I have lived under the influence of Type 1 diabetes since 1962. When you have Type 1 diabetes, the beta cells in your pancreas do not produce insulin. Insulin is the hormone that turns sugars and starches from the food you eat into fuel for the body’s cells. Your body must have that fuel or energy to survive.
My experience with diabetes in the ‘60s and ‘70s was a time we now refer to as the “Dark Ages of Diabetes Care.” It waswhen we boiled glass syringes to sterilize them and used long thick 23-gauge steel needles for shots of cloudy insulin every morning – OUCH!
There were no home blood glucose meters, very little diabetes education and certainly no advanced technology. You were, more or less, a slave to your insulin, obeying the commands of its peaks and valleys. If you didn’t comply, you could run into dangerous low blood sugars called hypoglycemic reactions, which could cause you to pass out and possibly lead to coma or death. The daily regimen of living with diabetes was not fun at all – especially for this free-spirited teenager. I was used to big family meals and couldn’t or wouldn’t give into bland graham crackers and a glass of skimmed milk as was directed for a bedtime snack. I was pretty miserable. I went to sleep remembering the days when I could eat hot fudge sundaes with abandon.
Things changed when one day I realized that this dragon called diabetes would be around every morning when I woke up and every night when I went to sleep. What to do, what to do?! I decided to become friends with it and understand that diabetes is not a death sentence, but a new way of looking at life. I could live my dreams and have diabetes at the same time. I had to be aware and not do things that would tempt the dragon to spit fire. This attitude of basic healthy living has guided me down many winding roads and pathways that have led to:
• Becoming an accomplished professional chef and caterer
• Embracing distance walking (Some highlights include: my first marathon in Denmark in 2005 and a 32-mile walk around the rim of Manhattan Island every spring)
• Advocating and practicing daily physical activity including dance, “playing” and teaching tai chi, and cycling
• Putting my English major background into practice in multiple formats as a diabetes journalist; writing about exercise and healthy cooking and how it relates to the good life with diabetes in online and hard copy publications. My proudest professional writing achievement came in 2014 with the publication of my book, The Sisterhood of Diabetes –Facing Challenges & Living Dreams; featuring 38 inspiring life stories of female athletes with diabetes.
I enjoy sharing the knowledge I’ve gained living with diabetes for over 50 years by being active in the Diabetes community and giving back. I have served on boards of the ADA (American Diabetes Association)New York Affiliate, and DESA (Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association). I contribute healthy lifestyle talks, podcasts and radio shows with Divabetics. I enjoy teaching Tai Chi at Diabetes Sisters and TCOYD conferences. In 2004, I was awarded the “Lilly for Life” achievement award and was chosen as a “calendar girl” for Medtronic’s Helping Hands calendar. My husband Danny and I are part of Sports Central at Children With Diabetes yearly Orlando conference and I am a founding member of Wise Women of Diabetes retreats.
Living with diabetes today is almost a cakewalk compared to the dark ages fifty years ago. When people ask about a cure for diabetes, I say the cure today is the fantastic and ever advancing technology. For someone of my generation, I have become a real diabetes techie. I want it all. I keep up with the latest research. I connect with others who live with diabetes. There is a tremendous support system in the diabetes community available to all who seek it out. Insulin and medications have improved greatly. Home blood glucose meters are more accurate and easier to use. Insulin pumps greatly improve controlling blood sugars. Work on an artificial pancreas is surging and my favorite tool of all is my Dexcom continuous glucose monitor. Dexcom’s G5 Mobile CGM is a continuous glucose monitor that is a small platinum wire that I insert just under my skin that reads my glucose levels. These sensors last seven days and every five minutes the glucose readings are wirelessly sent either to a small receiver or directly to an app on my smartphone. It lets me know when my blood glucose is rising or falling – in other words it tracks my blood sugars as theychange. With this vital information I can make quick adjustments to insulin, food and exercise, the key hallmarks of diabetes care. I can even share my glucose readings in real time with my loved ones on their smartphones, so they know I am safe when we are not together.
My advice to others who live with the diabetes dragon is that through mindful and creative diabetes management and a positive attitude you can improve and enjoy your world as you move forward.