Living with Type One Diabetes


Today, one of my classmates asked about the CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) that is attached to my arm and said that if I were to make a Ted-Talk explaining what it is, and how it relates to my type one diabetes, she would watch the whole thing. Numerous other classmates then continue to ask me questions about it, and my type one diabetes. It occurred to me that I am so used to living with this disease, that I no longer think about the fact that others have no idea what it is. So here is my very late, the night before the second due date, article on the logistics of living with type one diabetes. 

I got diagnosed with type one on St. Patrick’s day in kindergarten. I was pissed, as while I was sulking in the hospital, all of my kindergarten class was eating cupcakes and celebrating. Since then, I have had to learn what type one is, how it affects me individually, and how to navigate its daily obstructions in my life.

To simplify my disease, type one diabetes is when your beta-islet cells basically turn on you and begin attacking your own pancreas, an organ that secrets insulin, which regulates and maintains your body’s naturally healthy blood sugar levels. I no longer have a pancreas with such automatic function, so on the daily, before every meal, I have to bouls, or give myself insulin for the number of carbs I am going to eat, possibly correct for out-of-range blood sugars. Numbers ranging from 70-150 are considered “In-Range”, meaning the most ideal.  The grams of carbs in all foods cause my blood sugar levels to rise and fall, so I need to monitor my carb intake and how my body reacts to them every time I eat. So far, modern medicine has no answer to how someone gets type one, or a cure for it either. There are trends of it within families, but no conclusive research has really been done on how one gets it.

Type one diabetics typically get insulin one of two ways, manual shots, or via an insulin pump. I took shots for the first couple of years, but then eventually transitioned to a pump, which was one of the most life-changing transitions ever. My insulin pump automatically gives me insulin throughout the day and is where I input the carbs and my blood sugar levels at every meal, and then calculate how much insulin to give me. The pump typically needs to be changed every 2-3 days, and the CGM every month. With the insulin pump, I don’t have to constantly worry about how much insulin to give myself hourly during the day and night. Along the lines of more modern technology, I also have a CGM which tracks my blood sugar levels 24/7. Before I wore a CGM, I would have to prick my finger and test for my blood sugar 7-10 times a day. This would get tiring, and many times I reached a point of burnout. With the gcm, I can simply glance at my phone and see my blood glucose levels at any time. 

Living with type one can be very tiring. Many times throughout my journey, I have gone through major burnout with taking care of myself, and at times I would just simply stop looking at my blood sugars, and not even bolusing myself. This caused a major decline in my physical health, negatively affecting almost all areas of my life. Besides my physical health, my mental health has also been ultimately greatly impacted as well. Often I wonder why I was the one to get diabetes like I have been dealt a very unfair hand in life. The disease often feels like just another stressor on top of school, work, and the rest of my life. 

Less than 1% of all Chatfield students have had to live with this disease, as it is relatively rare. Educating others about type one can be difficult, but I think it’s important. People who battle with this every day deserve some awareness, and I appreciate you taking the time to learn about this disease, and I hope you will be able to use this knowledge.