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

Joe: Joining the Diabetes Community

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When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

“I was diagnosed in 1999 with Type 1 Diabetes.”

Has there been a moment in your life when you were grateful for having diabetes?

“There’s never been a single moment where I’ve thought ‘Thank God, I’m diabetic,’ but I think having the disease has made a huge, and mostly positive difference to my life. For example, I think it was thanks to the discipline I had to develop when managing my glucose that helped me work hard and get in to Oxford University. And I’m pretty certain that if I wasn’t diabetic I wouldn’t have run the London Marathon, having to marshal the disease as well as condition my body gave me the extra motivation to even begin training. I wanted to prove to myself that diabetes wasn’t going to stand in my way.”

Have you done anything to benefit the diabetes community?

JoesDiabetes_BookCover“When I was 18 I wrote “Joe’s Rough Guide to Diabetes” to help people learn how to take control of their glucose while living a normal life. It was published by Wiley and 20,000 copies were bought and distributed by Sanofi. Since then I’ve re-written the book for a second edition, and designed “Joe’s Small-in-one”, a carry case designed to take all you need for 24 hours. Together, these products mean that you can learn how to manage your diabetes and very conveniently put that knowledge into practice.

I give talks about diabetes to lay and professional audiences, telling people what it’s like to live with a long-term condition, myth-busting and helping to improve the relationship between healthcare providers and their patients.

I chair the project management group of a joint King’s College, London – Warwick Medical School study looking at the impact of digital communication on the treatment of long-term conditions in the NHS. And I encourage all diabetics to get involved with research if they can – it’s a fantastic feeling to be helping to shape the discussion of what future healthcare should look like.

I am also now working with Sanofi to create an innovative patient event for World Diabetes Day. It will be the first of its kind in the UK, bringing together people with both types of diabetes to talk about the issues that really matter to us.”

Does diabetes define who you are?

“In some ways, it does, yes. It’s impossible to be involved in trying to improve the treatment of the disease without being defined by it in some way. On a deeper level, I think it defines me in that the major achievement of my teenage years was learning to take control of my diabetes and overcoming the stigma of disability I felt upon diagnosis. But there’s definitely more to my life than just diabetes. I’m lucky enough to be in a loving relationship, I have great family and friends, I have a penchant for bad jokes, I laugh loudly and (I’m told) I talk a lot. On top of that, I’m writing a Tudor novel! Of course, all those things will be tinged with diabetes if you think enough about them, but mostly I think of myself as ‘Joe’, not ‘Joe the diabetic’.”

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

2013-04-21 15.13.11“I think the fundamental thing if you’re newly diagnosed, is to take responsibility for your diabetes. It’s a nasty shock and it’s hard to take sometimes that you’ve lost a bit of your freedom. I know I found it difficult. But once you have the mind-set that says ‘this is my problem and I am going to find a way to solve it’ everything flows from there. After that, look to get educated, learn to carb count, and discover how exercise and alcohol and illness effect you. Don’t be afraid to experiment, one high blood sugar may feel a bit horrible but if you learn from it, it can give you a lifetime of understanding and improved control.

Oh, and get on a pump! They don’t work out for everyone, but mine’s been a blessing. It restores almost all the feeling of independence you can lose on diagnosis. And it doesn’t feel weird, honest!”

What is your greatest accomplishment? 

“There are a few things I’ve done that I’m proud of: getting in to Oxford, getting a Distinction in my first year (I’m a geek, sorry!), writing the book and then having it published, giving a talk to about a thousand people at the Diabetes UK Small-in-one_1Professional Conference, designing the Small-in-one and seeing it sell, appearing in the Times to give an interview about diabetes, running the London Marathon, and (fingers crossed) writing a novel before 30. But I think my greatest accomplishment has been much less obvious than any of those; overcoming the depression I felt after diagnosis and taking control of my life. Without that, none of the other achievements would have been possible.”

Thank you Joe for sharing your story. Learn more about Joe, his book, and any of his adventures by following his twitter @joesdiabetes. You can also purchase the small-in-one by clicking here

Kris: Type 1 Is Not Going To Hold Me Back

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1. When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes later than most at 25 years old in 2012. So I’m still quite new, however it already feels like a lifetime!

2. Has there been a moment in your life when you were grateful for having diabetes?

My diagnosis was devastating at first but it led to a new career that I love, living in a new city that I love, where I met my girlfriend who I love! I’m a strong believer in things happen for a reason and something good always comes from something bad in life. I’m happier with life post-diagnosis, even though I need to live with this disease for the rest of my life.

3. Why did you start blogging? 

I started blogging fresh out of hospital as I’ve always found writing a therapeutic way to get things out. I have also been fortunate enough to take part in a few research projects that were really interesting and fun to take part in so wanted to tell the world and spread awareness of taking part in research.

Online diabetes communities are huge and very active, especially on social media. I get a lot of comfort and support from people in the same position as me, but they can be anywhere in the world.

4. Has diabetes affected your ability to exercise? 

For the first year, exercise was avoided. It was just too much to deal with on top on everything else, plus my job at the time was extremely active so that keep the blood pumping.

