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Keep Fighting Toward Your Fitness Goals

So I thought I’d share how difficult it is to live with a chronic illness and try and stay fit.

The picture on the right was last year… when I had just had a colonoscopy to determine how inflamed my bowel was. Shortly after, I was hospitalized due to my colitis. In that week I had lost around 8kg in weight in the space of 5 days. Everything I ate went straight out. I had been in decent physical shape externally but internally I was in bits. I felt incredibly weak. I had no energy, but I still tried to work and live my life as normally as possible. At the time I even tried to celebrate the fact I looked half decent. 🙈 But when you look at the photo closely, I look very skinny. I was then put on some heavy duty drugs to get my colitis in check. Gained loads of weight in hospital and then went home.

Fast forward to may of this year. I’ve managed to get to a decent shape however I’m the strongest I have ever been. I manage to beat my personal gym goals every week and my colitis seems to be under control. 🤛👏

I saw this photo in my feed and wanted you to understand that physically and mentally I’m in a much better place. Everything is going in the right direction and with more hardwork and dedication I’ll get to where I want to be.

Even last year I said I’ll have to start my journey again. It really got me down but if something is worth doing… it wouldn’t be easy….or everyone would do it 😅👌

It doesn’t matter where you are in your IBD journey. It will always keep moving forward it you BELIEVE you can do it

Real Talk With Dave: Achieving Your Goals With Diabetes

It has been said over and over again, but you can do what ever you set your mind to! Since the day you were diagnosed, you probably were told by friends, family, and other loved ones that you can still lead a normal life and do what ever you want with Type 1 Diabetes. When I was first diagnosed, I felt like I was at the bottom of a huge boulder that I had to overcome and climb at some point or another just to get to the top. But I was so unsure as to how I could get to the top, all while lugging a heavy weight on my shoulder, my Diabetes. Well, it just so happens that 9 years later (going on 10) I have definitely discovered that it is possible to get to the top and accomplish all the goals I have set for myself. That goes for you as well. Set your goals and dreams, because you are going to achieve them at some point or another, Diabetes or not.

Over the course of my Diabetic journey I have seen so many others who face T1D grow and accomplish so much. Every day there is someone new in the Diabetic community that is going above and beyond in doing what they love, and not slowing down one bit because of their Diabetes. Sure we all get our bad days where Diabetes seems so impossible to beat, but remember, it’s the good days in which we are to make the best out of them and live our purpose. So many people have gone on to do great things- becoming musical artists, doctors, actors, the list goes on- but what makes it so special is that they were able to get to those points in life, all while going through T1D. Was it difficult? Yeah, I’m sure it was. Many non-Diabetics may not realize how difficult it must have been, given their Diabetes, but for those who are aware and know how much Diabetes tends to take out of a person, I’m sure we all applaud them for doing so.

 

The thought of never being able to do many things anymore when first diagnosed is a common thought most people think of while lying in their hospital bed on day 1 of their diagnosis. Little do they know that life is just about to get a whole lot better. More opportunities come from Diabetes. More knowledge, responsibility, and (my favorite) empathy. Knowing the true struggle someone may be facing and being able to relate to the person is one of the coolest things you can have as instantly, you get that person and are able to help each other out. Diabetes also provides friendships, social connections, and a community to be a part of and belong to. Guess you could say we’re some pretty cool people, am I right?!

I do the things that I want to do, because the thought of having to say no to doing an exciting activity because of Diabetes does not sit well with me.

When I want to go out on an adventure, I do stop for a second and think how I will deal with my Diabetes in that event. However, I do the things that I want to do, because the thought of having to say no to doing an exciting activity because of Diabetes does not sit well with me. I don’t ever want Diabetes to determine how much fun I have or what I set out to do in life, socially, academically, etc. All the activities I have done in my Diabetic life, I have done them. Some were more difficult than others, but either way, it was a learning experience in which I was able to gain a whole lot. For me personally, seeing a Diabetic do something so awesome, such as running a marathon, playing a sport for a famous team, or killing the game everyday in a really cool job is so inspiring to see and we all have to keep beating the odds and proving the stereotypes wrong.

So I leave you with this, do what you love and do what you want, because you only get this one life to live, so make the best of it! If you want to be a pro surfer, do it. If you want to be a doctor, do it! If you even want to be the next CEO for one of the biggest companies on earth, DO IT! And show everyone how you did just that at the same time you were managing your Diabetes. Prove those stereotypes wrong and show them who’s boss!

