Paul Belmonte.jpeg

Age: 26 Year Diagnosed: 1999 Location: Rochester, MN

“I’ve had diabetes for 20 years and through that time, I’ve grown to love it. Emotionally, it’s taken a lot of patience and acceptance to get to this point. For the first 10 years or so, I didn’t take care of myself. I never checked my BGs, I had scary lows and an incident with DKA. I distinctly remember during one of my endo appointments, my doctor sent my mom out of the room. He looked me square in the eye and told me if I didn’t shape up, I’d have complications in my 20s and I’d be dead in my 30s. This shook me to my core. We lost my aunt to T1D in her 30s. My uncles with T1D died young too. They were beautiful and loving people that were ripped from our family far too soon. It’s my mom and I now sharing this diabetes journey together, and I want to be there for her as much as she wants to be there for me. After that appointment, I talked extensively with my healthcare team and it was my nutritionist who really helped me turn things around. She treated me like a human being, not a number or another statistic. That is so important. I remember saying to her that denial had been holding me back, and that I was ready to accept my disease. I turned it around, and now that I’m almost 27, I’m so grateful I did. My disease is under excellent control. I’m hooked up to the latest CGM and pump technology. I’m researching T1D at the leading hospital on the planet. I started owning my diabetes, turned it into something positive and by doing so, I’ve built a life full of interest and purpose.

First, find your person. Someone who supports you and your diabetes 100%. A parent, a partner, a friend – anybody you know that will go to bat for you. My person is my mom, who also has T1D. I’m so thankful for her guidance over the years, and I honestly don’t think I’d be here today if it weren’t for her. Diabetes is messy, so it’s important to have your person that won’t judge you, your a1c, how you manage your BGs, etc. When you have diabetes, taking care of your mental health is so important and having that support system will get you through the really bad times and highlight your successes during the good times. Second, build a healthcare team that works for you. I LOVE going to my endocrinologist. At the end of the day, you’re paying your doctor to help you manage your diabetes, so find a team that honors this in a way that works for you and makes you happy. Finally, accept this disease and all it brings with it – the good and the bad. It’s easy to get discouraged, especially those days with stubborn highs. Embrace it. You’ve made it this far, and you’re stronger than you know. I always say God wouldn’t have given us this if it wasn't something we could handle. When allowed, diabetes might surprise you in the least expected way. You’ve got this.: