A message of hope for people with newly diagnosed diabetes
A few weeks ago, a former high school classmate texted me, âHey Maya, I know it’s been 20 years since we last spoke. I reached out because our 9 year old daughter was just diagnosed with type 1 diabetesâ¦ â
My heart sank.
âYou are the only person I have known with Type 1,â she continued. âI saw all of your great photos on Facebook. You seem so well adjusted. Maybe you have any tips, tricks or tips? ”
Well, I do indeed.
My own story of type 1 diabetes began 35 years ago when I was diagnosed a month before my 4th birthday. I had contracted a virus, a virus that I couldn’t get rid of. My parents were worried, especially my mom, who reminds me of vanishing in front of her eyes, losing weight fast, constantly thirsty and dehydrated, constant urination, a bottomless pit for food, and yet despite all the food I was weak, nauseous, dizzy and sick. I even wet the bed a couple of times, even though it had been 2.5 years since I was in diapers.
My mom took me to see our family doctor who casually dismissed her concerns, saying I had a persistent cold. âOne of those bad cases of flu going around,â he says. My mom didn’t buy it. No flu has lasted that long. At the time, she remembered some tips from Dr. Spock’s popular books, about trusting your parenting instinct. She also remembers reading articles on juvenile diabetes that fit the bill. Some of her friends with gestational diabetes checked their urine for glucose, she recalls, so she bought a test kit at the drugstore. My urine contained high levels of glucose, so it was my mom, not a doctor, who first diagnosed me.
I was rushed to the emergency room that day in severe DKA, where I was officially diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. My life changed forever.
When I was diagnosed in the 1980s, Type 1 was handled very differently from what it is today. There was no CGM, and doctors told patients not to check blood sugar more than 3-4 times a day. My parents, both engineers, soon realized that it was important to test more frequently because more information meant better decision making. I took fixed doses of insulin and the dietary instructions were to avoid sugar and to eat on a strict âswapâ diet of low glycemic foods for each meal. I ate on a schedule that was supposed to match the peak insulin action times. I had to eat at specific times to avoid falling. I had no choice in this matter and had to eat whether I was hungry or not.
I was a happy child, but not in good health. I was often ill and each cold lasted for weeks or progressed to bronchitis or sinus infection. Each wound took weeks to heal. I felt dizzy, nauseous, had headaches, stomach aches, felt weak, and often felt sleepy. There were times when I couldn’t play with my friends because I didn’t feel good. By the time I was 8, I had outbursts of anger and total depression. My mom suspected it was somehow related to my diabetes, but at the time there was no evidence. Today we know that uncontrolled type 1 can affect children’s brains and induce mood and behavior changes. Things only got worse when I entered my teenage years. I was angry, deeply depressed, and full of anxiety. I was falling apart both mentally and physically.
In my late teens, a newer insulin hit the market. The new insulin came with the freedom to eat anything, when and to cover the carbs with a big dose. It was at this point that I completely lost control of managing my diabetes and developed very messy eating habits (eating food, skipping insulin injections, diabetes) and fell even deeper into depression. I felt physically sick all the time to the point where “sick” became my normal. In my twenties, I already had complications from diabetes. Some that I still suffer from today.
So when my high school classmate, who was still in the hospital with her newly diagnosed child, contacted me, I immediately wanted to tell her that there was a better way to manage diabetes. type 1. What I went through ââ constant blood sugar levels out of reach ââ is preventable on a low-carb diet. It wasn’t until I found Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution that I understood that. I stopped trying to incorporate “healthy” complex carbohydrates like oatmeal and brown rice into my diet. I was able to reduce my A1c below 5%. And for years, I’ve been around 4.5%. My depression has lifted. My energy levels are like never before, I am rarely sick, I recover quickly, no headaches, and I have even been able to reverse some of my complications. My life has also stopped revolving around food! I was finally free from the messy, obsessive and compulsive eating habits that had haunted me for years.
It is essential that people with diabetes and parents understand that many of the foods we consider âhealthyâ lead to high and unpredictable blood sugar levels. It’s extremely difficult to just cover carbohydrates with insulin and match the doses for high carbohydrate foods. You might be able to match it every now and then, but not consistently. Diabetes, after all, is a disease of carbohydrate intolerance.
I took a look at my high school friend’s Facebook profile and saw a picture of her newly diagnosed 9-year-old smiling. I couldn’t help but see myself in it and remember a photo from my 3rd birthday, before the diagnosis I was licking a lollipop. I can’t turn back time to save myself, but this bright, newly diagnosed girl has a chance to avoid everything I’ve been through. Parents these days have access to knowledge my parents could have only dreamed of, and a great online site community other parents and all of us elders to support them on this journey.