Seven years.

I can feel the goosebumps on my neck as I type those two words out.

In some ways, it feels like only yesterday that I didn’t know a world without type 1 diabetes.

In other ways, it feels like a lifetime.

Type 1 diabetes is undoubtedly the biggest challenge life has thrown my way.

Trying to mimic a healthy, working pancreas is no easy feat. Trying to cover carbohydrates with insulin. Trying to keep my blood sugar levels between 4 and 8 mmol/L as often as possible. Trying to make choices that will help me to live a long and healthy life. All while trying to live some sort of a life at the same time.

There’s a lot of trying, if you hadn’t guessed that much already.

As much as I’d like to call myself a superhero and say that diabetes doesn’t get the better of me, it does. When you choose to give something a go, you open yourself up to the possibility of failure. When you choose to open a door, you run the risk of exposing all of your flaws.

Diabetes is demanding. It requires constant attention. It drains me, mentally and emotionally. Every single decision I make through the day has an impact on my diabetes. I feel waves of guilt and emotion course through my veins, from a decision as stupid as eating a piece of chocolate. Diabetes doesn’t stop demanding of me, even at the lowest of times where all I want to do is shut the door and throw in the towel. There are still times where I do feel different, limited or alone because of this stupid condition I was dealt with.

But when you give something a go, you also open yourself up to the possibility of flying.

Starting on insulin pump therapy last May was a huge leap, that ultimately helped me to refocus on my diabetes management and reduce the highs and lows. Having access to continuous glucose data through the FreeStyle Libre flash monitor overwhelmed me at first, but I’ve since learned how to best utilise the data from it. Starting a blog was a little nerve wracking at first, but it’s since made me more passionate and open about diabetes, and led me to some amazing advocacy opportunities.

As a wise person once said, it’s better to try and fail, than to not try at all.

As I celebrate my seventh diaversary today, those are the words I am choosing to live by.

Because there sure is life after a diabetes diagnosis.

Letter of Hope

If you’re reading this, then I can only assume that you’re dealing with a type 1 diabetes diagnosis in your family. I’m writing this to offer you and your family some hope as you face a new life with type 1 diabetes thrown into the mix.

This is your baby. The decisions you make around managing your diabetes are yours and yours alone. Don’t ever feel guilty for them. How much you decide to involve others in your diabetes and management decisions is up to you. That being said, don’t be afraid to lean on those around you. They will more than likely surprise you. You will feel so much less isolated, and more confident and loved.

This is about you, and you alone. People you speak with will want to jump in and give you their two cents worth. Ignore it. What your great aunt’s-brother’s-second cousin did to manage their diabetes certainly won’t hold any relevance to you. You’ll likely look at other people with diabetes and try to draw comparisons to what they’re doing or how they’re managing. It’s not worth it. Everyone with diabetes is different. You’re on your own unique journey, and the way in which you manage your diabetes is completely up to you.

Don’t be afraid of the internet. The internet is full of information and inspiration that you might not necessarily receive from your doctor. The internet is a great place for peer support. There are plenty of other people from all over the world online who are in, or have been in your shoes.

Speak up. Your diabetes team are likely busy people, and they will likely be pressed for time. Make it clear what you want from them. Use them to get what you need.

Everything and anything affects diabetes. Food. Activity levels. Stress. Hormones. Routine. Even sleep! It’s impossible to achieve perfection. You can have days where you feel you’ve done everything by the book, where you’ve done exactly the same thing you did yesterday, and still receive a completely wild result. Don’t beat yourself up over it. You can only do the best you can, while trying to live your life. Because diabetes is 100% something that you fit into your life, and not the other way around.

You will have bad days. You will slip up. You will get burned out. You will go through a rollercoaster of emotions. I’d be surprised if you didn’t! It’s part and parcel of living with the condition, day in and day out. But you will get over it. You will come out the other end stronger, and more resilient.

My biggest asset after six years of life with diabetes is time, and experience. With time and experience, you learn. You are always learning! With time and experience, the wiser and better equipped you are to deal with this condition.

I can honestly say there’s nothing that diabetes has stopped me from doing. With every passing day, I feel more confident in living with, and managing this condition. So will you.

Have a letter of hope you’d like to offer a newly diagnosed type 1 family? Get in touch with Maureen at Mum of Type 1

Missed Diagnoses

Dad had been laying on the couch for several days earlier this month. He had been unwell since a family function where he had eaten what we suspected to be an off piece of fish.

A trip to Bunnings at the beginning of the week took its toll on him, quickly wearing him out. As the week progressed, he spent more and more time on the couch. His voice was so croaky, and I could tell that even the simple act of talking used up a great deal of his energy. Towards the end of the week, he could barely remain at the table for the duration of dinner. He was still eating very little, despite my Mum constantly reminding him that “you have to eat or you won’t get your strength back.” He could barely even get up off the couch without puffing.

He went to see his doctor at the beginning of the week, who told him it was nothing more than a simple virus. When he returned again later in the week, his doctor told him that this “virus” was simply taking time to pass, and that he needed to drink fluids, eat soft foods and rest.

We approached the one week mark, and Dad wasn’t improving. Mum broached the idea of testing his blood sugar levels when I woke up on the Sunday morning, and it took me by complete surprise. Diabetes didn’t even occur to me once throughout that whole week. Maybe it was the initial symptoms of food poisoning that had thrown me off. In fact, it’s only now that I am writing this, that I am realising how much these symptoms did mirror that of type 1 diabetes.

When Dad mentioned that his mouth was extremely dry and that he might need to be given a saline drip, the reality that he might have diabetes hit me. I could feel the knots in my stomach tightening, and I knew that I needed to check his blood sugar level. I grabbed my meter, placed a fresh Lancet into my Lancing device, and tested. His blood sugar level was 8.5 mmol. Slightly elevated. He told me he had eaten a biscuit when he woke up, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

We took Dad to the emergency room that day, well aware that a week had passed and he wasn’t getting any better. He ended up staying in hospital for a week and received treatment for something much more serious than a passing virus. Two weeks on, and he’s back home and on the road to recovery.

So I guess the morale of my story is that missed diagnosises aren’t exclusive to the diabetes world. They are very much a reality in the non-diabetes world, as well.

Dad visited his doctor twice in that week prior to going to hospital. While I don’t expect a General Practitioner to be an expert in every illness or ailment out there, I do expect that he would take a patient’s concerns more seriously. Offer referrals, or suggest medications. And I fully expect that he is not the only GP in the world today who is missing diagnosises.

So, that’s where I’ve been these past couple of weeks. I haven’t really had the time or the energy to blog lately. I haven’t really been able to find the right words, and diabetes hasn’t really felt very significant compared to what’s been going on.

But it is good to be back behind the wheel of my blog once again. Stay tuned.