Think type 1 diabetes is just for kids? Think again.
Because it was thought to only strike children and teens, type 1 was known as juvenile diabetes for a long time. The truth is a growing number of adults are being diagnosed with it in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond.
All week long, we will present stories from adults who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, describing the emotions and frustrations that came with their experiences. Each person defines success in different ways, but they all celebrate the triumphs that have helped them reach their goal of living well with diabetes.
Name: Nicole Powers Teets
Age: 23 (diagnosed at age 22)
Location: Columbus, Ohio
I have had late-onset type 1 diabetes since the end of December 2012. I felt completely normal until a few weeks before Christmas, but then I started to have dramatic symptoms: sudden unexplained weight loss, extremely dry mouth, constant thirst, frequent urination and blurred vision (almost to the point of not being able to see the show on the television!). That went on for about a week or so. Then my symptoms escalated to constant vomiting, racing heartbeat and shortened/rapid breathing.
Finally, my husband took me to the hospital, where we found out that I was going through diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). I didn’t think it was even possible to get type 1 diabetes as a young adult.
Since then, I have had my ups and downs with my diagnosis. At first I was very confused, worried and upset. This was a huge lifestyle change, and I didn’t know how I was going to deal with it. Insulin injections were not only frightening, but a whole new world for me altogether! I had to get over my fear of needles very quickly. I also had to learn how to measure the right dosage of insulin that my endocrinologist told me to take, prepare the needle and sterilize properly, keeping a strict routine every single time. Another change was having to check nutrition labels and keep track of my carbohydrate intake throughout the day.
When others find out about my diabetes, they are always so quick to say, “I’m sorry”—like my life has ended before it has even begun. I used to feel the same way, but I don’t anymore.
Now, I count my blessings. For example, I have so much more energy now that I am eating much better. I am a stay-at- home mother to a two-year-old boy and I need all the energy I can get. I can’t describe how good it feels to be able to keep up with him and to be able to do my daily tasks with what feels like no effort.
I have also lost 20 pounds since being diagnosed. Most of it has to do with changing my diet; the rest is due to actually having the energy to exercise. I was never an exercise buff. I would be active, but it wasn’t anywhere near what I should have been doing. With a young baby, I could never find the time or effort that I needed to get proper exercise.
Now I love to stay fit. I exercise daily to make sure that my blood glucose stays where it should be and to make sure that my body is as healthy as possible. I haven’t been this happy with my body or my weight since the beginning of college. It feels great to be able to fit into my high school clothes again!
My whole outlook on life has changed. I feel so happy and blessed to have the life that I do, and I appreciate the little things. Before diabetes, I constantly wanted more and more out of life. Now that I realize how serious DKA is (I was close to being in a coma), I am so happy to still be here for my son and my husband. I want to do everything in my power to stay healthy, strong and positive for them.
So, when people look at me in pity, I like to look at the bright side. This isn’t something that will limit me for the rest of my life; it empowers me. It is a constant reminder that you shouldn’t dwell on something that isn’t your fault. I didn’t choose to have diabetes, nor would I ever want someone else to have to go through this, but I appreciate all that it has given me.
You rarely hear about all of the positive aspects of diabetes, and I want to share my story so that others can view it this way too.