In 2014 I climbed Kilimanjaro, which involved lots of training. Preparing for this challenge opened my eyes to the power of exercise to manage your levels. I’d always thought exercise would make things more complicated but over the long term it stabilises the fluctuations, mostly.

Occasionally, when I want to exercise and my diabetes isn’t behaving, it stops me but this is rare and is not an excuse to never exercise.

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

As much as this disease is a burden on your daily life and frustrating as hell, it’s a condition that can be managed. Your future is in your hands and not your doctors, unlike most other chronic conditions. You will become an expert at nutrition, maths and understanding your body. You will become more disciplined and organised. Type 1 turns ordinary people into super heroes.

My best advice is find others with type 1 and make an effort to connect with them from time to time. Type 1 can make you feel lonely so there’s nothing better for your outlook than using others in the same position to bounce off. Whether that’s online, your local hospital, charity support group or your school or work place.

6. What is your greatest accomplishment? 

I mentioned it earlier but my biggest achievement is climbing Kilimanjaro with type 1 diabetes. I never thought I could do something like this before I was diagnosed with type 1 but to do it with a condition that’s so demanding was a real achievement for me and built my confidence up a lot. Having the condition has made me more determined and I push harder with everything I do in life now. Climbing Kili hard, painful, frustrating at times, mentally and physically draining but by far the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I showed myself that type 1 is not going to hold me back.

Continue reading about Kris’s adventures and challenges with type 1 diabetes by following his blog www.diabeticbanana.org or twitter @diabeticbanana.

Jakob: Pursuing Dreams Despite Diabetes

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When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

When I was 16 years old I got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Has diabetes effected your schooling or career?

First, it has effected me negatively. I did not want to realize that this is a serious disease I constantly have to take care of. That’s why I did not do much sports, did not check my blood sugar regularly etc.

However, I still finished High School with good grades and I went to university afterwards. I studied Business Informatics and I also went on an Exchange Year in Sweden. When I was in Sweden I realized that I have to accept Diabetes as a part of my life. Only then, I can use my Diabetes to become the person I wanted to be. Generally speaking, I can only recommend everybody to spend at least a few month abroad in a different country or (even better) in a different continent. It is very mind opening and you will come home with a complete different view on life.

Jakob SchrögerHowever, when I started to accept Diabetes as a part of my life, I also started to realize that Diabetes actually helps you in many fields. It can help you to be more organized, more disciplined etc.

After Sweden, I went back to Austria and started to work on my own start-up QGo. Right now, I am working hard to get QGo successful and in my free-time I also work on my blog www.diabetesandbusiness.com

So far, I am doing well and I don’t think that Diabetes is effecting my career. In contrast, I believe that Diabetes can help me to become an extraordinary person.

Has there been a moment in your life when you were grateful for having diabetes?

That is hard to say if there is a moment when you are grateful to have a disease. I would say that there is no moment where I was happy to have Diabetes, but I am never really sad that I have it. I try to see it as an opportunity to make something great out of it! 

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

My advice is to always stay positive and optimistic. Even if you get diagnosed with a life-long disease, current treatments allow you to live an almost normal life. Moreover, if you stay positive and optimistic, you will still be able to achieve everything you want to achieve. There is always something you can be happy about!bf1b0d8365

What is your greatest accomplishment? 

My greatest accomplishment is a pitch in the national TV Show of Austria: 2 minutes, 2 million where I could successfully pitch my startup in front of investors.

Check out the link! http://www.puls4.com/video/2-minuten-2-millionen/play/2737425

Learn more about how Jakob has conquered his diabetes and created a remarkable business , QGo, by following his blog Diabetes Business. You can also follow him on twitter at  @DT1andBusiness

Molly: Staying Positive with Diabetes

Image courtesy of Greg Weintraub
Image courtesy of Greg Weintraub

When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

“I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on Christmas Eve in 1997. I was four years old at the time.”

What is your greatest daily struggle?

“My greatest daily struggle is to maintain a positive attitude. Some people might assume that having a condition like diabetes has a largely negative impact on my lifestyle. That can be true on occasion, but over time, I’ve realized how important it is to maintain an optimistic outlook. I find it far more motivating when it comes to diabetes related and non-diabetes related issues alike. It’s easier said than done, but I accept it as a challenge that improves the quality of my life overall.”

Have you found any positives about having diabetes?

“I think the most positive aspect about having diabetes is the fact that it has brought me closer to many people. For instance, my mom is also a type 1, so our bond is made even more special. It’s also brought me closer to my dad, who does everything he can to help take care of me and my mom. Last, but certainly not least, it’s allowed me to connect with other people with diabetes in a truly unique way. Through my involvement with the College Diabetes Network and the Diabetes Online Community, I’ve heard innumerable and incredible stories that reflect the resilience of people affected by diabetes. As such, my diabetes has introduced great relationships to my life that I wouldn’t replace.”

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

“The best advice I could give to a newly diagnosed person is to take everything one day at a time. Some days they will have much better control than others, and I think this is important to acknowledge. It can be tough to handle the ups and downs of diabetes, but acceptance of the lifestyle is a major component of succeeding at it.”

