Janice was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 29. In the 15 years since her diagnosis, she has learned to thrive with the disease and developed her own personal method for managing it.
Imagine your life is close to perfect. You have two wonderful kids. You are fit and healthy. Then one day you are driving to work and a staggering fatigue overcomes you. You have to pull over and sleep, just rest a while before you continue on to work. It happens again and again. Then other symptoms appear: Your eyesight begins to wane, your thirst is insatiable and the sleepiness remains a constant.
This was Janice’s story. At 29 years old, after two pregnancies with no complications or health issues, she was diagnosed with T Type 1 diabetes. “It was shocking. Really,” Janice recalls. “It just seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.”
Janice had never really given any thought to T Type 1 diabetes, nor did she know anyone who was living with the condition. Even though she was shocked by the diagnosis, Janice’s first thoughts were positive.
She thought, “I had two kids to raise; my daughter wasn’t even a year old. And I thought that if I had to stand in line for a disease, diabetes would be a darn good line to get in. It means one part of your body has stopped functioning. We are not talking about a heart, not talking about a leg. We are talking about something that you can pick up the work for.”
And Janice has continued to work at it for the last 15 years. Now a full-time student pursuing an art therapy degree, Janice continues to stay positive and is constantly learning new ways to control her diabetes. “If you are willing to work at it and take over, it is more responsibility; it is more work, but completely doable on anybody’s normal day,” Janice adds. “You can live as long a life as the majority of people.”
5 Tips for Thriving with Diabetes
Who better to offer tips about living with diabetes other than a diabetic
- Keep educating yourself about the disease. “Understanding the disease, going to the library and reading books, and even going back after a span of time to learn what is new may provide new insights or some new little tweak on how to manage your diabetes. I just go hang out at Barnes & Noble, read what’s out, come up with some tips and try them on to see if they work for me.”
- Continue to work at it. “A Renown doctor told me that blood sugar is like a pendulum. I found this advice extremely helpful. He explained that there are many factors involved in keeping your blood sugar under control. You want to keep the pendulum swing balancing back and forth. But the pendulum is inevitably going to swing out of balance. We can try and do our best, but things come up — illness or big dinners. It’s the nature of being a human being.For instance, I can drive to T.J. Maxx, and I don’t have to be vigilant because I know exactly where I’m going. If I’m going to drive to Los Angeles, it’s riskier waters. Other things are going on and I need to be more vigilant. Same with a pendulum. It swings. And the farther it swings in one direction, the more danger I’m in and I need to be aware and take corrective actions.”
- Listen to your body. “I do the very best when I listen to my body and I’m vigilant to what my body says. I think having diabetes has taught me to be extremely connected with my physical body in a way I don’t think most people are. I do a mental body scan. I ask myself a series of questions to determine how I am feeling.For instance, I ask myself, Do I feel thirsty? Do I feel jittery? Did I go to IHOP or Denny’s today? These are the little tests I do to check in and see how I feel and determine if I need to test myself. The doctors say to test all the time, but remembering and listening to your body is just as important. It doesn’t take the place of testing, but it’s a very good prompt.”
- Find an exercise regimen that works for you. “I’ve found that if I exercise earlier in the day I seem to process carbohydrates more efficiently. Also, if I eat a big meal I go for a walk. For me, it reduces the pendulum swinging. Daily exercise is really hard, but try it and see if your body doesn’t start to process carbohydrates more efficiently.Exercise also helps your blood move the insulin through your system throughout the day. Exercise strengthens your system and enables your body to process carbohydrates better all day. It’s difficult, but once you get into the swing of it, it’s doable.”
- Keep it in perspective: “There are very few things you can’t do. It’s just that more work is involved. For the most part, this is not something that is really going to change your health habits. It’s going to change how you relate to your body, but it should not change anything. And that’s pretty good for a disease. That’s pretty darn good in my opinion.