Things I know about Diabetes now that I wish I knew then....

1. Diabetes is an autoimmune disease.

The very root of the wood “disease” means that the body is not at “ease”. That is exactly why we refer to these health conditions as diseases. Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is a disease in which the body produces antibodies that attack the insulin producing “Beta” cells in the pancreas. It is not preventable and today there is no cure, but there are many ways to effectively treat it. If left unchecked, it can ultimately affect many organs in your body over time. I never really understood the connection between my diabetes and my organ health until I started to do my own research on the disease.

2. Diabetes can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle.

No one ever mentioned this to me or my mother. By the time I was 18, I had still never started my menstrual cycle. My mother took me to a gynecologist who gave me a shot to get my cycle started, but I don't recall ever having a conversation about my future cycles or how they would be affected by my diabetes. I had no idea that my blood sugar control affected my cycles. I would've saved a lot of money on pregnancy tests had I known that you skip cycles of you don’t have tight blood sugar control. For girls in the age range of 18- 25 this is a very helpful fact to know.

3. A word of caution to parents: My dangerous and harmful weight loss program

When I was in my early to mid-teens, I felt all the pressures most young girls do, especially to be “thin.” I had always been a bigger child, and I knew that diabetes could add more weight, so the pressure was intense.

I can’t remember if I learned it on my own or if I heard it at a diabetic camp for girls, but I learned that if I let my blood sugars go high (500+) for an extended period, I would shed a couple of pounds. So, on more occasions than I care to admit, I would eat whatever I wanted (even binge on cake frosting at times), and then not take my insulin. I would do this for several days, until I got sick, and then would begin taking care of myself again. Being a teenager, I got the results I wanted, but at a great cost later on.

This was made possible only by the fact that my family didn’t understand diabetes, and my parents did not keep tabs on what I did, at all. I was left to fend for myself – which was bad on so many levels – but this practice (of weight loss through intentional mismanagement) is what I believe contributed in part to the heart attack and stroke I experienced later in life.

Diabetes is a family disease. Parental participation (and sibling participation where possible), is critical in the care of a young diabetic. But just as important, spouses and other family members and friends should help wherever willing and possible with the adult

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Sunday, 25 February 2018

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