Heidi: Battling Diabetes With Exercise

 

When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on October, 24, 2011, at age 25. I just celebrated my 4-year “diaversary” a few weeks ago.

What has been the most difficult adjustment since diagnosis?

I think the simple fact of having to step in for my pancreas 24/7 has been the toughest thing for me to handle. Diabetes literally is affected by everything that you do—whether it’s eating, sitting in traffic, exercising, etc. Sometimes I joke that the color I am wearing that day impacts my blood sugar levels. You can do the same exact thing every day and experience very different results. For someone who is stubborn and a perfectionist, it’s quite the struggle.

But that same part of my personality that finds management so frustrating is the part that allows me to thrive each day because I won’t allow diabetes to get me down.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

I am so proud of the person who I have become in the last 29 years, but above all, I think I achieved my biggest accomplishment earlier this month when I completed the 2015 New York City Marathon (my first). I started running a couple of months after diagnosis to help with my diabetes management, and throughout that process, I just decided to keep challenging myself. I never really had any motivating factor to exercise until my health gave me a reason to care. For me though, I wanted to push more. Having diabetes makes it so much more challenging to run (even though exercise is positive!), so running gives me an avenue to fight back and prove, mainly to myself, that not only can I run, I can run long distances. Training for the marathon and the event itself was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I did it. And I did it with Type 1.

How does diabetes affect your ability to exercise? How do you manage these obstacles?

As freeing as running can be, doing it with Type 1 can sure feel restricting. My performance is impacted by my blood sugar levels, and activities need to be planned in advance because of everything I have to take into account. It’s hard for me to just say, “OK, I feel like going out for a run right now, so that’s what I am going to do.” That’s so frustrating! If I have insulin in my system, I tend to go low during a run because my insulin sensitivity increases. For me, I eat without insulin and then run to let the exercise burn off as much sugar as possible. If I need to, I’ll use insulin after I am done running.

I wear a Medical ID charm on my necklace that has my name and says I am an insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetic just in case I do experience severe low blood sugar during a run and somehow can’t take care of myself. I carry a running pack with my phone, my CGM receiver, my pump manager, a lancing device to prick my finger, test strips and high-sugar snacks like fruit gummies or gels in case my levels drop. For extra-long runs, I depend on family members to ride bike alongside me so I am not alone should I experience a medical emergency. It’s hard work, and I don’t even have it all figured out yet!

How has blogging benefited your experience with managing diabetes?

It has allowed me to put certain feelings and thoughts into writing. My career is in writing, and I often help other people tell their stories. Blogging helps me tell mine.

 What is the best advice you would give to a newly diagnosed person?

The absolute first thing I would say is that even though you have diabetes, you can still do anything. Yes, it might be more challenging, but it’s certainly possible. Take things one step at a time, and have patience.

Another thing that I need to stress is the importance of being open and talking to someone about it, whether it’s your family, friends, the diabetes online community or a diabetes coach/educator. Managing the disease every day is tough, and sometimes it feels like the numbers on your meter or your A1C results are grades for how you’re doing. It’s helpful to know you have someone to rely on without feeling judged.

Keep updated on Heidi’s inspirational story by visiting her blog The Runner Hi or follow her on twitter @TheRunnerHi

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