 

Live well,

Dave

Empowerment and T1D

I have always been drawn to empowerment. Growing up, I loved the theatre, I loved the ballet, I loved all forms of performance. I think that the primary reason for this was because of how powerful and confident the performers always seemed.

From a very early age, I knew what my purpose was. I was meant to inspire and empower others in this life…. somehow. To me, that was a fact that was never second guessed. The challenge, as it would prove itself to be going forward, was to find out how exactly I would manifest my purpose.

I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of fourteen. I have lived with the disease for over half of my life now. For a while, my own ability to embrace my inner power felt like it had been robbed from me.

I began to tell stories. It was my way of reaching out, despite my antisocial nature. I told stories through acting in film & television, which eventually escalated into writing fiction, screenplays, and journalism. I told fictional stories as well as the real stories of others – but all the while, my own true story was being written simultaneously.

Organizations such as JDRF and Beyond Type 1 gave me the chance to connect to others who had similar, yet very unique, inner struggles. I became involved in advocacy initiatives that allowed me to engage with these people and to share my own experiences. I began to write for Beyond Type 1, helping others share their own stories with the world. I felt the immense gratification from both sides of the coin, theirs and mine.

This was empowerment, I thought – impacting others with chronic illnesses was, as I realized, what made me feel alive.

The day that KNOW Foods partnered with Beyond Type 1’s Bike Beyond initiative was the day that the puzzle pieces that made up my life would finally and seamlessly come together. I tried this new and interesting healthy food company’s product – low-carb, gluten-free, wheat-free, and non-gmo?! It did not spike my blood sugar and it gave me a truly sustaining energy throughout my days. I knew I had to become a part of this – and so I did.

KNOW Foods’ Founder & CEO, Steve Hanley, recognized my purpose. He recognized how my experiences, leading up to this, would make me the perfect candidate to take on the title of Senior Director of Alliances. I would take the helm would it came to partnerships – with an emphasis on nonprofit organizations that focus on chronic illnesses/disorders such as Beyond Type 1, Beyond Celiac, College Diabetes Network, Autism Hope Alliance, and the list will go on!

I made a vow to myself after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I vowed to make my #1 priority to live my healthiest life, always and forever, and to help others do the same, even those who were not living with a chronic illness. Everything else would come second.

Today, I can confidently say that I am living out my purpose – it simply took realizing that Type 1 diabetes was the center piece of my puzzle –  the most important piece.

diabetes and empowerment

Real Talk With Dave: Motivation & Diabetes

You can do it!

I know Diabetes is hard, but you can do it. There are days in which it seems impossible, but those are the days in which we push harder, gain strength, and fight even more for an end to this horrible disease. I have had my share of bad days, and still get them, but on those very days, I feel like I am learning vital life lessons on how to cope in a bad situation, how to treat others, and how to rise up.

Despite the needles, the blood, the emotions, the highs and lows, and the day to day tasks we have to remember to do, we are all awesome for being able to put up with these tasks and are all capable to keep on pushing through. I personally think it is so cool, as much as I would give up this disease on any given day, how we as Type 1 Diabetics have put up with so much that goes unnoticed. In my opinion, we all deserve awards, just saying. But that is because some people come and go in our lives and don’t quite realize all that we put up with daily or are even going through at that very moment. Regardless of the fact, YOU are amazing. We’ve all lived countless days with this disease, trying to make ends meet, trying new diets and workout routines, and meeting with our doctors just to get things right, but whatever may be going on, good or bad, you are awesome. Nobody else puts up with the things you do and that is why you are so cool.

When I see someone who has Diabetes or a chronic disease and they are doing something so great, whether they are working towards a great cause, doing what they love while dealing with their disease, or even just smiling, that is such an inspiration to me by seeing how they manage to stay so happy when I know that they are going through something that does present some challenges every now and then. I truly see the good in them and though I feel bad they have to deal with their disease, I am proud of them and applaud them for what they do and how they do it. We all are unique individuals with a desire to learn and grow, we all are creative and special, and when it comes to T1D, that is something that connects us all. If Diabetes hadn’t affected the millions of people it has, many of us wouldn’t have the social connections we have with each other right now or we wouldn’t have something to be inspired by.

