Talking Type 1: Karen French

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.


Karen with daughter Elena

Karen with daughter Elena

Name: Karen French
Age: 46 (diagnosed at age 36)
Location: San Jose, Calif.

I was diagnosed at age 36. Looking back, I see the symptoms were there, but because I did not know anything about diabetes at the time, I did not realize what was happening to me.
I lost so much weight, and I was drinking six to eight bottles of water a day, sometimes more. I had blurry vision, dry skin and hair and weird body aches. I was peeing constantly and sleeping at the oddest times—I mean literally crawling under my desk at work to close my eyes, or going to my car at lunchtime to take a nap.

I chalked it up to stress. My husband and I were trying to have a baby, and I had miscarried twice, so we thought my body was just heaving from the depression of those events. I got pregnant a third time and went to see a doctor weeks before I was supposed to, not wanting to risk another miscarriage. He ran routine tests and called me later that day to come in for a fasting test the next morning, as my blood glucose level was high.

Turns out my A1C was 11 percent. “WHAT? How could that be?” I wondered. Nobody in my family had diabetes, so why was I being diagnosed with type 1 at age 36? Isn’t that the type that occurs in children? (I later learned that family history is a stronger risk factor for type 2 diabetes than it is for type 1.)

I got on insulin immediately, went to several education classes and soon got my blood glucose under control. I mean, my A1C went from 11 to 6 percent in a matter of weeks.

Best of all, the baby I was carrying stuck, she stayed with me! My endocrinologist kept telling me that with my blood glucose being so high in the beginning of pregnancy, the baby would be deformed or worse. But I wasn’t about to give her up, not after the heartache I had suffered in previous months. I said I would love her, no matter the outcome. Well, she came out fine, beautiful and healthy. I went on to have a second daughter, who is also beautiful and healthy.

Then, my first daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes too, at age 7. Luckily I recognized all the signs, and we got her to the doctor before it got out of control. Now she and I have a little club. We do our routine daily checks together and talk about it all the time. She’s a trooper and is very brave.

So that’s the beginning to my story, even though I’ve lived with diabetes for 10 years. There is plenty to come, I’m sure. My daughter and I have a long road ahead of us, and we’re doing the best we can.

Thanks for letting me share my story.

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