Talking Type 1: Brian Watson

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.


Brian WatsonName: Brian Watson
Age: 30 (diagnosed at 29)
Location: Phoenix, Ariz.

March 12, 2013, was the day my life changed. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the ripe age of 29.

More than two years later, my life continues to change. My story starts with “Why me, and why now?” and ends with “This is my life now and who I am.” All the stuff in the middle was a huge hurdle. It’s not easy when you’ve been without this disease all your life—and then boom! Time to change!

My family says I always do things the hard way, and that’s true of my diabetes diagnosis. The signs that something was wrong were obvious, but I ignored them. I was a smoker, so I attributed my constant thirst and dry mouth to that. And of course I am going to urinate more frequently if I’m always drinking something. I worked a very irregular schedule so my constant tiredness was from my devotion to my career. I was losing weight rapidly too. (Diabetes does run in my mother’s family, but only distant relatives, and I didn’t know this until much later.)

The driving force was my parents. My mother could tell just by talking to me on the phone that something wasn’t right, as early as December 2012. She knew that my wife Carrie and I would be meeting up with my father, brother and sister in-law in Minneapolis for a concert. She called my father and he agreed to help. He pulled me aside and told me that I looked unhealthy and needed to see my primary care doctor. With both my mother and father on the same side (they divorced when I was young) I knew I had to put on my “big boy pants” and make the appointment.

After a few visits and a lot of lab work, my primary care doctor told us he thought I had prediabetes—that is, the precursor to type 2 diabetes. He wanted me to test my blood glucose a few times a day and see an endocrinologist. I was given a standard Bayer Contour meter, a few test strips and a log.

It would be two months before my appointment with the endocrinologist. I didn’t feel a sense of urgency with my primary care doctor, so I just made the appointment and went about my business. I was not instructed to change my eating habits, just to log my blood glucose levels. So that’s what I did.

Just one week before my endo appointment I began to have blurry vision and slurred speech. My heart raced, I was having trouble walking and I felt like my head was going to explode. I described this to my wife and she said, “Well, let’s check your levels and see where you’re at.”

The meter said “HI.” Puzzled, we referred to the owner’s manual. We followed the directions to wash hands and test again and got the same results. We knew we needed to seek emergency medical attention.

Even the meters at the ER had trouble getting a reading—we weren’t dealing with defective equipment, but unfortunately super-high blood glucose. The ER doctor told us he had never seen their meters not be able to read someone’s blood glucose level. I was admitted immediately, and after additional urine and blood tests it was determined that my blood glucose level was 1000mg/dL! This was not prediabetes or type 2, but actually type 1.

I was lucky to be alive and I owe it all to my wife, who dragged my stubborn butt to the hospital! Not to mention the excellent doctors and caregivers who helped me through the transition before I left.

These days, I’m still what I call a diabetic with a dream (DWAB). I’m using an insulin pump and slowly learning how to manage my disease. When diagnosed with a chronic disease, some choose to embrace the change right away while others have a harder time accepting it. I had a hard time in the beginning, but diabetes is slowly starting to change me for the better. I’m optimistic that my life will be normal again. (Everyone needs a goal!)

I was very ignorant about diabetes before I was diagnosed. I have decided to go back to school, and with my new degree I hope to change the face of diabetes. Let’s stand up, let’s educate and let’s make a difference. Let’s teach people about the signs of diabetes and make life with this disease more bearable. I am going to try my hardest to make that difference.

If you’re new to type 1, know that your life will change. Surround yourself with those who love and care about you. Good days will come, but most importantly bad days will go. You are an advocate not only for yourself, but for other who have this disease and even their caregivers. With the right mindset you can be more powerful than an army. Make a difference by being the difference!

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9 Responses to Talking Type 1: Brian Watson

  1. Tracy says:

    I live in the Phoenix area and was diagnosed type 1 at age 30. I had symptoms for a couple months and, also working irregular hours, found excuses for the way I was feeling. My primary diagnosed me, but when the closest Endocrinology group wouldn’t see me for two months, she found one to take me within the week. It is definitely a lifestyle change. I’ve been diabetic for 10 years and even had a successful twin pregnancy. There are days where the disease makes your life hard, but you just have to manage it the best you can.

    • Brian Watson says:

      Thank you for sharing your story! It should help others know they can have a healthy and happy life with this diease. You said it right by saying some days can be a bear, but with a positive mindset and strong control you can do anything! Congrats on strong and tight control, best wishes that it continues. Happy Holidays!

  2. Pingback: Talking Type 1: Brian Watson | Help with Controlling Diabetes

  3. Kelly Stewart says:

    Just wanted you to know yet hat you’re not alone and it helps me knowing I’m not either. I’ve been active and healthy my whole life and the I was always thirsty, tired and started having vison problems just over a year ago. Diagnosed with type one was like a hammer hitting me in the head. Denial fir a bit abd the angry. Finilly I woke up and said I can do this. So here I am managing my life every day and it’s a wild ride but it’s one that can be tamed. Still working on it and getting better at it every day. I hope anyone that has or gets diabetes will never give up, IT CAN BE TAMED!!

    • Brian Watson says:

      Well said Kelly. It can be tamed! The roller coaster of diabetes is a ride that isn’t for the faint of heart that’s for sure. We have two choices after we get over the hump of anger, sadness, and denial…that is to be stronger than what we were before or choose to stay in those three modes. You are not alone and the support that is out there is unmatched…just like our diease we have to get it under control and get the support needed. The awareness is being heightened everyday, continue to have your voice be heard! Your a fighter and an advocate now. Keep it up!

      Brian Watson

  4. Gokulnath B says:

    Hi Brian, you can fight this up easily with right amount of medicines and food. I am type 1 too and my age is 25. I m surviving for 20 years with this deficiency (actually this is not a disease). And Good days are already there. ‘Lets make a difference’ – Cheers!! 🙂

    • Brian Watson says:

      Gokulnath,

      You are the difference! And a true inspiration of living and managing Diabetes. Don’t stop with the positive attitude! Fantastic to hear!

      Brian Watson

  5. Joy says:

    I was diagnosed at 39 with Type 1. I had been experiencing the slurred speech, going to bed at 7 PM for almost 2 years, throbbing headaches, excessive thirst, urinating every 30-45 minutes all night long for 4 months straight, lost 18 lbs in 8 weeks, drinking water excessively, racing heart (I thought I had a heart condition/failure based on the racing heart that I noticed for a solid year), my eyes were very dry, hair was falling out and snapping, blurry vision and an inability to get my eyes to focus. I am not on the pump yet. Hoping to have it by February.

    • Brian Watson says:

      Joy,

      It’s not a fun spot to be in but you now have the knowledge to hopefully get it under control. Always remember some days just won’t be the greatest…and it’s frustrating. I’m a firm believer that it’s not what you know, it what you do with what you know. Knowledge isn’t power, it’s applied knowledge that is power. Once you get your pump you should be pleased with your results, but in the mean time take your applied knowledge and keep up the good fight. You’re not alone. Best wishes.

      Brian Watson

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