Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Living With Diabetes

When I was nine years old, I got sick. It started like a cold, and then seemed like the flu, and then I couldn’t walk anymore. This went on for about a month before my parents decided to bring me to the doctor. There, they called an ambulance and rushed me 40 minutes away to the children’s specialty hospital.

I was diagnosed with Type I Juvenile Diabetes. Not to be confused with Type II Adult On-set Diabetes. (Something people don’t typically know the difference between, which can lead to offensive assumptions.)

A pancreas is the organ that produces the hormone insulin. Insulin breaks down food and turns it into energy when you eat carbohydrates. In Juvenile Diabetes, (called that because typically it happens before adulthood) the body thinks the pancreas is a foreign object and kills all the cells that produce insulin. There is no way to prevent it from happening, and typically it is genetic.

So what does that mean?

Diabetics have to test their blood glucose level, as well as take insulin injections daily. As for me, I check my blood and take an injection every time I eat any food, as well as after I wake up, and before I go to sleep. I always have to count how many carbs I eat, but after ten years, its so natural to me I barely even have to think about it anymore.

When I got to school, my first concern was finding a pharmacy to fill my prescriptions, finding a local doctor I can go to (once every 3 months!) and making sure that I had everything I needed in Milwaukee to survive. I’ve gotten used to all of that, but with all the new changes, it has brought up new problems. One of the hardest things for me is telling people I have diabetes. It’s not something I’m ashamed of, but how do you just put that out there? It’s not usually something that just comes up in conversation all the time. People that don’t know me well tend to treat me differently once they find out. Such as what advice they can give me to help.

A lot of people have told me it’s my fault for getting diabetes. I should have eaten less sugar, or played outside more at recess. Someone in my family once told me that if I had gone to church more this would have never happened. But the truth of the matter is there is nothing I could have done to prevent it.

Things have continually gotten easier over time but it would be nice to meet some other diabetics who are going through the same thing here at UWM.

Famous people with Juvenile Diabetes.

-2010 American Idol runner up Crystal Bowersox

-Nick Jonas

-Halle Berry

-Bret Michaels


  1. I'm so sorry you've had to go through all that over diabetes... My dad is also type one, and my blood sugar has been known to fluctuate from high for long periods of time to low for long periods of time, enough for me to definitely notice, but not quite enough to put me in the "diabetic" category. I know it's there though, I've blacked out during gymnastics training, gotten randomly dizzy, or just lost all energy due to it a handful of times in the past.

    I'm lucky in that I don't need to check my blood or carefully watch what I eat, but me knowing my body, I pay attention to how I'm feeling and it usually revolves around how my blood sugar is doing.

    That's sad that people are so ignorant as to blame you for it. Sigh.

  2. Brittany,
    Good for you, just for being you. Being different, in any way, is hard. Our society is based on a standard, and not everyone fills it. I"m happy for you that you felt comfortable enough to share this detail of your life. You are a strong woman.
    I myself, do not have diabetes, but it runs in my family. My maternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, father, mother, and older sister are all diabetic, so I know what it is like. Just know that there are always people out there who understand.
    I hope you find someone that understands you even better, but know that there are safe places to go if you need to. Just keep enjoying life, and making the most of it. You will be FANTASTIC!

  3. Hi Brittany!

    I just ran across this article when I googled "uwm and diabetes." I am a senior at UWM but have 2 more semesters after this one. About 3 weeks ago, I was just diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Can I ask how you pay for your supplies? Does UWM have insurance I can purchase to help me? It is so expensive!

    Thank you!
    Amanda V.

  4. Knowing all these symptoms and causes of diabetes will make you armed against this serious complication.