management was being controlled by 4 balls of growth in my uterus… great.

On top of these fibroids, I had to remind myself that I also have an auto immune disease called Type One Diabetes, which comes with its own ups and downs.

Let’s just say I haven’t been the nicest person lately and my husband has shown me nothing but grace and patience.

Throughout all of last year, I had pelvic exams, blood draws, and numerous doctor visits with both my endocrinologist and gynecologist gearing up for this surgery.

Doctor visit number 9. But who’s counting?

After 2 canceled surgery appointments in July and August, due to my diabetes being out of range, I really had to buckle down and focus on getting my levels back in range. Both my endocrinologist and gynecologist wouldn’t give me clearance until this happened. It felt like they didn’t want me to be great but looking back I’m thankful they cared so much because I had a successful surgery and the healing process is going well so far.

Day of Surgery:

My surgery was scheduled for 7:30am (first surgery of the day) because I’m type one and I couldn’t eat or drink anything from midnight the night before until after my surgery.

The night before the surgery, I was monitoring my blood sugar on my Dexcom and I was pretty much in range all day Sunday. I had my last meal around 8pm and as we approached midnight, I was in range but almost “too normal”. My BG was 80 mg/dL at 11pm and I was like this can go one of two ways… I might go low during the night, which would mean I would have to eat or drink something AFTER midnight. So, I had a juice box and patiently waited for my sugar to elevate before I closed my eyes. I was around 114 mg/dL at midnight. 😴

I woke up at 4:15am to shower once more with the prescribed antibacterial soap (Hibiclens) and my blood glucose was sitting high at 224 mg/dL, so I corrected it. I was way more comfortable going into surgery higher than lower because it’s easier to treat a high (giving more insulin) than it is a low because I couldn’t have anything in my system at this time.

My endocronologist, nutritionist, and I had a plan pre- and post-surgery. Everything was going as planned until it wasn’t.

We arrived at the hospital at 5:30am for check in and my sugar would not go down! I started to lowkey freak out because my gynecologist wanted me below 200 mg/dL going into surgery. I kept correcting and correcting and my levels wouldn’t budge.

Fast forward 2 hours and it was surgery time! I was getting prepped by the nurses and they took my glucose and it was sitting at 214 mg/dL *still not understanding why my body is not following doctor’s orders!

My anesthesiologist, Dr. Webb came in the room and we went over the process, had me sign some papers, and identified where my insulin pump and sensor were located on my body. I put both devices on the back of my arms out of the way of my stomach area. He proceeded to remind me to run my temp basil which I was hesitant to do now (even though that was the plan during surgery) considering my BG was already on the higher side and I had insulin on board. He said he would rather have me in the low 200’s during surgery with a temp basil running than in range with the potential of going low. I was honestly impressed by Dr. Webb’s knowledge of T1D. I set my temp basil to 40% decrease for a duration of 4 hours.

It was go time!!

Post-Surgery Recovery:

It took 24 hours for my glucose levels to return back in range.

I had one of the highest daily streaks of great in range blood sugars I’ve had in a while.

*I’m starting to think that my fibroids were affecting my glucose levels… 🤔

It wasn’t until this surgery that I realized how much we use our stomach muscles on a daily basis. I can’t cough, sit up, sit down, use the restroom, dance, sneeze, and most importantly laugh without it hurting.

I had my first car ride 5 days post-op. See why this was a not so good idea on my Instagram post!

It’s important to vocalize any pain you may be feeling and seek the necessary help you need. After I was done self-diagnosing myself and making random appointments with all types of doctors, I simply told my gynecologist how I was feeling and we went from there. The pelvic ultrasound showed clear as day all of my uterine fibroids. They grew twice in size over the last year! I knew I wasn’t going crazy.

Since having the surgery, every day I feel like I’m getting stronger as I’m slowly weaning myself off the pain medications. Even though I walk slowly slumped over, don’t enjoy car rides, hold on to the sheets to get in and out of bed, and can’t seem to grasp the concept of placing a pillow over my stomach to cough, I remind myself how far I’ve come in one week!

The healing process is definitely a test for my patience.

To stay in the loop on post-surgery updates, follow me on Instagram @livingdiabetter.

If you have a fibroids story I would love to hear from you or if you have any questions for me, comment below!

A big shoutout and THANK YOU to my doctors and nurses. You all made this process and day very comfortable for me.

Dr. Heidi Shea- Endocrine Associates of Plano

Dr. Tiffany Jackson- Baylor Scott & White Gynecology Specialists

Dr. Jerry Lee Webb- Anesthesiologist, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center- Plano

Stacy Koenig- Pre Op Team, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center- Plano

Robin Hanks- Charge Nurse, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center- Plano

Robin Jacks- Guest Services, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center- Plano

Nurse Naomi- Baylor Scott & White Medical Center- Plano

Nurse Angie- Baylor Scott & White Medical Center- Plano

Nurse Terrie- Baylor Scott & White Medical Center- Plano

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 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
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)

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

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)

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

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)

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

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.