Frank: Diabetes Online

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When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

I was diagnosed with type 1 at age 17. The doctor that I went to see failed to diagnose my initial symptoms, and a few days later I ended up in hospital with diabetic ketoacidosis. I’m glad it happened that way, because it connected me to the diabetes clinic at my hospital. I’m not sure if I would have received the same support otherwise. I was also really happy that all my symptoms were gone, so having diabetes didn’t feel like a huge setback. I’m not sure how well I would have reacted to the news if I was diagnosed in the doctor’s office and sent home.

IMG_4266What is your greatest daily struggle?

Food. I have a reasonably healthy diet, but I struggle with the snacks and temptations in between. I’m a terrible sweet tooth. I could easily eat a whole block of chocolate if it was acceptable, and I have become a bit obsessed over finding the perfect Cannoli. I grew up eating junk food every day after school, and it’s been a difficult habit to break since being diagnosed with diabetes.

Has diabetes ever affected your schooling or career?

I count myself very lucky that I was diagnosed after I had finished High School. Although having diabetes in school might have forced me to be a little more open about my condition than I am now. I have definitely drawn upon my Marketing and Communications degree in building my diabetes blog and online presence. I’ve become extremely passionate about diabetes advocacy through my blog, and I would love to make a career of it someday.

How has blogging affected your diabetes management? 

Before I started my blog, I knew nothing about diabetes beyond my own ability to live with and manage it. I never would have guessed that there was even such a thing as the Diabetes Online Community (DOC). Joining the blogosphere and the DOC really ignited my passion for blogging and diabetes advocacy. I love blogging because it makes me think about my diabetes management every day. It’s nice to have my own space to vent, and I find it therapeutic being able to reflect on a situation when I’m in a better headspace. I feel the best about my diabetes in 2015 than I have in any other year, and I credit that to blogging and IMG_3998interacting in the DOC. The people in the DOC provide a daily source of support, inspiration and motivation. I barely know anyone with diabetes in real life, so it’s nice to have somewhere to talk with people who just “get” it. And I really relate to these guys because they aren’t celebrities or athletes…they’re ordinary people living with diabetes, just like me.

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

I would tell them about the wonderful Diabetes Online Community. I would encourage them to create a Twitter account. Join in weekly support chats such as #OzDOC and #DSMA. They’re a great place to introduce yourself and make connections with other people with diabetes. Read diabetes blogs and take an interest in the diabetes world. There’s so much valuable information and support out there to gain. I really wish I had found the DOC a lot sooner than I did.

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

I don’t know if I would ever say I’m grateful for having diabetes, but I’m grateful for the opportunities that have come from it. I am finally living my dream of being a successful writer every day through my blog thanks to diabetes. I was really proud to be able to advocate for access to test strips in Australia through my column for Insulin Nation. It even resulted in a small policy change from Diabetes Australia. I also feel really fulfilled to have a purpose and passion beyond my day job.

Read more articles from Frank by following his blog Type 1 Writes and keep up to date on twitter @FrankSita. You can also learn more about Frank by liking his Facebook page!  

Ashley: A Dietitian with Diabetes

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When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

“My diagnosis is a long story. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when I was 19, but was told from the start I didn’t fit neatly into the type 1 or type 2 categories. It didn’t matter at first until I was told about the insulin pump. I realized then that our government only subsidized insulin pump consumables for people with type 1 diabetes and gestational diabetes, I kept asking to be reclassified as a type 1 but was told I was in denial about my diabetes. Like what even? Eventually I found an endo who reclassified me based on a technicality that I am insulin deficient not resistant. So that was a major win. I’m currently looking into genetic testing to see if it’s MODY.”

Has diabetes ever affected your schooling or career?

“Diabetes hasn’t affected my schooling or career but it has definitely influenced it. Going through the health care system inspired me to get into diabetes education. I was diagnosed in my second year at university doing my undergraduate degree. I went on to explore research with an honours year, became a dietitian after my master’s degree and am now further pursuing research through a PhD in diabetes education for young adults.”

Why did you start blogging?

“I started blogging as way to de-stress and unwind. I like to write my thoughts and observations down. After becoming more involved in the diabetes community through volunteering, I started to write more about diabetes. Through there I found the Diabetes Online Community. I write to share my experiences of living with diabetes because it’s such an invisible thing to live with. Diabetes affects much more than blood glucose numbers and that’s important for people to understand.”

As a dietician have you mastered controlling highs and lows?

Graduation“Being a healthcare professional doesn’t exempt me from the rollercoaster that comes with diabetes. I still guess my carbs if I’m unsure of certain foods. I’m not perfect, I’m only human! And just because I’m a dietitian, doesn’t mean I survive on salads. It surprises people to know that I’m not a big fruit eater. It’s all about moderation.”

