Recently we asked our Facebook community to tell us about people who have lived long and well with diabetes – people who have lived 20, 30 or even 40 years or more with the disease. Having received a lot of great responses, we’re privileged to present these favorites on the blog this week. We’re hope you’re as inspired by these personal stories as we are!
Name: Nicole Kennedy
Age: 33 (diagnosed at 2)
Location: Sacramento, Calif.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes two months before my third birthday. This month marks 31 years that I have been living with diabetes.
Back then, I was the youngest patient diagnosed at the hospital my parents took me to. The doctors explained to my mother that it was very unlikely I would live to see my teen years. Thankfully the treatment of type 1 diabetes has changed drastically since I was first diagnosed and I have not experienced any complications.
My mother was big on making sure taking care of my diabetes was just part of my life and not the main focus. I have never felt that it has held me back in any way. I do my blood tests and count my carbs on autopilot and live my life normally. These days my biggest challenge is keeping up with my healthy, boisterous 3-year-old daughter!
I have always known that I wanted kids, and growing up that was sort of my big incentive to keep my diabetes in tight control. When my husband and I were ready for a baby, I talked with my endocrinologist, who agreed that there was no reason I couldn’t have a healthy pregnancy. The only change I had to make to my diabetes care was to stop taking my ACE inhibitor (which I take for kidney protection), since that is not safe to take while pregnant.
During my pregnancy, I used a continuous glucose monitor for a short while until hormones made my skin too sensitive to wear it. Then I stuck to doing a lot of blood tests. I tested roughly 10 to 12 times each day to stay in the best control possible. The hormones during pregnancy are funny things, and my insulin didn’t always act the way it normally would. It took constant adjustments and fine-tuning to stay in the 70 to 110 range I was aiming for. I actually had the best A1C of my life while I was pregnant!
My daughter was born five weeks early due to preeclampsia, which is much more common in women with diabetes. I had always heard that women with diabetes have big babies, but since my blood glucose in such good control, my daughter grew at an average rate. I was totally unprepared for my 5 lb. 5 oz. baby girl and didn’t have anything to fit her. Thankfully my wonderful mom and mother-in-law went out and bought smaller clothes that would fit her before we left the hospital.
My life has been so much better since I started taking fast-acting insulin and using an insulin pump. I love the fact that I am no longer living my life around the peaks in my insulin; instead I’m able to do my insulin based on my day. Crazy days that don’t leave time for lunch no longer leave me in a panic trying to quickly eat something before my blood sugar crashes at 3 p.m.
The tight rope that we walk when managing type 1 diabetes can be frustrating and overwhelming. I had a while when I was really just tired of dealing with it all. I would do the bare minimum, but I wasn’t doing enough blood tests and watching things as closely as I should have been. Finally, I was tired of feeling miserable and realized my diabetes wasn’t going anywhere, no matter how much I tried to ignore it. From that point on, I decided I wanted to be living with type 1 instead of suffering from it.
I no longer feel sorry for myself or overwhelmed in dealing with my diabetes; it is just part of who I am. It may be hard on the body, but it has shaped who I am as a person, and so I am appreciative of that.
I always tell people who are new to the disease: it will get easier. It is overwhelming at first, but with some effort you will find your stasis and reach a point where you just do what you need to on autopilot and don’t have to put much energy into managing your diabetes.