Do you test in public? Why or why not?

“I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t feel comfortable testing in public. I grew up with my diabetes, so it just feels natural to test and administer insulin regardless of my location. Of course, this means that I might get a few funny looks or curious questions from time to time, but I don’t mind at all because it’s another outlet through which I can be a diabetes advocate.”

What is your greatest accomplishment?

“One of my greatest accomplishments so far is earning my bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I completed my undergraduate career in three and a half years, signifying a huge achievement both professionally and emotionally. My transition to life as a college student was a big adjustment, and I was concerned about how I would handle my diabetes away from my support system at home. I quickly proved to myself that I could do anything I set my mind to and excelled at school, meeting a variety of wonderful new people and engaging in life on campus. Moreover, I was extremely lucky to find full-time employment mere weeks after graduating, which showed me that my hard work was bound to pay off.”

You can learn more about Molly by reading her interesting and creative blog posts at asweetlife or follow her on twitter @mj_asweetlife

Robin: A Story Of Strength

Robin and Gov Island2

When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

“I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was six. Almost thirty years ago!”

What is your greatest daily struggle?

“My greatest daily struggle… If I weren’t writing these answers for a blog on diabetes, I don’t think diabetes would even come to mind for this question. I’d probably answer along the lines of: unfriendly co-workers, sprinting drill exercises, filing taxes/paying bills, or being on time.”

It’s not that diabetes is easy to live with. It challenges me physically, emotionally, and psychologically on a regular basis. It’s more that I try to avoid wasting time feeling sorry for myself about it. There’s no cure for T1D (at least, not yet!), so I accept the ups and downs as a part of being who I am. By staying upbeat and healthy, I’m able to keep diabetes from becoming a negative focus in my life.”

Have you found any positives about having diabetes?

“Yes, definitely! I appreciate that diabetes has made me a more emotionally resilient, physically stronger, and overall healthier person. For more on this, you can read my article, “Thanks, Diabetes!” at https://brightlyfe.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/thanks-diabetes/”Robin and CGM2

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

“You can do it. Learn as much as you can, work closely with your medical team, reach out to your support network. Do your best, and remember to forgive yourself when things don’t always work out perfectly.”

What is your greatest accomplishment? 

“It might be the fact that I’ve achieved a lifetime of triumphs, both large and small.

It’s so common for people to express regret as they age; trying to hold onto their youth and pretending they aren’t getting older. But for me, I don’t think I will ever feel this way. I did a good job of being a young person. I learned a lot and succeeded on so many journeys. And I’m proud to be where I am now.

I look at every birthday as a badge of success, because I’ve overcome so many obstacles to get here! I’ve demonstrated incredible strength, endurance, compassion, self awareness, and motivation over the years.

So I might say that turning 34 is my greatest accomplishment so far.”

Learn more about Robin by following her on twitter @Robinrjsmith or read her posts at http://www.lyfebulb.com/blog/ . If you would like to contribute to our “Humans of Diabetes” blog please see the contact info on our “about” page. 

Doug: Conquering Marathons With Diabetes

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1. When were you diagnosed with diabetes?

“May 24th 1999, just under a month before my 21st birthday.”

2. What is your greatest daily struggle? 

“My greatest daily struggle is putting too much energy into what my #’s are too often. I find myself constantly looking at my pump display to see what my CGM is reading.”

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3. What is your greatest accomplishment? 

“My greatest accomplishment is the first marathon I finished. I couldn’t run a quarter mile on February 1, 2011 and in October I ran my first marathon. It wasn’t pretty but I finished. Since then I’ve done 6 more and have another scheduled for 10/4.”

4. Have you found any positives about having diabetes? 

“I’ve meet a lot of great people because of my diabetes and when I say met I use that word loosely because I haven’ t met 99% of them.  A lot of great diabetics on Twitter, Facebook, and Blogs.”

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

“Things happen, you go high and you go low but test 8-10 times a day and make the necessary adjustments. I hear too many stories of people who don’t test and run all day in the 300’s and to be honest I usually ran 250 when I was diagnosed.”

6. How does having diabetes affect your ability to train for marathons?

Doug and his niece conquering the toddler trot four years in a row!
Doug and his niece conquering the toddler trot four years in a row!

“Diabetes affects my ability to train for marathons because of the constant struggle in maintaining blood sugars. No two days are the same, this weekend I ran 9.5 miles the same as I did two weeks ago and during the run two weeks ago I ranged 70-90 and needed to consume 150 carbs during whereas this week I only needed 30 grams of carb. I figure the difference was the amount of insulin on board prior to my departure and what I set my temp basal at during my long run schedule. I have found it is helpful to document everything you do so you can try to mimic the result and attempt to repeat it in the future. I know I need to see a dietician and probably should do some sports education to learn more about what I can eat to help sustain normalized blood sugars for long run activity.”

 Learn more about Doug’s training and accomplishments by following his entertaining and inspiring blog sweatabetes.wordpress.com or stay connected with Doug through twitter @salguodmai