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

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!  

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

Michael: “Data save lives and limbs”

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When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes? 

2002, diabetes mellitus type 2

What are your greatest daily struggles?

I was diagnosed at age 52. A conventional analysis would say I had developed sedentary and overeating habits in childhood that drove the expression of a genetic predisposition to T2DM. An alternative analysis would suggest that undiagnosed childhood insulin resistance and neuropathy drove the development of those habits, and precipitated a vicious cycle. In either case, I have half a century’s habits that make me “more diabetic” unless I counter them with more-than-habitual activity and more strategic eating. For me, glucose data are a much better motivator of this discipline than are weight or even belt-notch data—which brings us to the struggle to obtain adequate testing supplies in the face of a government-insurance establishment that rations them to essentially useless levels. And by the way, when I manage glucose levels, the weight and waist-size numbers fall with them.

Have you found any good things about having diabetes?

I’m healthier now than when I was diagnosed. Had I continued along the behavioral path I was on before diagnosis, I might well be dead by now. Also, the research I started reading and evaluating to save my life contributed to my current career as a clinical research editor and interpreter.

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

Data save lives and limbs. Learn how diet and exercise affect your glucose levels, and develop habits that nurture good levels. Nag, beg, wheedle, plead, demand, and save your pennies for adequate testing supplies to manage your condition. Accept additional medical help if your particular diabetes cannot be managed with diet and activity alone.

Does diabetes define who you are?

No.  It’s defined certain choices and possibilities in my life. That includes both limitations and opportunities.

Thank you Michael for the brave and inspirational responses. To learn more about Michael and keep up to date on his battle with diabetes follow his blog diabetes2remission.blogspot.com! You can also follow him on twitter for daily updates @T2DRemission

Caitlin: Teen Diabetes

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When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

I was diagnosed when I was 7 years old on November 13, 2004 with type one diabetes

Does diabetes define who you are?

Diabetes defiantly plays a big part of how I am but does not define me. Diabetes helps me view things differently than other people

How has diabetes affected your high school experience?

11058084_10153102591279965_4201670657302255517_nHonestly diabetes hasn’t affected my high school experience. Of course I’ve had to sit out for a little bit participating in activities while I chug back a juice box or two, but other than that it hasn’t really affected me. Although all my friends love that I had juice boxes in my locker always

Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging because in my small city of Sault Ste Marie Ontario,Canada there was not any type one diabetics in my age group,let alone many type one diabetics, so I decided to turn to the internet and got loads of positive feedback.

How has getting involved in the diabetic community helped you deal with your diagnosis?

It has helped me know that I am not the only one that struggles with being a diabetic. People see you as a healthy person, then you tell them that you are diabetic they automatically assume type two; that you just have to watch what you eat and take your blood sugar. When in reality it taking your sugar at least 3 times daily, eating, taking care of lows and highs, being tired, waking up through the 11218751_10154036325144129_3438217387330541119_nnight to check your sugar. There is a lot to diabetes that doesn’t meet the eye

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

I would tell them “Relax. Your life is not over. It will be tricky at the beginning but eventually it will work itself out. I’ve been diabetic for 11 years and I’m learning new things each day and I still struggle.

Keep up with new stories about Caitlin by following her blog. You can also get to know Caitlin better by liking her Facebook, twitter, and Instagram!

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.

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.