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

“Breathe. It’s not the end of the world. You can do this. You got this. And most importantly, you don’t have to get everything perfect. You are still allowed to make mistakes.”

What is your greatest accomplishment? 

“So many things on so many levels. Some days getting out of bed would be an achievement in itself. I guess doing developing my PhD topic and being able to work on it is one of my proudest achievements. I am extremely passionate in providing each person with diabetes appropriate education and resources to better cope with diabetes. I hope that my project will help to raise awareness of the different types of diabetes and integrate the type 1 and type 2 diabetes community as a whole a little bit better in terms of providing peer support.”

Read more by Ashley by following her blog bittersweetdiagnosis.com. You can also learn more about her on twitter @Health4Diabetes. If you are interested in guest blogging, contact us on twitter or read the contact info on the “About” page. 

Rob: “Diabetes Gave Me Drive and Made Life’s Rewards Sweeter”

Rob Brown

This week we got to interview Rob, writer of Diabetic Dad Runs for our Humans of Diabetes blog. Be inspired by reading Rob’s thoughts below! 

HoD: When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

DDR: I was diagnosed with type-one diabetes in January 1991, aged 12. I’d spent weeks with a raging thirst and constant need to pee. I had a few days in hospital being monitored and trying to get my head around the news I’d need daily injections for the rest of my life. Then I was packed off home with a box of syringes, phials of insulin and a glucose monitor. I was told I’d still be able to live a normal life, even with diabetes. I took ‘normal’ to mean ordinary. And, like most 12-year-olds, I didn’t want an ordinary life; I wanted it to be extraordinary.

 HoDHow did your diagnosis affect you?

DDR: I buried my head in the sand. I spent my teens and early 20s generally doings things that are no good for anyone, let alone a diabetic. I shunned my parents’ efforts for me to meet other diabetics (no one in my family has diabetes). I ignored diabetes; I rarely tested my blood and ate what I wanted.  When I was 20, I travelled in Africa for two months and didn’t even pack my glucose monitor. Unsurprisingly, this lifestyle led to no end of highs and lows. It was dangerous and irresponsible. I shudder to think how much damage I did to my body and worry I caused my loved ones.

 HoD: How does diabetes affect your ability to exercise?  

DDR: I wish I could say it has no impact, but that wouldn’t be true. In my late 20s I quit smoking and began taking my diabetes and general health more seriously. I began going to the gym and running. At 30, I completed my first (and so far only) marathon, testing my blood and refuelling on carbs on the go. The training process involved a few hypos and a lot of trial and error in terms of sugar control, but it taught me how to manage my diabetes more effectively.

A few years ago I started doing Crossfit, which involved keeping a really close eye on sugar levels and food and insulin intake on training days. I became fitter than I’d ever been. Then injury struck: frozen shoulder, a condition diabetics are far more likely to develop than non-diabetics, probably because of an imbalance in the proteins the body needs to break down scar tissue in joints. The injury wasn’t necessarily caused by diabetes, but my recovery has been delayed by it.

I expect to return to Crossfit in the next few months, after nearly two years of recovery. During this time (apart from a six-month hiatus when the pain in my shoulder got too bad), I’ve run to keep fit (and sane). After reading about the inspirational Roddy Riddle (a truly incredible type-one) I hatched a plan: to run the Marathon des Sables, a 150-mile, six-day race across the Sahara Desert in 2018. My blog, Diabetic Dad Runs, is the story of my preparation for this race.

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

DDR: My initial answer was a resounding no. The ceaseless injections and blood tests, the threat of hypos and the trail of test strips I seem to leave behind me everywhere I go get me down. But then I thought about it a while. In recent years diabetes has given me the drive to push myself and get fit. Now it’s pushing me to attempt something extraordinary (if a bit nuts). I’m not sure if I would have that drive if I wasn’t diabetic.

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

DDR: Avoid carbohydrates. When I was diagnosed the advice was to eat plenty of carbs to maintain sugar levels and avoid hypos. Eating too many carbs as a diabetic is like sitting on a seesaw with an overweight child: every meal sends sugar levels soaring skyward; hefty insulin doses bring them crashing back down to earth again. And so you’re always lurching from peak and trough. Since I began a low carb diet a few years ago, my insulin dose has fallen by two thirds; hypos and highs are fewer and farther between.

The nurse who told me diabetes wouldn’t stop me from living a normal life was right. Diabetes has caused a few problems along the way (for example, the impact of fluctuating blood sugar levels on mood should not be underestimated) but it hasn’t stopped me from doing anything. If you want to do something extraordinary, diabetes shouldn’t stop you. You might have to work harder than others would to achieve your goal, but that will make the rewards even sweeter.

Follow the Diabetic Dad Runs blog by clicking here; DDR is also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Get in touch if you would like to share any thoughts on diabetes, nutrition, exercise or anything else!