What I am trying to say is that coming from a background with Diabetes and living it for almost half my life now,

I am filled with appreciation for the members of the Diabetic community as we are some of the strongest and bravest people out there.

Each disease has it’s own difficulties and struggles.When one is affected by Diabetes, it may seem like their life is over, but that is not the case. Diabetes can and will turn you into someone you didn’t think you could be. When I was first Diagnosed, my life turned around completely and I had taken a huge step back, but then I think of where I am now. I am alive, happy, and healthy, despite my Diabetes, and that is all that matters.

So I ask you so think of what your passion is and what motivates you to keep on going. After that, just go with it and live your purpose. Life is short and yes, you may have Diabetes, but that is okay, because you can live the life you want if you set your mind to it. I’m here for you, rooting for you, and cheering you along the way in this race to the finish line being a cure to end Type 1 Diabetes. You got this!

Live well,

Dave

Real Talk With Dave: Feeling Bad For Having Diabetes – My Worst Experience

This is something that is very personal to me, and I really haven’t shared how I felt about it up until now.

Over Christmas break of 2016, my family and I decided to go on a vacation to Egypt. This was the first time I have traveled with my Diabetes out of the country in the 9 years I have lived with T1D, so I knew I would run into a few issues along the way, but I also knew that I would have my family with me for help and support if I needed it. Many things were planned ahead of time, such as what Diabetic supplies to bring, how much to bring, what to do to treat lows in a foreign country (that may not have the same carb contents as the US) etc. But most of these issues I was worrying about were for when I actually arrived to my destination. I had not realized that problems could still present themselves in the traveling process.

I have never been treated poorly for having a chronic illness, nor have I ever been somewhat judged for this disease that I live with 24/7 and that I did not ask for. I am not going to name where I was when this happened, as I don’t want to call out any country. That being said, I have a lot of respect for the country and people I interacted with as they were just doing their job and trying to stick to their security precautions. But, as we had a layover more than halfway to our actual destination, we stopped in a country where we were not sure how they would react to me having to bring in all my low supplies such as juice bottles, syringes, snacks, etc.

I had a separate suitcase that I carried everywhere I went that contained all my Diabetic supplies as we were going to be on this trip for about three weeks. I had a bag full of tiny glucose shots for quick low treatments, and two normal sized bottles of apple juice as I did not know when I was going to find more juice to carry me through the traveling process, and wanted to be safe and secure knowing I had something to keep me alive that could prevent me from passing out, or worse. As we were getting through security, I stopped to tell the officer how I needed these two juice bottles for medical reasons. Right away, he said no and wanted to throw them away. My dad then stepped in and tried to explain to him why I needed them and showed him a letter from my doctor, but he refused to listen. I then began to accept that fact and think to myself that I still had the glucose shots that were actually allowed, so I would be okay if he had to throw away my apple juice. But my parents didn’t want them to throw away something that could actually save my life, as they too were unsure when we would be able to get a hold of something sustainable and in bulk to carry me out of a low.

They then called the head of the security team. She was a very tough person who was not willing to listen or be understanding. As mentioned above, I had a separate bag with all my supplies, as well as a few other bags, and having all these bags somewhat bothered this woman. She rolled her eyes every time she had to check one of my bags. I was shocked at her reaction as she shuffled through my supplies and told me that I didn’t need those two bottles of apple juice as I had other things in my bag to treat lows. First of all, nobody has the right to tell a person with a chronic disease what they “need.” Second, we had a letter from the doctor explaining everything, she just refused to look at it.

As I had things thrown away right in front of me, I was so disappointed in how some people truly are, regardless of what they see someone going through. My parents, being the kind and loving parents they are, went back after we supposedly got done with that awful security check and complained to the woman, telling her how what she did to me was very rude and how I have lived with this disease for 9 years and that I didn’t ask for Diabetes. The woman, remaining tough, had no choice now but to listen. She eventually began to agree that she may have been a bit rough on me, but she was still wanting to win the argument.

As I walked away from the argument between my parents and the security guard over my Diabetes and all the complications that came from it, I have never felt more sad and angry for having Diabetes than that very moment.

I have never felt more sad and angry for having Diabetes than that very moment.

