On the 8th of February of 2013, I ended up in the hospital in Diabetes Ketoacidosis, after having Googled my symptoms (yay Dr. Google!) and getting my BG checked at a local pharmacy (where the meter very nicely told me ‘HI’). And even though I lived 23 years without diabetes, I sometimes have a hard time picturing myself without it – because it’s such a continuous and persistent presence in my life. And also because it brought me plenty of good stuff.
During those 7 years, there were bad times, but also good times – highs and lows, just like with diabetes. I met amazing people and learned from their experiences (and my own) – and I still do. So for those of you who have just received the diagnosis, or just need to hear it again: these are 7 things I learned in 7 years with Type 1 Diabetes.
- It’s not my fault.
It sounds so simple. Of course, it’s not my fault that I got diabetes, but it’s also not my fault if I eat a piece of cake, miscalculate the carbs and end up with a BG of 15.0. Shit happens – it’s nobody’s fault.
- You don’t have to be perfect.
I would love to have 90% time in range on my sensor. But being ‘perfect’ when it comes to my BG’s, means I’m giving up on other stuff. Like being spontaneous, chocolate, long hikes, and red wine. And that’s just not worth it, or at least not to me.
- Life happens.
This is closely related to both 1 and 2. Because life happens. Cake happens. Spontaneity happens. Hormones happen. You can’t be perfect, and you shouldn’t blame yourself for any of it.
- Diabetes is here to stay.
When I worked for JDRF, especially in the early years, I was super excited about new developments. And I still am – don’t get me wrong. I can’t wait to start looping with Kaleido, to be able to bolus from my phone and to sleep through the night because an algorithm can make that happen. But I’ve also realized that you can’t give up everything for diabetes because it’s not temporary. It’s not like you quit drinking or eating non-pasteurized cheese during your pregnancy. It’s not going anywhere (anytime soon), so you have to find a way that works for you.
- You can be anything you want to be.
Whether that’s a world traveller, James Bond (yay for James Norton!), a general manager, a professional soccer player, a parent, an entrepreneur, a product marketing manager (yay for me 😉), a doctor or whatever else you decide to be. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is, right?
- Glucose tabs suck. And so do glucose gels.
I think I spend the first two to three years after diagnosis desperately buying glucose tabs whenever they were on sale. Seven years later, they are only next to my bed, in case I feel too sucky to get out. If I have any kind of ability to stand up and grab something to fix a hypo, I will not eat glucose tabs or gels. Bring on the candy, or the stroopwafels, or jelly babies, or raisins. I practically would eat anything with carbs to fix a hypo, besides glucose tabs or gels.
- Technology can fail you.
Don’t get me wrong: I love Kaleido and I love technology. I love the fact that I can see my BG data on my phone and my watch, and that I have this small tiny thing to bolus with. I love the colours, and how I can change my basal or give an extended bolus when I want to do crazy stuff like walk to the grocery store or eat sushi. But it is technology. Going away for a weekend and a sensor falling off – and having to rely on good old test strips. Dropping my handset on the floor and breaking the glass so badly that I can’t use the thing anymore. Technology is and will always be something that can break. So make sure you have a pen of short-acting insulin, and take it with you if you go away for any amount of time. Be smart, keep yourself safe.
And then to finish this off: a big thank you. To anything and anyone who’s made my life easier in the past 7 years. By getting me snacks when I’m low, for bringing me candy from a foreign country because it’s awesome for hypo’s, by being patient with me when I’m low during a hike or a meeting. By building technology that helps me live life on my own terms or by designing a bag that perfectly fits all my supplies. By telling me it’s okay, by telling me it’s not my fault, by letting me rant about those lows and highs (and ranting back). And now up to the next 7 (or 70, hopefully)…
My name is Veerle, 30 years young (old, whatever you want ;-)) and since 2013 I’m a part of the special ‘community’ that are the people with Type 1 Diabetes. Besides diabetes being a (necessary) part of my private life, I also chose to work in the diabetes industry. For 4,5 years I’ve worked at JDRF the Netherlands as Coordinator Communications and Projects, and since August 2018, I’ve been working for ViCentra, the company behind Kaleido. I have tried (and written off) several insulin pumps during my diabetes career, and am currently inseparable from my Kaleido.