November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and it holds a very special place in my heart. I am one of nearly 30 million people in the U.S. that are diabetic.
Diabetes is a problem with your body that causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. The body breaks down the sugars and starches you eat into a simple sugar called glucose, which it uses for energy. Insulin is a hormone that the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes your body does not use insulin properly. At first, your pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels. Type 1 diabetes only affects 5% of people with diabetes, and is typically diagnosed in children and young adults. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, even young children can learn to manage their condition and live long, healthy lives.
At the age 18, my life changed forever. The summer after I graduated high school, I began to notice some drastic changes in my health. I was constantly thirsty, but could never quench my thirst, I was eating everything in sight, I was extremely tired, and I began to drastically lose weight without even trying. When I went to the doctor, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. At first, I was in complete denial, and wondered why did this have to happen to me?
It took several years before I was finally able to come terms with my diagnosis and truly begin to take care of myself. I initially began using both fast acting insulin (for meal times) and long lasting insulin (once daily) through self-injection shots to stabilize my blood sugar levels. I saw some progress, but did not really get to where I needed to be. In June 2013, I started on a wireless insulin pump and it has drastically helped with my diabetes management. My pump now gives me constant insulin throughout the day, extra insulin at meal times, and has helped stabilize my blood sugar levels.
Check out my wireless insulin pump!
- Checking my blood sugar before every meal
- Counting the carbohydrates that I am going to eat in order to program my insulin pump to give me more insulin (carbs turn into sugar in your body)
- Being in tune with what my body is telling me
- Diet and exercise
- Being prepared at all times with all of my medications, supplies, and blood sugar boosters in case my blood sugar goes low
Beyond just managing the disease, diabetics can also face a wide range of other challenges:
- Endless fatigue, mood swings, brain fog, insomnia, depression, and stress
- Other health complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and nerve damage
- Frustration and isolation
- Financial burdens—On average, patients with diabetes spend about $6,000 per year for treatment
I live with diabetes 24/7. There’s not an area of my daily life not affected by my diabetes. Despite this being a tough disease, I have learned to manage it, live with it, and thrive. I am a Ninjabetic—a person who excels in the mastery of diabetes management (and I’m a quarter Japanese 🙂 ). Diabetes does not define me, but is simply part of who I am.