Trying to be the tough, brave, strong person I am, I had to keep a straight face, but if I was alone, I would have cried my eyes out. I remember thinking all these thoughts like, “why me?”, “why Diabetes?”, etc. It was the worst feeling a person can have for feeling judged and emotionally abused for having a disease that can’t go away. I felt crushed. The rest of the day, I couldn’t think of anything else. I was in shock seeing how mean people can be and I just wished I never had T1D. I am ultimately grateful though, for my amazing parents who stood up for me, as difficult as it must have been. I am grateful that they love and care for me so much that they would fight for my rights as a Diabetic.

While this may sound sad and depressing, going through an experience like that taught me something. It taught me to prepare for the worst. It also taught me to be kind. I would never in a million years expect to be treated so poorly and I never wish anything bad on anybody. I believe in kindness overall and that we may not be aware of what someone is truly going through. That is why we must always treat others with love and respect. I now believe that certain people come in our lives for certain reasons, to teach us things, to put us in situations in which we can learn from, and ultimately at times to show us love, respect, and kindness.

Diabetic or not, we are all capable of something great and we should never judge or be mean to people.

Though I still sometimes stop and think of this incident, and it still bothers me from time to time, I have forgiven the security guards and learned to be better and braver than ever before.

Despite what these diseases put us through, that shouldn’t stop us from living the best life and being our best selves.

Live well.

-Dave

The Unmatched Courage That Comes From Chronic Disease

A little over a year ago, after resisting the idea for almost a decade, I finally started working with a type one diabetes (T1D) focused non-profit. T1D was already 100% of my life and I hadn’t wanted it to become even more, but after almost two decades with the disease, I gave into the fact that it was my purpose to make an impact in the lives of other people living with T1D. The first few weeks almost broke me down. Every day, I heard stories of people dying from missed diagnoses, from complications, from lack of access to insulin. I had to learn how to never become numb to it, but forge ahead anyway. The work was too important.

Last summer, after absolutely hating the idea of writing a book about living with chronic illness – I didn’t want to be seen as a sick person – I wrote it (it publishes this September!). I realized that I could use my voice to give hope to others, but I was terrified to never be able to get away from people knowing I had a chronic illness. I put myself out there anyway and ended up writing about the superpowers we gain by living with chronic disease. I became the lucky one here – it has been both rewarding and immensely humbling to be able to connect in such a deep way to people who are managing so much. The chronic illness community is indomitable.

Over the years, as constant debates about healthcare, ever-increasing costs of insulin, and clashes with health insurance have become more and more common, all I’ve wanted to do is turn away and not deal with it, but it’s just not a choice.

I have too much to say, too much knowledge of the industry and the system, and too much ability to affect change to be quiet.

I studied federal healthcare policy at Georgia State University and managed to fundamentally change the structure of the healthcare plan of a Fortune 500 company when I caught that it wasn’t going to work for any of its 15,000 employees who lived with chronic conditions. It has been important to me to get involved with the policy that affects us all, and I have become quite the thorn in my local representatives’ side. We can all affect change with our voices.

Like us all, it was what I have been through that gifted me my passion. My T1D story started on Thanksgiving Day when I was ten years old; I ended up in the intensive care unit of Seattle Children’s Hospital. In the months leading up to the holidays, I had lost nearly thirty pounds on a 5’4” frame that didn’t have the weight to lose; multiple doctors told my mom I was doing it on purpose to somehow better fit in with my peers. I have flashes of memories from that time – trying and failing to eat a single scrambled egg but downing 2-liters of Sprite daily. Barely being able to walk up the hill to my school’s gym. Lots of lying around in bed.

At about four o’clock in the morning on Thanksgiving day, my mom tried, unsuccessfully, to wake me up. My family carried me to our old, boxy Jeep Cherokee and tried to put me in the back seat, but I couldn’t sit up on my own. My entire body hurt. So they put me in the way back, the place I always begged to sit but wasn’t allowed to because of the lack of seatbelts, and we pelted down the highway toward the closest hospital, Overlake Medical Center.

Moments after I was carried into the emergency room, a nurse came over to check on me. She smelled my sweet breath, which should have been a dead giveaway to all the doctors who said these health issues were my own doing. She instantly diagnosed me with T1D.

After being somewhat stabilized in the emergency room, I was put into an ambulance and taken to Seattle Children’s Hospital, where I spent two days in the intensive care unit, then another two as an inpatient, learning what had happened to my body, how to check my blood sugar levels, and how to give myself insulin shots, of which I quickly found out I was absolutely terrified.

