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Diabetes in Middle School “is hard” – Guest Columnist Talia Sanford

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Diabetes in Middle School “is hard” – Guest Columnist Talia Sanford

-courtesy photo Legacy Studios

-courtesy photo Legacy Studios

-courtesy photo Legacy Studios

LeopardLife Talia Sanford, Special to LeopardLife

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Editor’s Note – On December 20, 2006, the United Nations (UN) passed a resolution to designate November 14 as World Diabetes Day. The occasion aimed to raise awareness of diabetes, its prevention and complications and the care that people with the condition need.  LeopardLife editorial board opted to feature a student voice to share awareness most effectively. 

        I’ll be honest.  Having type one diabetes in middle school is hard. Not only do I have to worry about the things that all the other middle schoolers must deal with, but I worry about things people don’t normally think about as much on top of that. I must worry about the doctors, the other kids, the adults, the medicine, the lows, the highs. . .  You get the picture.

        To start off I will explain a little about diabetes. There are two types of diabetes: type one and type two. Type one is often known as juvenile diabetes because it is normally what kids get.  I have type one diabetes. Type one diabetics have a pancreas that doesn’t work.  It doesn’t produce insulin.  Type two diabetics tend not to be able to use the insulin that they have.  Type two can often control their illness with diet and/or medication.  Type one diabetics can’t.  If they don’t take insulin, they will not be able to process sugar and would ultimately die.

       I have Type  1 diabetes because I have an auto-immune disease.  It attacked my thyroid first.  Then, I got sick and it killed my pancreas.  My pancreas doesn’t produce insulin anymore, and, as you probably understand from what I said just a moment ago, insulin is something that you really want to have. So, the only way to get it?  Yup.  A shot.  I take shots in my legs, arms, and on my stomach. I give myself these shots every day – at night and every time I eat.  It is simply necessary in order to turn the food I eat into energy instead of letting it sit in my bloodstream, ultimately as poison.  The good thing is that insulin works really well, and once you get used to taking the shots, you can be pretty much normal.  

        So, what else is different?  I go to the doctors a lot more than ordinary people. Again.  I’ll be honest.  Doctors can be highly annoying.  They always have something you could be doing better.  They try really hard, but they often don’t understand what you are feeling. Sometimes the books just aren’t the same as living it.

        Want to know another thing that is annoying?  The diabetic jokes.  Whether they are next to me or across the room, it’s rather offensive.  I sit there and wonder why they make jokes about serious illnesses.  And even worse?  When anyone learns that I have diabetes they almost always say something like, “Oh my grandma has diabetes”. People think just because I have type one diabetes I can be compared to your grandparents with type two. I will tell you this now pretty much the only thing they have in common is that they are both caused because of your pancreas.

        Practically speaking, type one diabetes is about the highs and the lows.  You will likely never know that I have a high.  I’ll do an insulin correction, and you may or may not even notice.  Over the long term, highs can be harmful to a body, so it is really important for me to take care of it, but it isn’t obvious to others.  The lows are what you see.  That is when a person gets a little fuzzy, feels bad, gets shaky, many other symptoms.  That’s when I pop some candy or grab some juice. That means multiple tests (unless I have my continuous glucose monitor on).  If all goes well, I feel better after about 15 minutes.  If I don’t take candy?  Well, that’s not a good thing.

            When you understand all of this, the medicine isn’t as big of a deal.  However, most people really focus on that part of the disease.  I’ll admit it, it is the most annoying part of diabetes. I wake up I poke my finger to test my blood sugar. If I am “High” I take extra insulin with a shot. If I am “Low” I get to drink a juice box (The only thing I can drink is water, unsweet tea, diet sodas, and other sugar free drinks). If I am not high or low I am “In Range” I can just go on with my day. Then when I want to eat I calculate how many carbohydrates I ate and “dose” with insulin. I do that any time I want to eat anything, feel shaky, go to bed, or exercise. I probably take about anywhere from five to seven shots a day, and I test about four to seven times a day. It gets to be very annoying to do this all day every day.

         So keeping in mind that I have to think about all of these things, it is interesting how other people react.  There are only three kinds of people once they know that you have diabetes. The first is the kind any time a hair is out of place they come running to make sure you are fine. It really is nice that they want to help, but it is already hard to feel “normal” and when they do this it can make it harder. The second kind is the kind that think they know all about what you know you are dealing with, and they rarely ever do. They give advice on how to live, or think or say that diabetes can be “fixed” with enough effort. Remember, type one isn’t about bad health behaviors.  It’s about an organ that doesn’t work.  The last and my favorite type of person is the kind that don’t make a big deal of it, but if they notice you need something they will help if you ask.   My guess is that this is how most people with something different about them feel.  Maybe we should all try to be a bit more of that third person. . .

       

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Diabetes in Middle School “is hard” – Guest Columnist Talia Sanford