Erin is last in our blog series about people who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as adults, not young children, and had to suddenly adapt to new lifestyles. Type 1 runs in Erin’s family, so she knew what to expect, but of course it was still a major challenge. Find out how she coped with her own diagnosis, plus that of her teenage son.
Age: 39 (diagnosed at age 21)
Location: Edwards, Colo.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1993, but I am not alone in my family. My mom, brother and 16-year-old son, Aidan, all have type 1 diabetes.
My mom was diagnosed when she was 28 years old, and I was 10. She was the first confirmed person with type 1 in the family. I remember her being very sick and in the hospital for a long time as we waited for the diagnosis. After 30 years of having type 1 diabetes, my mom now suffers from eye and feet complications, but she doesn’t share too much about this anymore, as she doesn’t like to cause worry. She is a very strong, tough and amazing woman.
I was diagnosed next. At age 21, I was a single mother of a three-year-old boy, working two jobs and going to school at a community college three days a week. I believe the stress level at this time in my life might have been a reason my diabetes kicked in. I was losing five pounds a week and was so exhausted. To confirm my suspicions of type 1 diabetes, I went to the hospital. After a blood glucose reading of 670, I was sent straight to an endocrinologist.
My brother Keegan was third in line to be diagnosed, at 26 years old. Though I understand it’s not easy and brings him down sometimes, he knows his diabetes pretty well. He has a “go with the flow” personality and is actually quite humorous about it.
Aidan was diagnosed in September 2007. All the signs were there, but my husband and I were able to find an excuse for each one and had not quite put the pieces together. Aidan actually asked to test his blood one evening after watching me. I was numb with a feeling I can’t describe when his reading came up with only the word “HI.” After he washed his hands and got another “HI” reading, I knew.
Aidan’s blood glucose at the hospital was 777. I remember trying to make light of the situation and suggesting maybe his blood glucose was James Bond or that we should find a slot machine right away— I’m sure my son thought that was funny. I remember Aidan immediately taking his own shots in the hospital and even having to correct the ICU nurse. I’m still amazed he caught that.
I know diabetes must irritate the heck out of my son, but overall he has handled it amazingly. I often think that being able to see his mom, uncle and grandma have fun “blood glucose test competitions” was incredibly helpful as he coped with his diagnosis. I couldn’t imagine having a child diagnosed with no prior history or awareness of the disease.
I didn’t take the best care of my own diabetes until Aidan was diagnosed. Our recent A1Cs (a measure of a person’s average blood glucose level over the past two to three months) were identical at 7.7. Mine hadn’t been in the 7 range since my “honeymoon” stage.
Type 1 diabetes hasn’t stopped Aidan and me from doing the things we love. In Colorado, there are a lot of physical activities you can indulge in. Aidan competes in big-mountain skiing, plays on the high school soccer team, golfs, mountain bikes, slack lines, wakeboards and water skis. I participated in my first triathlon last summer, which was just awesome. A few months before, I even found a fabulous group, Team Wild, designed to help females with type 1 diabetes. That was a life-changing find for me.
Aidan didn’t like the sound of diabetes as a word when he was diagnosed, so he decided to start calling it “livabetes.” We even have this on his medical alert dog tag.
Type 1 diabetes is a meticulous disease, and it’s with you at every moment. You don’t get breaks, but it is something you can live with.