I practiced giving shots on an orange first, then on my teddy bear. When my next step was to practice on my mom, to give her a shot of saline, I completely broke down. I could do everything else. I could prick my fingers. I could learn to count carbohydrates. I could skip regular soda. At ten, when everything was an adventure, I could adjust to this new life. But I could not hurt my mom, and I could not hurt myself. The nurses tried to explain that this was the only way to keep myself alive and healthy, but all I saw was my purposely shoving a sharp object under my skin and it broke me.

For the first year after diagnosis, my mom still gave me my shots. Gadgets and technology have since made my life easier, but to this day, if my routine changes, if I have to use a new type of needle, if my insulin pump infusion sets change design, you will find me in a puddle of tears, trying to give myself a pep talk that it’s not going to be so bad. It’s never the pain – the needles don’t hurt that much. But the little bruises and scars they leave are tiny reminders that this is never going away; They are visual cues that at the end of the day, shoving these needles into my stomach, backside, thighs, and arms – it isn’t normal. Needles are and will always be a part of my everyday existence. I remain scared of them. I use them anyway.

It got me thinking – how much in my life has probably been affected by that every day practice of bravery? How many other situations have there been where I was scared of the THING but I did the THING anyway, because that was what I was in the practice of doing? I was a blunt, headstrong little kid, but as I’ve grown up, how much has T1D taught me to barrel ahead even more so than I ever could have done without it?

I can confidently say that I am often terrified.

All the time. I take on projects and jobs and life hurdles that no one in their right mind should take on all at once. But T1D taught me how to be brave, how much I can handle, and beyond that, it taught me how to use my voice to fight for what I believe in. I had to learn how to be an advocate for myself, and I’ve been able to turn that into knowing how to be an advocate for others.

Having a chronic illness is not a great thing. There’s no spin there. But the courage we take from it is unmatched, and for that I feel lucky. This disease has forged me into the person I was meant to become – one who can affect change, use my voice to change other people’s lives, and fight for what I know is right.

Real Talk With Dave: Living With Diabetes, LITERALLY.

Each day, most people wake up to a fresh new start. People living with Type 1 Diabetes, however, tend to be going through something 24/7, to the point where they don’t end one day and start a new day. Diabetes carries throughout the night, waking up the person with low blood sugars, ripped out sites, alert messages from various medical devices, frequent trips to the bathroom, or no insulin going through. Through these experiences, one may feel as though they are not actually living, almost as if they are just doing what they need to in order to cater to the demanding needs of Type 1 Diabetes. That doesn’t have to be the case.

When we think about our lives, we each have different drives, motives, and passions in life that we want to achieve. Having a chronic disease may make it very difficult to find a balance between a normal life and a life where we are actually healthy and doing everything in our power to stay in control. It’s all in the mind, though.

If we tell ourselves how we truly want to live our lives to the fullest, we will get there.

Nobody wants to sit at home and worry about their Diabetes, having to constantly do what it tells us to do. We are the ones who are in control.

The day to day experiences we go through with our Diabetes can be very draining and overwhelming to cope with, so we need to find a balance where we can still maintain our life outside of the Diabetes world. Living your very own purpose can and should be done. If Diabetes seems to get in the way, it’s really not. It’s just adding more experiences to go through and to have knowledge on for the future or to help others. Don’t get me wrong though, we still have those very dark days where we can’t seem to find peace with our numbers and overall wellbeing, but it is the good days in which we can be a light for others and show them that despite what we go through every moment of our lives, we can still be kind to one another and live, actually live.

I personally have had my own personal battle with Diabetes and though I still fight the fight like no other each and every day, I live the life I choose to live. I want to be helpful to others. I want to share, create, and learn. I want to go out and explore the world, and you know what, that is exactly what I do. I don’t let Diabetes determine what type of life, let alone what type of day I am going to live. We all go through Diabetes a little differently and it takes time for one to truly own this disease and not let it be in control, but trust me, it can and will happen to you, and when it does, you will feel like you have just crossed the finish line to the race of life!

Dave

“Good Morning Carolina, Did You Know You Were a Diabetic?”

“Good morning Carolina. I need you to come back for a shot of insulin and IV fluids immediately. Did you know you were diabetic?”

