Many times, when children and young adults are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, the diagnosis is delivered with an air of limitation. The doctor is somber and the news is bleak. When this happens, the individual cannot help but doubt whether certain things will be possible. As a diabetic for most of my life, I have found this limitation to be almost nonexistent. Although there are many things I wish the public would know, my focus is on the newly diagnosed. For those who have been forced to make a change in their lives because of diabetes, understand: soon enough, you hardly even notice (if taken care of).
Countless parents and doctors have reiterated the idea that diabetes can’t hold you back, but hearing it from those unaffected by diabetes is different than from diabetic peers. One thing I didn’t think would happen, especially so quickly, is that I barely even notice that I have the disease. For the first year or two, and the first few months of having an insulin pump, it was an adjustment. I now needed to check my blood sugar and carry a meter with me, and sometimes I was self-conscious about shots, finger pricks, or beeping insulin pumps in public. But as months passed, it became natural. The biggest change from that point was the idea that my health was important, and that taking care of it was as easy as I wanted it to be.
I had started sports in kindergarten, playing two sports a year until I decided on running in middle school. Since then, I haven’t missed a beat – with cross country, indoor and outdoor track, there has never been a practice missed, a meet skipped, or a race forfeited because of diabetes. The reason that is so important is because it makes me completely and utterly normal. There’s no “given that I have diabetes…” or “for a diabetic…” And without that feeing of being held back, I sometimes forget that I have the disease at all.
There are certainly times when this is not the case. Sometimes I get high blood sugar and feel more tired than I should. Sometimes I get a low blood sugar during an exam and feel stressed and rattled. But with planning and maintenance, these problems subside as quickly as they appeared. Upon making the choice to take care of myself, I have controlled how easy it is to stay healthy and fit.
It’s easy to wonder how diabetes will affect you, and it’s not a trivial task to maintain focus on health and wellness. As with anything, there are ups and downs. Everyone experiences the disease differently, and people will naturally handle the task of maintaining diabetes in a unique way. But to say that it gets better is an understatement. It becomes a part of who you are, a part of you so natural that it blends in with everything else, where checking blood sugar and changing pump sites are like taking a shower or making a sandwich. Diabetes can hold you back, but only if you let it.