I have type 1 diabetes. A lot of people know this about me but I don’t really share details about it much. It’s a personal thing for me. It’s what I contend with every day and is a huge part of my life. It has to be because if I don’t take care of it I will die.
This is a journey, it's the path I must take. To some it may sound bleak. I'm not a victim and never will be. I always seek the silver lining and there is so much I have learned.
Having a good understanding of the disorder is paramount in controlling and regulating my glucose levels. Type 1 diabetes, or T1D, is an auto immune disorder when your pancreas no longer produces insulin, which is necessary for your cells to uptake glucose to fuel your body. The Beta cells within the pancreas that create insulin have been destroyed by your own immune system. Therefore, supplemental insulin must be injected subcutaneously to maintain this necessary system.
It’s not something I can avoid or even take the day off. I am in some ways acting as my pancreas, taking responsibility for the jobs it can no longer maintain. This can be difficult and stressful at times.
It's not always easy figuring out the correct amount of insulin you should inject for the carbohydrates you are consuming. Sure, I count my carbs every time, not forgetting that I have to subtract the amount of fiber since it won’t be digesting into usable sugars. The other variables are what make the process a guessing game at times.
What is my activity level? Your body uses less insulin when the body is more active. Am I stressed about something? This affects it as well. Do I have insulin still working that I have already injected? These are just a few of the considerations.
I’m not telling you all these things to gain sympathy, not at all. We all have our challenges in life. There are many people who deal with far more difficult things than I do.
So, why am I sharing this? That is a good question. I am a relatively quiet guy when it comes to personal things. I generally try and take care of myself without asking anyone for help. I tend to not really share much of who I am socially. I usually converse about topics outside of myself. This is what I am comfortable doing. However, we all need to step outside of our comfort zones in order to grow as individuals.
I am purposefully trying new things that I normally would not do. Sharing this aspect of my life is one of those things. Let me give you a idea of what my day entails in regards to T1D.
When I rise from my evening slumber, the first thing I do is test my blood glucose level using a meter. This is where I prick my finger to get a drop of blood. The meter reads the amount of glucose in my blood, giving me a number measured in mg/dL.
The average person's blood/glucose ranges between 80 and 120 mg/dL. I have a much broader range anywhere from 30, which is very low and hypoglycemic, often due to using too much insulin for my needs, upwards into the 400’s, hyperglycemic. My goal is to maintain a level between 120-140, which is very conceivable but often difficult to regulate.
Hypoglycemia is very dangerous. Extremely low blood/glucose, under approximately 70 mg/dL, can result in immediate trauma to your body. This can cause cardiovascular issues as extreme at a heart attack or kill brain cells since they are being starved of glucose.
Hyperglycemia, while not as immediately life threatening, can over long periods of time cause numerous issues such as neuropathy, which is nerve damage lending to circulation and eyesight problems. This is what you typically hear about from Type 2 diabetics since that variation of diabetes deals with insulin resistance, resulting in high blood/glucose levels and prolonged hyperglycemic states.
After checking my glucose level, I make my morning coffee. While it's brewing, I prepare two different syringes of insulin. The first one is half of my daily Basal, which is a longer release variation of insulin giving me a relatively consistent dosage throughout the day. This helps maintain my glucose levels between meals and during the night. I take ten units when I get up and another ten before I go to bed.
The second shot is for the carbs from the sugar I put in my coffee, I love sweet coffee. This is called a Bolus, which is fast acting insulin that absorbs into your bloodstream over about three hours, giving you the amount that you need in order to utilize the carbs you uptake. It takes about three hours for your body to process a meal.
I take a Bolus shot of insulin every time I have carbs, whether it is from something I eat or drink. If it has carbs in it, I take a shot. This is why throughout the day I can easily give myself 5-8 shots or more depending on how many times I eat or snack. Second helping at dinner? Sure, but it requires a second helping of insulin as well.
This is an every day routine for the rest of my life going forward. There are no exceptions, no vacations. This was one of the more difficult things I had to embrace after being diagnosed.
You see, people who live with T1D have been doing it for most of their lives since the majority of those have had the condition since childhood. This is why it used to be called Juvenile Diabetes. But, there are those of us who don’t develop it until later in adulthood, even though it is rarer. For example, Mary Tyler Moore was 33 when she was diagnosed. Myself, I was 38. It has been a little over five years for me.
I spent the first half of my life living a normal existence, at least in regards to my pancreatic functions. It was difficult learning a new way of living my daily life. But like all T1D's, I didn’t have a choice if I wanted to continue living.
This is where I’m going with all of this. I am very thankful for all the people, my wife, family, friends, and doctors who have helped me through this. I have learned a tremendous amount about diabetes and more importantly about myself. The insights and experiences I have gained, sometimes painful, have made me who I am today. I have a great amount of gratitude for this. Even though this has been difficult, I would not change any of it. I am stronger for it.
For all of those who have T1D, from children to adults, my hat's off to you. You are awesome, strong, and live every day with purpose.
Thank you very much.