A diabetes diagnosis doesn't have to prevent you from living a full life.
When I was diagnosed with diabetes, it came as a shock to my family. I was seven years old at the time and my family knew very little about type 1 diabetes. Without the time for a learning curve, our knowledge had to be instant and permanent. It's been thirty-one years since my condition became a part of my life, and there are some things I wish I'd known back then.
It's Okay to Grieve
I was diagnosed as a child, so I don't have many memories of "life before diabetes," and for a while, I was angry. Many people affected by chronic illness go through a grieving process after their diagnosis, almost mourning the life they knew as they adapt to a new one. That's completely normal!
It's More Than Carbs
Blood sugar management isn't just about saying no to candy—it's also about understanding how food, exercise, hormones, and general wellness affect blood sugars . . . and finding a way to balance it all.
I Need to Be My Own Advocate
From doctor's appointments to phone calls with health insurance companies, people with diabetes need to be their own advocates. Plenty of people are experts in this field, but you are the expert in YOUR diabetes, and being an empowered patient means staying informed, speaking up, and advocating for yourself.
Food Is My Friend
Food is delicious, and eating should be fun! Instead of focusing on the restrictions, it's important to enjoy the things that you can eat and make the most out of your meals. Of course it's easy to reach for that cupcake at a party, but diabetes has taught me that food choices matter and they can influence my health long after the frosting has been licked away.
Exercise Is My Friend, Too
Even if you're not the most athletically-inclined person, exercise is awesome for people with diabetes. I'm not terrific at sports but I know exercise is important for my overall health, so I make time to go for walks with my kids or go on a run with a friend. Exercise helps me lower my blood sugar, boost my mood—and it helps my pants continue to fit. The influence of exercise on my health is excellent, and my body is better for it too.
We Are Not Alone
There are over 30 million people living with diabetes in the United States alone, and approximately 1.2 million of those people are living with type 1 diabetes. If you're living with diabetes of any kind, you are not alone. There are millions of people just like you who are doing the same blood sugar dance and who understand the triumphs and troubles of life with diabetes. Knowing there are others who can raise their hand and say, "me, too!" makes dealing with a health condition feel less lonely and more empowering.
Diabetes Is Not Just "Mine"
Because I was diagnosed as a kid, my health condition was a shared experience in my family, with my mother stepping in until I was old enough to take over. Diabetes doesn't just affect the person living with it, but everyone who loves that person as well. Now, as a married adult with kids, my health has become something my husband and children also live with. Their support is crucial.
That There Is Life after Diagnosis
A diagnosis can be jarring, but things do settle into a manageable pattern, and it will be okay. All those things you wanted to do? Travel? Fall in love? Be part of a family? Have a career? Raise children? Diabetes will not stop you. Even though living with it can be challenging, there is an amazing life to be found after diagnosis.
I wish I had understood all of this when I was diagnosed with diabetes, but 31 years later, I know it for sure.
by Kerri Sparling
Kerri Sparling has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1986, when she was diagnosed at the age of seven. She is an internationally recognized diabetes advocate. Kerri is the creator and author of Six Until Me, which she established in 2005 and which remains one of the most widely-read diabetes patient blogs, reaching a global audience of patients, caregivers, and others in the industry. She has been featured on NPR, US News and World Report, CBNC, Yahoo! Health, LA Times, and The Lancet, among other national outlets.
Mayo Clinic, Grief is a natural reaction to diabetes diagnosis
American Diabetes Association, Statistics About Diabetes
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.