Living with Type 1 Diabetes


Having Type 1 Diabetes for many people can feel like you are an act in a three ring circus. Maintaining healthy glucose levels, determining the correct amount of insulin to take, making time to exercise and also penciling in an appointment with an endocrinologist on a quarterly basis all while trying to maintain some semblance of a “normal life” can feel like a juggling act while walking on a tight rope. One wrong move and your entire life can come tumbling down. If you are one of the lucky ones you will often have a proverbial safety net below you to catch you and bounce you back up on that tight rope. For others, once you slip, it is extremely difficult to get back on track.
I have lived with Type 1 Diabetes for nearly sixteen years. It has been a daily struggle for me to maintain optimal glucose levels and also keep up with the pace of everyday life. I am a diabetic, but I am more than just a disease. I am a mother. A wife. A daughter. A sister. An employee. A supervisor. I wear many hats. I am the household maid, cook and nurse. I don’t have time for something like diabetes to drag me down.

Yet, for even the most disciplined diabetic, maintaining control and doing all that you need to do to keep your blood sugars under control can be challenging. There are lots of people who are squeamish at the sight of blood or needles. So, to be sensitive to those around us, diabetics must find discreet ways of self care when away from home. Unfortunately, when out in public, this often means a quick jog to the restroom to lock yourself in a very unsanitary stall to check your blood sugar and administer an injection of insulin. I have found that, depending on the company I have with me, in restaurants I can often place my glucose meter discreetly on my lap in the booth and check my blood sugar at the table. For me personally, this is more preferable than relegating this task to a dirty bathroom.

I manage my diabetes with an OmniPod insulin pump. With an insulin pump, there is no need to sneak away to administer insulin so as to avoid turning someone’s stomach or making someone else faint by pulling out a syringe. With just a few button presses, you are able to administer the required dose and continue on with your life, right at the table. Other products that aid in veiling this daunting task are the advent of injection pens. These devices are discrete and some can even be used through clothes, allowing you to give your injection at the table in your thigh or abdomen without exposing any skin. Beware of bleeding sites when attempting this, however.

Keeping a diabetic diet when you have Type 1 can be difficult, but the payoff is exceptional health which makes it all worthwhile. It is important to keep your diet high in protein and fiber and try to keep your intake of carbohydrates to a minimum. As my doctor once explained it to me, protein helps to keep your blood sugar steady over a longer period of time whereas carbs cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, often causing highs two hours post meal and then insulin reactions at three or four hours post meal.

When you have Type 1 diabetes, you are much more likely to suffer hypoglycemic episodes, an episode that occurs when the blood sugar goes too low. It is important that you must always be prepared for this possibility by keeping a form of fast acting sugar on your person at all times. Recently I saw keychains at Wal-Mart that hold four glucose tablets. This is perfect, especially for men lacking the ability or lifestyle to carry a brief case or purse with which to store such items. I always keep glucose tablets in my purse. Other people I know carry raisins or hard candy.

It is important to educate your family on how to help you if you should become unresponsive and are unable to direct them on what to do. Make sure your spouse and even your children know how to operate your glucose meter, and always keep Glucagon in an easy to find location. Glucagon is an injection that is given when a diabetic has a severe insulin reaction and is unconscious or unable to communicate or ingest fast acting sugar. Some diabetes educators keep practice kits that they may be able to give to you or allow you to borrow so that you can demonstrate to your children how to administer this injection, and it allows them to practice so that they can feel confident in the event it ever becomes necessary to help you.

On the other hand, there may be times when your blood sugar goes dangerously high. If your blood sugar goes above 250 mg/dL, you should always check for ketones. The presence of ketones indicate the danger of going into diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a potentially life-threatening complication and may be difficult to recognize because many of the symptoms are similar to a stomach bug. If untreated, it can lead to coma or even death. The most common symptoms are nausea and vomiting, fatigue or lethargy, and perhaps the most “tell-tale” sign is the presence of “fruity” smelling breath. If you suspect you are experiencing DKA, call your healthcare professional immediately.

Despite all of the potential bad things that can happen – blindness, renal failure, neuropathy, slow healing wounds, and more – there is very little reason to believe an individual with Type 1 Diabetes cannot go on to lead a mostly normal life. Just ask notable celebrities with Type 1 Diabetes Bret Michaels, Nick Jonas, Halle Berry and Mary Tyler Moore.