I’ve had Type 1 Diabetes for 49 years – next April will be my 50th diaversary. When I was diagnosed in the 60’s/70’s, there wasn’t as much information about diabetes out there as there is now. But still, having diabetes never held me back from anything I wanted to do. I still travel, and I stayed out late in my 20’s and 30’s like any other young person would. I strongly believe that diabetes is just a part of life. The key is to accept it and make it part of your routine.
There are professional hockey players who have diabetes. Gary Hall, Jr. has Type 1 Diabetes and he swam the 50-meter freestyle at the Olympics. They didn’t let diabetes stop them; they made it work. Put your sight on what you want to do and figure out how to do it (I just don’t know if they can send you into space yet). People are happy to work with you if you talk to them about your needs. When I was still in school, we went on ski trip to the Alps. At the time, they didn’t have refrigerators in the hotel rooms so I stored my insulin in the one in the kitchen. I got to know the kitchen staff pretty well and they were happy to accommodate me. Nobody has ever said “no” when asked to help.
The only time my health factored into any of my life choices was when I decided not to become a physician. Sleep is very important for me and I knew I wouldn’t be able to function with the little bit of sleep med students get. But again, it was my choice based on what I needed to take care of my own health. I know my body inside and out, so I know when something isn’t right and how to adapt. When I have late meetings, I’ve learned to check my blood sugar and drink some juice before it starts so I don’t go low.
My biggest piece of advice for parents or anyone who has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes is: take a deep breath and relax. If you were diagnosed as an adult, know there’s nothing abnormal about what you have. You can maintain your regular routine without much extra effort. The only time I need to pay more attention to my blood sugar is when I’m sick. I might have to take some extra time off from work to recover these days, but that could be because I’m getting older.
If you’re a parent, let your kids be kids. Let them have fun at parties and eat a small piece of cake like the other kids (maybe take of some of the frosting first). Don’t stress too much about what they eat. You don’t have to make big formal meals. Sometimes when I get home late I’ll have cereal and fruit for dinner. Just use common sense and think about what you need to do to cover it with insulin.