That was the unwanted wake-up call I received the morning of Friday, February 26, 2016. I had been feeling terrible for weeks and just spent the night drinking water and using the bathroom almost every hour. I was confused, nauseous and beyond exhausted. Little did I know I had been experiencing all of the horrible symptoms that could lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). I lost about 25lbs, my eyes were sunken, I refused to eat, was extremely irritable and I was fighting a horrible infection from an unhealed wound. Napping a few times a day had become my new normal.  The only knowledge I had about diabetes, however, was what I learned about ten years ago in my 8th grade biology class.

Insulin, blood sugar, syringes, etc. were all foreign terms that were about to become a part of me.

“How could this be happening to me?” I thought. Just two months ago I was in the best physical shape I had ever been. I was a CrossFitter 5-6 times a week and I generally ate very healthy –even counted calories and sometimes carbs (ironic, I know). I was also an MBA student, a graduate assistant, a babysitter, and a CPA candidate. Stress had become a part of everyday life, and although I refused to let it take control over me, that wasn’t my choice to make and my body wasn’t taking it anymore. It was slowly but surely flipping a switch on me.

On February 27, 2016 I was admitted into the ER with a blood sugar of 373 mg/dL, shortness of breath, and the chills—I was FREEZING. Within the first few hours of my first hospital stay, I had X-rays taken of both my chest and my shin, IV lines placed in both arms, a bacterial culture was taken of the unhealed wound on my shin, and best of all I was told I was going into DKA –a brand new term which I refused to learn more about at the moment because I didn’t want to freak out and make the situation worse.

I heard the doctors and nurses throwing around terms I had never even heard of and it felt like I was on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, except I felt like total crap and I wasn’t getting paid to act.  

After spending about 36 hours as an ICU patient and three days in a regular hospital room I was finally released into the real world where I now had control my own blood sugar by giving myself shots of insulin. In the beginning I was in shock. I couldn’t believe that after 22 glorious “normal” years, my life now depended on tiny amounts of this weird smelling clear liquid, which I had to inject with a needle.

The first few weeks I refused to research the topic because I was scared that WebMD would tell me I was dying, and to add to that I had a visiting nurse who further instilled fear by telling me I should no longer get my nails done at the nail salon or that I could no longer wear my favorite pair of heals anymore because I had to take care of my feet. I was emotionally drained and just wanted to go back and live at the hospital so my diabetes could be taken care of for me.

Thankfully those days didn’t last too long. As I began to get the hang of having to give insulin to control my blood sugars, I began to research the topic more and follow other diabetics on social media. I was able to get on an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor after only a month and lowered my A1C to a healthy level a few months later. Diabetes was extremely scary and discouraging in the beginning but over the past year this full time job has taught me a lifetime of knowledge.

I’ve learned that my perfectionist ways of the past won’t work with diabetes.

It’s a disease that is affected by so many factors which makes it nearly impossible to manage perfectly. You kind of just have to go with the flow, roll with the punches, and keep living as if it hasn’t made a dent in your life.

I was lucky to have found the JDRF Young Leadership Committee, a group of diabetics that are in my age group in New York City. Some of these people have become my “diabesties” and have truly helped me feel like I’m not in this alone. I’ve also started my own Instagram page with the hopes of inspiring and supporting others in the t1d community. In addition, I recently rejoined CrossFit with the goal of becoming even stronger than I was before I was diabetic.

Having diabetes has become my new normal and although I wish I didn’t have it, it’s taught me to take each day as it comes and to look for the silver lining in absolutely everything. I only got one life to live and I will NEVER let diabetes bring me down.  


Follow Carolina on Instagram: @beatinbetes

25 Years of Type 1 Diabetes

On Friday 13th, 1992 at the age of 13 I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

It was also a historic flood in my town and looking back on the pictures from it, I could clearly see how sick I was. I had all the classics symptoms: thirst, urination, significant weight loss, fatigue and looked gaunt like a ghost. My blood sugar was around 1000, which at that point I had no idea what a dangerous situation I was facing.

Little did I know how much my life would truly change that day due to my diagnosis. Many people would think it would be devastating and this would be a negative thing, but this diagnosis made me who I am today. Don’t get me wrong there have been some high’s and low’s, literally and figuratively, but I always had the thought process that there are two paths you go with this disease. You either let it control you or you control it! I chose to control it and let this be a diagnosis that I would do my absolute best to not let define me.

