As a fellow Type One Diabetic (T1D), I have first-hand experience when it comes to the physical and emotional impact that this diagnosis has had. My walk as a  T1D started when I was only 18 months old. I was not born with it and there was no family history of diabetes but rather it was triggered, via shock, by the infant inoculations given around that age.   

 Growing up ‘different’ from others was challenging, especially during my school-going years. I had always loved playing hockey, however due to my sugar levels consistently dropping I had to stop due to the fact that I kept missing practices, which impacted the team. School camps is something that all kids look forward to but in my case, it was facing the dread of whether I would be able to go or not, which was dependant on whether my mother was able to get off of work to come with me. She always had to be there in case of emergencies, which I’m sure was to the relief of my teachers.  

 Being a T1D is not easy. The simplest things like stress, headaches and change of emotions can cause my glucose levels to change. Not to mention the bodily insecurities that comes along with having to inject a hormone that causes inflammation and can damage cells. Having to continuously watch what I eat and how much I weigh, has been emotionally challenging and draining, especially with today’s societal body standards. Moreover, the stress of ensuring that my sugar levels stay in normal range ( 6.0-8.0) as high sugar levels, as well as extreme lows, could have various complications that any T1D will tell you, we are reminded of almost daily.  

 Thankfully, as technology advances, medical devices such as continuous glucose monitoring systems and insulin pumps have really begun to change the way us diabetics can go about living a life as ‘normal’ as possible.  Although these technologies offer vast benefits, pump and sensor (continuous glucose monitoring systems) fatigue does occur. This fatigue is due to the consistent alarms that sound, carbohydrate calculations, eating schedules and soreness/irritability from insertion sites which occurs almost daily.  

 As a new pump user, it has been an absolute blessing to have, as it has made life so much easier but having to change the insertion site every 3-5 days is infuriating, not to mention sometimes painful. At first, having to carry my robotic ‘pancreas’ ( the pump) was embarrassing as people tended to stare at the tubing. However, I’ve come to realise that I have had to take on the function of a human organ by myself, and that isn’t something to be embarrassed about but instead – I feel like a superhero; proud of the gear that comes with the title.  As many individuals are not aware of diabetes, the aim of this article is to inform others of this chronic illness as well as create understanding and end the stigma around diabetics.  

To begin with, Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic metabolic disorder which occurs when the blood glucose (sugar levels) consistently remains increased/high, leading to a “higher risk to serious and chronic microvascular and metabolic complications of type 1 diabetes (T1D) and the macrovascular complications of type 2 diabetes (T2D)” (Khawandanah, 2019, pg.1).  

There are two types of diabetes, namely, T1D (insulin-dependent) and T2D (non-insulin-dependent). T1D  occurs due to the annihilation of the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas, as there is autoantibodies acting against (Kousar, 2019) “ glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD/GAD65), islet cells, insulin (IAA), protein tyrosine phosphatase-related islet antigen 2 (IA2/IA2β) as well as zinc transporter protein (ZnT8A) in the blood of these patients” (Khawandanah, 2019, pg.1).T2D occurs when the body develops a resistance to insulin (Kousar, 2019). As it is a major metabolic disorder, it is characterized by increased blood sugar due to the diminished insulin production from the pancreatic beta cells caused by the insulin resistance (Khawandanah, 2019, pg.1). 

The cause of diabetes varies, T1D  root causes are not clearly defined  however there is strong evidence for both a strong genetic predisposition as well as an environmental triggers that leads to the complete dependence on  daily glucose monitoring, insulin injections or pump and specialised medical care (Khawandanah, 2019, pg.1). On the contrary,T2D risk factors includes unhealthy diets/ habits, a sedentary lifestyle and genetic factors which contribute to the diagnosis (Khawandanah, 2019, pg. 1). 

On reflection, living with any chronic illness is rigorous; but if it has taught me anything and something I encourage others with is that, a chronic illness does not define who you are, but rather makes you a victorious warrior in a silent battle. A difference can be made  through understanding, staying informed, showing  compassion  and remembering  that even though one does not see any physical impairments, there is always a battle someone is fighting. So, “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside of you that is greater than any obstacle.” – Christian D. Larson. 

 Author: Jessica Trollip