A bit about me. I have lived without diabetes for 29 years. These 29 years were filled with all types of adventures – I lived on 4 different continents, I have travelled the world quite extensively, tried different types of sports and activities, lots of different types of food, worked in a bunch of different sectors, I speak 6 languages. And… I have never met a Type 1 diabetic in all this time and had zero knowledge about type 1 diabetes or diabetes in general.
So when I started having weird symptoms in July 2020, a few months after recovering from COVID, I did not pay too much attention to those. I have always been quite healthy and could never even imagine what it would turn out to be.
This year hit started with extreme thirst, then digestion and period issues, finally inability to walk, or stand up from my bed, along with a constant mental fog. Did I go to a doctor? Yes, I went to the gastroenterologist, as I thought it was probably some stomach bug. They did not even take a blood test, said everything was fine and just gave me a bunch of pills and meds to take to improve my digestion. Needless to say, it did not help, and probably even made matters worse. I also went to the dentist because of the dryness in the mouth, and they gave me some ointment to use. I went to a general practitioner, who also did not take my blood test, just looked at me, laughed and said ‘you are fine, just look too skinny, are you anorexic, eat more’. And yeah, I have lost 10 kg (about 22 pounds) in a couple of weeks, I looked extremely skinny. Finally, my mom practically forced me to go do a blood test in a private clinic, where you did not need to have any referral from a GP. And what do you think, turns out I was in a severe DKA, with BGLs about 33 mmol, and HBA1C of 17%.
I got to the hospital where I have started to receive insulin therapy, but even there I encountered medical negligence. Carbs were not properly counted, and veggies were not even considered carbs. Insulin doses were minimal, with me never reaching a normal BGL range. I have started researching everything related to diabetes by myself. I was reading up everything I could find, started following diabetes accounts on Instagram, learnt to count carbs, learnt so much about nutrition. I always strived to eat healthily, all my life, absolutely avoiding refined carbs, but discovered there is so much more to healthy nutrition and lifestyle besides that.
I am not going to lie, when I was just diagnosed, I thought my life was over. As I mentioned, I have always lived a very active and spontaneous life, so it was extremely overwhelming to start planning and thinking ahead about everything that goes into diabetes management – supplies, storage, transportation, etc. But I can still dance, work, travel, do anything else a person without diabetes can do.
Yes, my life has changed, but I am grateful to be alive. 100 years ago people were dying from DKA in a matter of days and weeks, and we have been given a second chance at life, a chance to make a change, raise awareness about this condition, and seriously, just enjoy our lives and appreciate every single day, as we know how fragile life is.
I am also glad to say that so far the diabetics I met in real life and on social media (which haven’t been too many yet), are some of the most compassionate and kind people I have ever met. This condition changes you as a person, but definitely in a good way.
So my message to you is: Do not give up, let’s normalize diabetes together, let’s raise awareness and support each other, let’s make the lives of current diabetics better, and make it easier for future diabetics.
Hi! My name is Jen. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in August 2020, during the pandemic, at the age of 29. Soon will be my first diaversary! I love talking about diabetes and raising awareness, also I love dancing, meeting new people and travelling. Follow my journey at @betacell.farewell and don’t be shy to DM me for a chat 🙂