I just hit my 25 year anniversary living with diabetes and that is something I am extremely proud of. I even got my Eli Lilly 25 year medal! I decided to go into the nursing field after finding out at a young age all the mis-information that was out there, even among medical professionals surrounding diabetes. Then, of course, my next step was to become a Certified Diabetes Educator. After college I became the Nursing Coordinator at Joslin Diabetes camps and then transitioned to a Pediatric Diabetes Nurse educator there as well. I always loved working with children and their families since I felt I truly could relate to what they were all going through. I really think having them see someone that had been living with this disease for so long and was healthy without complications was a really motivating and positive thing for many of them.

After starting a family or my own (6 year old son and 8 year old daughter), I continued as a diabetes educator, but now work with adults and pregnancy patients along with being a lifestyle health and fitness coach.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Bionic Pancreas trial in 2015-2016, which gave me such hope for the future for myself and my patients and friends living with this disease. I was told when I was diagnosed that there would be a cure in 10 years and obviously that didn’t happen, so having a device that could make life a little easier and more manageable with diabetes would be outstanding! Living without the constant fear of hyperglycemia, having to count every single carbohydrate you eat, being able to exercise without fear of hypoglycemia would be a true dream come true. Dare I say it….make me feel a little more “normal”.

The First Canadian T1D to Climb Mt. Everest

Sebastien Sasseville was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 22. He recalls being faced with a choice: cave in and let the disease get the best of him or grab the obstacle by the hand learn to live well with it. Despite reaching the summit of Mt Everest to prove that diabetes should never keep us from living to the fullest, the heart of Sebastien’s philosophy is not about beating diabetes, but rather welcoming it in our lives and embracing it. Sasseville didn’t choose diabetes, but he chose to make te best of his life with it and used it to motivate him to reach new heights (literally.). His difficult and humbling journey toward acceptance has been filled with powerful lessons. There have been so many positive lessons that sometimes diabetes has felt like a vehicle of growth and empowerment, and therefore a gift to Sasseville.
Hear more about his journey in the video below.

Why I Hate Diabetes, But Love Being A Diabetic

Diagnosed just a little over seven years ago, diabetes has become “the norm”. By now, the carb counting, injecting in public, and answering looks and questions from strangers when I stab a needle in my stomach, is all second nature; it doesn’t phase me anymore. But, when I was first diagnosed, at age thirteen, it did. I did not want the world to see me as “disabled”. I thought that if people were aware of my disease, they would see me as weak. Seven years later, I am still the same girl, with the same autoimmune disease, but now, I show the world I am stronger than ever because I am a diabetic.

I was practically born with a tennis racket in my hand. Growing up, there wasn’t a day where I wasn’t in a gym, on a court, or in a field for at least an hour or two.  Sports made sense to me, and I thrived on the heat of competition. When I was taken to the doctor on the morning of January 28, 2010, and soon told I had an autoimmune disease that would potentially hinder my ability to compete at a high level, my earth shattered. My immediate family had no history or real knowledge of T1D, but now I would be surviving on multiple daily injections and religious carbohydrate counting. Cool.

My mother, a tennis coach, urged me to consider “just playing local tennis and volleyball tournaments”, and to not stress if I couldn’t become a Division 1 athlete, my lifelong dream. Her comments and the lack of knowledge my doctor had around competitive athletics and diabetes were my driving force. I realized I would have to train harder and smarter than my competitors, but I didn’t need easy– I needed doable.

Four years later, I ended up graduating high school a year early, at age 17, to accept a tennis scholarship at Seattle University. Since coming to college, in the fall of 2015, I have made diabetes my life. I started the first College Diabetes Network Chapter in the state of Washington, at Seattle University. I started volunteering at my local JDRF chapter, and even babysitting diabetic children. I began experimenting with dietary changes to help negate the highs and lows that can come with poor diet choices. The transition to Division 1 athletics required more of me physically and mentally, and I soon realized optimal diabetes care was more important than ever. By embracing my disease, and advocating as a type 1 diabetic and division 1 athlete, I truly embraced that I was a diabetic, not just someone with diabetes.

