What is Type One Diabetes?
A Personal Look Inside What It's Like to Live With an Incurable Autoimmune Disease
I was late this morning. Not because my car broke down, not because my alarm didn't go off.I was late this morning for attempting to avoid hospitalization.Hi, my name is Raven Yule, and I have an autoimmune disease called Type One Diabetes. No, wait, don't click away. This isn't your average "diabetes." I didn't "give this to myself," I didn't "have a bad diet."Type ONE diabetes is an autoimmune disease. That means my autoimmune system attacked my pancreas (the organ that produces insulin—the thing you need to live) and killed it. Simple, yet not at all.I don't expect you to already know everything, unless you have a loved one with TD1 (That's the cool name that us TD1's like more). In the world, there are only about three million of us, whereas there's about forty million people with type two diabetes. Yeah, don't feel bad for not knowing what it is. I didn't know either when I was diagnosed.But, to be fair, I was just a kid. It's the morning of my tenth birthday. I wake up just a normal kid. Unaware that, by nighttime, I wouldn't be such a normal kid anymore. As I walk into the kitchen, I see the giant chocolate cake my mother has baked me and all the birthday balloons.I admit, I don't remember much of the day, other then a large breakfast and asking for seconds.Before dinner, my mother walks in as I'm changing. Immediately she's on the phone with the doctors and has an appointment ready. I complain and ask why on my birthday do I have to go get a check up. She tells me it's probably nothing, but I've lost a lot of weight even though I've been eating a lot. What she didn't tell me was how she could count every rib, or every spine notch.
I was a normal, active, care-free kid. Until that doctor pulled my mom out of the room to tell her that her child has an incurable disease. I was three days away from a coma.I spent four days in a hospital learning how to live a new life. I learned how to test my blood sugar (painfully). I learned that I have to do it constantly.I learned about insulin and how I'll have to inject myself everyday. Every time I ate something and every time my blood went high.I learned about low blood sugar and how I could go into a coma if I didn't bring it back to a stable level, and I experienced this at 2 AM when one of the nurses woke me up to make me drink orange juice.I learned a lot in four days, and when those four days were up, I went home. I went home and I ate my dinner and I ate my cake. Just with an insulin shot for each. As I stumbled back into my "normal" life, I learned that everyone cared, but not everyone got educated. You know what they say about assuming...Except I don't think I looked much like an ass myself when adults took candy from my hands and exclaimed, "YOU can't have THAT! It has SUGAR." I learned that no one listens to a ten-year-old when they try to explain why they can, in fact, have sugar. Just with an extra prick from an insulin-filled needle. Sadly, this went on for a while with the other mothers. Much to my own mother's exasperation. I swear she's the best eye-roller in the world at this point. She was blamed for feeding me wrong. She's was a nutritionist at the time.She was told how she could "fix me" by only feeding me honey/apples/eggs/water/air. To this day, I don't know how she avoided physical confrontation. We both grew tough skin. Literally though, for me. Those shots we're rough.
Fast forward about six months. My family learns about "Insulin Pumps." A.K.A the holy f*cking grail. I hated shots. Any ten year old does. But a pump... A pump! A tiny (*ahem* bulky) computer-like machine that sticks to you and gives you insulin by "blousing."
It was a lifesaver. All I had to do was input how many carbs I was eating and what my blood was and it did all the calculations for me and gave me the correct amount of insulin needed. Without a shot! It was a physical representation of a sigh of relief.
Recently, I got something called a "Dexcom."
Another small device with a thin sensor that goes under the skin and tests my blood for me and connects to my phone wirelessly. With this, I don't have to test my blood sugar manually as much as I did before, and I can worry less about things like the possibilities of my blood going haywire while I'm asleep; it has alarms for if my blood is too high or too low. Another physical representation of a sigh of relief.
These things have helped me to live my less-than-normal active, busy, fun, happy life a lot easier. But it hasn't cured me. I still have days where my pump doesn't work right, my Dexcom reads my blood wrong, and I am at risk of ending up in the hospital. See, I was late this morning. I was late because my pump stopped working in the middle of the night and I woke up feeling sick and with blood so high I had to take manual insulin shots. It's not always easy. Sometimes my blood goes high. Sometimes it goes low. And all I can do is try my best to keep it from doing that.TD1 isn't easy (I'll never admit that in person though...) but it's what I have. I don't want you to feel sorry for me. I don't want pity. As a younger me would say; "It's just a 'thing."It's just a "thing," nothing more. I don't cry about it anymore. I just live my life. Besides, this pump is way too light to weigh me down.
So yes, I have Type One Diabetes, and yes, I can eat my cake, too.