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: Jennifer Thomas Vensil
Age: 37 (diagnosed at 36)
Location: Dresden, Ohio
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes four months ago at age 36. I had all the classic symptoms but couldn’t believe it was type 1.
What were those symptoms? We were on a trip in England and Scotland in early June 2014, and the whole time I was so thirsty and had to urinate a lot. I craved orange juice and ice cream. When we got back I got a really bad yeast infection. I was also losing weight, which is very weird for me—especially when living off OJ and ice cream.
I went to my regular doctor for yearly blood work. I have high cholesterol, so I try to watch that. They called me back and said my blood glucose was 342mg/dL. I didn’t even know what normal was (turns out it’s less than 100 if you’re fasting).
I bought a test kit over 4th of July weekend and checked throughout the weekend. One night my husband, kids and I had ice cream. I thought it would be “fun” for us all to check our blood glucose. Well, they were all very normal. Mine was 570. We decided that I needed help right away.
At the hospital my blood glucose level was 570mg/dL. I am not overweight, and I don’t have a family history of type 2 diabetes. But because of my age, they treated me for type 2 and gave me some insulin and metformin. And that really did make sense.
I was lucky and was able to get into a specialist the next day. Right away he put me on Novolog insulin shots three times a day and Lantus at night. After a week of doing that and checking my numbers four to six times a day, I called him with the results. That is how he determined I was type 1.
I am now on a pump and like it much better. When I originally went in my A1C was around 17-18 percent, and at my three-month follow-up it was 6.4 percent. I am very happy with that progress!
This has been completely life-changing for me. People tell me all the time how proud they are of me for taking this on and doing what I have been doing. However, I look at it as I have no other choice. This is my life now.
The hardest thing for me is carb counting. I get pretty frustrated trying to figure that out. I also wish they could come up with another way to check your blood. That finger poking is the worst part. And my eyesight was blurry from my blood glucose being so high for so long. Even after I got things back under control, it took my eyes a couple weeks to return to normal. That was so scary. I can deal with diabetes, but not blindness.
My advice to people who are new to diabetes, like me, is to use every resource that is given to you. I have gone to education classes and find them so helpful. My endocrinologist’s office knows it’s me before I say my name.
I have a 27-year-old cousin who is a nurse and has had type 1 for 20 years. She has been my best resource. She says she feels sorrier for me than herself because diabetes is the only life she has known. I guess it just is what it is.
You really don’t hear much about someone in their 30s getting type 1 diabetes. I do enjoy sharing my story, and I hope it helps others.