I used to hate being associated with the disease and all of the negative impacts it had on my life, but now I rejoice the person diabetes has made me. I realized I cannot change the fact that I am a type 1 diabetic, but I can change how I let diabetes influence my life. I can set a positive example by participating in clinical research, by making healthy dietary decisions, by being active, and by teaching the public about type 1 diabetes and its implications. I can show the world that I am more than diabetes– I am a strong, capable, passionate diabetic.

Yes, diabetes can be grueling, and tiresome, and I would never wish it upon anyone. But, the diabetic community, the friends and connections I’ve made through my broken pancreas, are invaluable. Being a diabetic is the most rewarding, demanding, empowering roller-coaster I’ve ever been on, but I learned how to embrace the ride.

 

With Diabetes, You Can Do Anything!

Diabetes has been a part of my life for 22 years. On February 9th, I celebrated my Diaversary. I always knew diabetes wasn’t my purpose, my purpose is to live my life the fullest and that’s what I communicate to all people with diabetes –

“you’re the purpose, not diabetes, so do everything you can to not let diabetes stand in the way of your dreams”.

I have had type one diabetes since the age of 4 (1995). Many people think that I’m used to it because I was diagnosed as I child and I don’t remember life as a healthy person. But as every person with a chronic disease, I dream of a life without it. Unfortunately, I remember some images from the hospital and feelings of pain, fear, and sadness. Till this day I’m afraid of taking venous blood samples for tests in clinics, because of how traumatic it was to me when I was diagnosed.

In the begging I was treated with insulin injections, then I was on insulin pens and in 2003 I got my first insulin pump. Since that time I became a “full-time pumper” with no breaks. For most of the time, diabetes was just a normal part of my everyday life, nothing special. I only experienced some teasing and discrimination in elementary school, but time heals wounds, especially when you meet some nice people after a tough time in your life.

Now I am a Diabetes Youth Advocate, a Diabetes Educator, and a Diabetes Blogger. Raising diabetes awareness is an important issue to me…but how did it happen?

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It all started with my diabetes burnout in 2013 – when my disease “turned 18.” I felt kind of depressed that it’s “an adult” now, and so many years have already passed. I was exhausted and unhappy at that time. One day I thought that maybe I could overcome it with running a blog. I was writing a lot of poems, stories, and songs, so that’s why this idea came to me in a natural way. With the support of my family and boyfriend, the blog was finally created.

I’ve decided that the symbol of my blog will be a blue sugar cube because I think sugar cubes are so cute and of course blue is our color. 🙂 At first, it was only my personal thing, but to my surprise, people started to read my posts! It turned out that I’m not only helping myself but also other people with diabetes, and parents of children with diabetes.

Then many things in my life changed for the better! I received both Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree with honors (in Exhibition Design Study) and my Masters’ diploma was presented on Coming OuT Best Diplomas of Academy of Fine Arts 2014. I also managed to finish my second field of study on the Academy – Pedagogical Study, which allowed me to gain experience in teaching arts and crafts to children, adults, and people with disabilities.

I wanted to use my artistic skills to change diabetes somehow. That’s why in 2014 I have created two adorable monsters – Hypo (blue) and Hyper (red), which represent hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. I wanted to encourage people with diabetes to talk about symptoms and emotions related to those states and to explain to healthy people how it works. Hypo and Hyper were heroes of the calendar which were designed for diabetes clinics in Poland in 2014.

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I’ve started to be involved in many different social campaigns and actions (Menu for diabetic, How to Live with Diabetes, Human Library and more), write articles and feuilletons for diabetes magazines or portals and even lead free lectures and educational meetings for people with different types of diabetes in Polish Diabetes Association. I became certificated Diabetes Educator by participating in course organized by one of the polish diabetes foundations. Recently I founded the diabetes group Blue Sugar Cubes on Facebook to give people with diabetes and their families more support.

Last year was truly a turning point in my life. I was a participant in International Diabetes Federation Europe Youth Leadership Camp 2016 and now I act as IDFE Diabetes Youth Advocate. For World Diabetes Day 2016, together with two friends from camp, we led our first diabetes campaign eUrMOVE in collaboration with IDFE. I designed logo and graphics with Hypo and Hyper. The campaign was a huge success and we look forward to doing more for diabetes cause this year.

Now I only hope that my fiance’s patience will stay on its’ high level forever, because I’m one crazy diabetic girl 😉 With diabetes you can do anything!

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