Age: 20 Year Diagnosed: 2007 Location: Los Angeles, CA
"Much of the world seems to think "the diabetic" has a particular body or a particular way of life. I've met plenty of people who seem genuinely surprised to learn that I'm diabetic. Type 1 is so often equated with the "diabetes" people hear about from weight-loss commercials and family members and Internet memes about Halloween candy and cookies. This is why I found JDRF's "T1D Looks Like Me" campaign so clever: Type 1 diabetes does not discriminate by ethnicity, sex, body type, upbringing, athleticism, or place of residence. We were unique individuals before T1D, and we remain unique individuals after. We're like superheroes hidden in broad daylight. I could pass by three diabetics in a day walking down a busy street in L.A., and even I wouldn't know.
When the entirety of my health is judged by a single number every three months, I feel that the entirety of my worth as a human is also being judged. I question whether a failure to meet my diabetes goals translates to failure in other areas of my life. I care about college, about travel, about books and art and friends and concerts and doing good in the world. So often diabetes gets pushed aside for what is tangible and achievable in my life, because I've been lucky to avoid most medical complications. As a result, I still haven't gotten T1D down to an exact science. It frustrates me to no end. People expect me - the pre-med student, the mature older sister, the good friend, whatever - to have my shit perfectly together. I feel like a fake if I don't have perfect control over my body, and that pressure feels bizarre. I can't think of many diseases where so much accountability for longevity and daily wellness falls on your own shoulders. Sometimes I think: if I can't remember to bolus 20 minutes before every meal, am I really smart enough to be a doctor? I don't want a cure for myself right now, because I have to conquer diabetes first.
Start honing down your daily ratios, basal settings, contingency plans, and cause-effect relationships from day one of management. Don't wait until your teenage years to care, like I did. Life will have moved on by then; diabetes will be that one argument you never settled, and you might come to resent its presence. So, as inconvenient as it is to deal with it now, be proactive early and reap the rewards later on. Don't rely on your parents or loved ones to do the grunt work for you! All responsibility for T1D falls on your own shoulders - one day you'll be the one learning to drive, stretching for sports practice, or leaving for college alone. Seek advice from other type 1 diabetics who understand what you're going through. HACK: I highly recommend the smartphone app mySugr as a trendy logbook!
Best piece of advice from Allison's parents: From Dad: "The diagnosis of type 1 diabetes brings a big change in the family. It can be overwhelming. Be patient, understanding, accepting. Learn as much as you can about T1D. Most important of all, show love to the child. That person will surprise you in how he/she adjusts and handles her condition. The child will be a stronger person, can accomplish and overcome much because of being able to deal with the challenges of T1D. Something a parent can be so proud of. :)"
From Mom: "Learn as much as you can about your child's condition. Learn how to treat and manage it. Be supportive of your child; help your child through it somehow. Join a support group; go to meetings and events where you can meet other T1D families, like we did with the PADRE Foundation and JDRF. Also learn about and take advantage of technology; insulin pumps and glucose monitors can help manage your child's condition. When your child becomes a teen, learn to trust your child, that he or she will be able to manage on his or her own without the parent constantly monitoring. Teens and young adults can choose what and when to eat, use their judgment to manage diabetes. Be supportive of how they handle it on a daily basis. What works for me personally is this: if my child cannot eat it, then neither can I."