I am a type 1 diabetic.
And this? Well, this is my attempt at making people understand what type 1 is, and what it’s like.
This isn’t a tragic story, this isn’t a plot to gain sympathy, and this isn’t about the plight of a teenager trying to find their place in a world of melodrama. Basically- I’m not aiming for Days of Our Lives here. This is just my life, and I’m hoping that by telling my story, maybe it’ll dispel the myths about what diabetes is, maybe it’ll help a diabetic see they’re not alone. Heck, maybe it’ll improve my writing skills and pass English :)
I’m pretty average, I go to school, I play piano, hang out with friends, and I happen to have type 1 diabetes. I guess I should make it clear, I may have type 1, but that doesn’t mean that that’s all I am.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Pretty much, scientists don’t know what causes it exactly. In a non-diabetic, you have a fully functioning pancreas, with beta cells that are responsible for the production of insulin. Insulin is a hormone, it helps us use sugar effectively by drawing it out of the bloodstream and into the areas we need it most. When you eat carbohydrates, more insulin is released to break these down, maintaining a balance of sugar in your bloodstream, approximately at the levels of 5-6 mmol/L (don’t worry about that, it’s just a unit of measurement :) ). Your blood sugar fluctuates with exercise, food and water intake and sleep, but your pancreas insures that enough insulin is being secreted to maintain these levels.
Well one day, when I was 14, my pancreas decided to quit. No warning or anything, honestly you think it’d give some notice or something, but no. I didn’t eat too much sugar, I didn’t do anything at all, but my body decided now would be a good time to kill off my beta cells (the insulin making ones). So what happened then? Slowly the levels of sugar circulating in my blood rose uncontrollably, not being distributed where it was needed most. Weight loss happened fast as without the sugar distribution being gained from food, my body started using body fat as a source of energy. The increased blood sugar eventually formed what are called ‘ketones’ nasty little things. As the ketones rose, I felt the need to drink huge amounts of water at all hours, litres upon litres all day every day. I was always tired, always stuck with a thirst that never went away, no matter how much water I drank. It was time to have a blood test as I got sicker and sicker.
Normal blood sugar levels are between 4 and 7 mmol/L. On diagnosis, mine was 42.7 mmol/L. Ketones should be under 0.6 at all times, mine were at 3.6. But I was lucky, many people fall into comas and are non-responsive at this point, I was conscious and despite being a bit sick, ok for the most part. So now I know I’m a diabetic, I need to deliver the insulin my pancreas can’t, basically it was time for me to become my own pancreas. I soon learnt how to take insulin injections (4 a day- I'm so glad to have a pump now!), check my blood sugar levels by drawing blood from my finger and putting it on a little plastic strip (at least 8 times a day) and how to treat high and low blood sugars (I’ll go into the hypo stories in my next post…. they’re interesting…). Oh, and that one last thing they mention just before you leave, this is permanent, type 1 diabetes doesn’t go away, this will be with me for as long as I live. This is my story, my life and I don’t plan on letting my diabetes run it for me!