Type 1 Diabetes
It has been a rollercoaster ride with my little monster of a friend, Type 1 Diabetes. Before I dive into my lovely anecdote, I want to explain briefly what diabetes actually is. Diabetes mellitus (another name for Type 1 Diabetes), is a chronic disease that causes the body’s own immune system to attack insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Insulin is an extremely important hormone in the human body because it helps turn the food you eat into energy that your body can use. Without insulin, your body is subjected to uncontrolled blood sugar levels that lead to weight loss/gain, mood swings, depletion of energy, etc. etc. Another fun fact, Type 1 is not the only type of diabetes.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes – aka Juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes, occurs in 10-15% of diabetics and there is no cure for the disease
Type 2 Diabetes – aka Adult-Onset or non-insulin-dependent diabetes, occurs in 90-95% of diabetics and can be controlled by diet and exercise. In some cases, Type 2 adults may need to take insulin to help control their disease
Gestational Diabetes- aka pregnancy-induced, can be controlled by diet, exercise and in some cases, medication. Usually blood sugar levels return to normal shortly after delivery
Type 3 Diabetes – recently proposed to be another name for Alzheimer’s which causes insulin sensitivity in the brain
*Note: All definitions derived from Mayo Clinic
When I was 5 years old, my family and I lived in a small village in Germany on my father’s work visa for BASF. In October 1998, we went on a family vacation to Madrid, Spain. Starting out it was a lovely holiday filled with art and wonderful food. Then something strange began to happen. I became terribly thirsty. Then, I kept having to go to the little girl’s room. My parents said enough was enough when I dozed off in the rental car and woke up to leaving a yellow, foul-smelling accident in the back seat. Boy was I embarrassed!
And off to the Spanish hospital we went. Unfortunately for us, there was only one doctor in the entire hospital that spoke English. He had to translate what the other doctor diagnosed me with. He said, “Your daughter has juvenile diabetes,” and my life changed forever.
We spent the next week in the Spanish hospital learning all the in’s and out’s of Type 1 Diabetes. This includes carb counting, insulin injections, blood sugar checks, what to do for high/low blood sugars…the list went on and on. To top that off, we went back home to Germany after that hospital stay and guess where I went? Back to the hospital! I had to learn the German way on how to take care of my diabetes. Looking back on it all now, I am relieved that we got my diagnosis early on, but at the time it was pretty scary for a 5 year old and my family.
Over the years, I have changed my daily diabetes care considerably. When they first diagnosed me with Type 1 Diabetes, I was kept on a strict schedule. I woke up at the same time every morning to test my blood sugar and take my first injection of the day. Then at scheduled times, I had to check my blood sugar, eat a specific amount of carbs and take more injections for every meal. This became my way of life for me to be a healthy, little kid. I learned a lot about food and nutrition that has helped me through my adult life as well. I did have some guilty pleasures as a kid, most importantly Diet Coke and sugar-free gum. My mom, to this day, still lovingly refers to me as her gum pig.
With the onset of the teenage years came a wonderful new device that I honestly thought was built by the gods for me. At the end of my 12th year, I got to redefine my diabetes care with a Medtronic Insulin Pump. These pumps were incredible (and still are to this day)! The pump could deliver me insulin around the clock, and when I ate food, I could plug in my dose of insulin easily. Finally, no more of waking up everyday at the same time. At 12 years old, I could finally sleep in on a weekend! All I had to do was change my infusion set every 2-3 days.
Continuous Glucose Monitor
New technologies are constantly being developed, researched, and debuted on the public market for Type 1 Diabetes. Now, the technology includes Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) that can tell you what your blood sugar is 24/7. Some of these CGM’s even integrate into pumps so that they can communicate together and change your insulin dosing automatically. This year, I am trying something completely new. It’s called the Freestyle Libre System which includes a monitor and a sensor. I love this system! The coolest thing about this system is that I never have to prick my finger again to check my blood sugar. I just insert the sensor, which lasts 10 days, into the back of my arm, let it calibrate for 12 hours, then scan the sensor with the monitor every time I went to check my blood sugar. How cool is that?
Technology has certainly made my Type 1 Diabetes care easier over the years. Nutrition and exercise become second nature after awhile, but there’s always days where I struggle. It is a chronic disease after all, so I have to train for the marathon not just the sprint. Does diabetes affect you in some way? Do you have it yourself (any type)? Do you have any questions for me? Comment below (down arrow) or send me an e-mail. I would love to hear your story.
Until next time, ila al’likaa’!
P.S. Ila al’likaa’ (pronounced il-lah-lik-or) means goodbye in Egyptian. The first record of diabetes was a description of the disease found in an Egyptian manuscript written by Apollonius of Memphis in 1500BCE (how crazy huh?)!