Another amazing email from one more amazing reader! Maureen has been a Type 1 for eight years now, and admits that she did a terrible job taking care of herself for a long time. "I had the typical reactions everyone else does -- crap...why me...this sucks...goodbye... anything chocolate-peanut butter...," she says. But after one of her routine tests came up abnormal, she was asked to attend a seminar at a local hospital, which ended up being a huge turning point in her life. Well..., let's let her tell it like it was:
I was your typical not-so-popular teenager, struggling to make the grades and friends when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I already had a bad attitude and a rather dreary outlook on life, and this, in my mind, only proved my point that life was hopeless. It was the week before Thanksgiving (what timing...) my freshman year of High School.
I grew up with no friends with the disease and I had nobody to talk to. My doctor recommended that I go to the ADA Youth Retreat during the summer and try to meet some other kids my own age who also had the disease. I turned her down thinking that what I'd really like to do is ignore my "freakish" problem and try to fit in with everybody else. So I took my shots and monitored my glucose but cared little about what the numbers were and what I ate.
I took my annual microalbumin test and it came back abnormal...my kidneys seemed to already be having problems so I had to be put on some medication... but... I didn't care much and I didn't remember to take it every day. My A1C at that time was 8.4... and yet I didn't really know what that meant because ignoring my disease was my number one priority. Then my Freshman year of College I took a Nutrition class just to fill a science requirement, and we did discuss Diabetes but I didn't care.
Then, two years ago, a friend of our family who works at a local hospital here, asked me to go to a seminar about counting carbohydrates. While part of me said "Again? Don't you know this stuff already?" another part of me felt it was important to go...maybe learn something new. So I did go and I learned a good deal, but the most important part of that visit was I met a couple guys my own age, who went to college here. And they've both done amazing things with their lives as well. While both of them have had difficulty at times controlling their sugars, they didn't let it hold them back and neither of them were experiencing the problems I was because they took care of themselves. That snapped me to reality. I have diabetes...it doesn't have me.
I've since been studying nutrition and it's opened so many doors for me, both in potential career opportunities, and opportunities to share what I do know with other people, such as at the ADA Youth retreat and the Walk for the Cure last year.
But this turn-around wasn't only in my field of study... My last A1C was 6.1 and my microalbumin tests came back normal after I started taking my meds on a daily basis.
I want more than anything to be a diabetes educator and talk especially with teens and kids. It's scary being diagnosed with this disease and I had nobody to talk to except my doctor. I think what they all need to know is that diabetes isn't a death sentence...it can be a chance at a new life.
-- Maureen S.
Best of luck, Maureen. You sound like you'll be just the kind of CDE we're all looking for.