Although type 2s make up the majority of people with diabetes, they're actually the minority of diabetes bloggers. At the 'Mine, we're always mindful of bridging the gap between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes and working to dispel some myths and misconceptions, so we've invited several type 2 bloggers to share their stories and experiences with us here.
We met Ronnie Gregory, author of The Poor Diabetic blog, at the Roche Diabetes Social Media Summit this summer, where he was just one of a handful of T2 bloggers represented. Ronnie lives in Cleveland, OH, with his family and was diagnosed in 1999. In Ronnie's case, he is very trim and athletic, cracking the stereotype that all T2 diabetics are overweight. In fact, it was Ronnie's passion for cycling and involvement with the ADA Tour de Cure that led to him meet a type 1 diabetic who changed the way he viewed his life with diabetes. Read on...
A Guest Post by Ronnie Gregory
Philosophically, I believe that we are all coping with diabetes. Type 1's, Type 1.5's, Type 2's: we are woven from the same cloth. Writing about our differences, however miniscule they are, kind of makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable.
As I thought about writing this blog post, I came to a realization that one of my recent confounding insights into diabetes has come from a new but dear friend who has type 1 diabetes. I felt this would be a good topic to share with you because it made me put my own diabetes challenges and management into perspective.
First let me offer a little background information about myself:
At diagnosis, I was placed on insulin right away, but I had such a hard time with my diabetes management — mainly because I have a phobia of needles. I fought and clawed my way into getting off insulin and stayed on only oral meds until the winter of 2009 when, due to circumstances that I can never put my finger on, the Metformin I was taking became virtually ineffective.
Over the course of a few months, my doctor and I tried a few things, like doubling my dosage trying out other oral meds. But I realized that my best option was just to go back on insulin, which I did and I have never been happier. My diabetes management is now back on course.
This year at the Northeast Ohio Tour de Cure ride, I met a guy named Joe, who in the coming months would become a great friend. He and I are avid cyclists, so we have formed a bond over that. We ride practically every day together, so I have come to know him quite well.
Our stories, however, are the epitome of diverse, and not just because he has type 1 diabetes.
Joe has been a type 1 PWD for 27 years. He was diagnosed at age 3 and he has been approved for a pancreas transplant (he's on the waiting list). In the past two years, Joe has been in and out of emergency rooms and missed work 81 times due to his high blood sugars. A few years ago he had to be admitted to a psychiatric ward because he got so depressed that he wasn't able to get his blood sugars under control and his parents got scared that he was suicidal.
He has been on the pump, but that didn't work so well. He told me that he was denied the CGM by his insurance company. From my description, you might think that this guy has little or no control over his diabetes management. You would be right, but it is not for a lack of trying. I have been there countless times when his sugars will be normal before a ride and then haywire-high after. It's not as if his diet consists of pure carbs, either. He eats fewer carbs a day than I do, and I average less than 50 grams a day.
I had never actually seen a meter say HI after a test since my diagnosis, but I have seen it on his meter more times than I care to count in the last few months. We will be on a three-hour ride and his sugars are still easily in the 300s or 400s. Or I have seen them go as low as mid 30s, which honestly scares the heck out of me sometimes.
Like you, at first I thought he was doing something wrong with his diabetes management. It was the only explanation I could come up with at the time. But after spending time with him, I saw that he was trying just as hard — if not harder — to control his blood sugars than I did. But nothing seems to be working effectively. Thus the pancreas transplant.
Truthfully, I have on more than one occasion whined about having diabetes and this story does not by any means present as the diabetes litmus test. I know the prevailing wisdom — warranted or not — is that life with type 2 diabetes is "easier" to manage than with than type 1. After meeting Joe, I would be hard pressed to argue with anyone. But I believe we are all coping with the massive weight of diabetes and we all have a unique and diverse story to tell about how we manage it.
It's often said that you can never tell how bad things are until you walk in someone else's shoes. Yet I can't help but compare my friend's life with diabetes to my own, and I inevitably conclude that I might have it just a little bit easier. Am I wrong in thinking this way?
Before I met Joe, I had no idea what diabetes management was like for a type 1. I have many friends in the diabetes online community, but the only other type 1 whom I had dealt with extensively was my son's fourth grade teacher, and that was just during PTA and other school activities. The experience with Joe has really created a new-found appreciation of what diabetes is like for a type 1 and in the process dispelled some misconceptions we both had coming in.
For example, I always assumed that diet restrictions are more emphatic for a type 2 on oral medications, because with insulin, one can easily bolus for carb adjustments. Because of my suggestions and influence, Joe's carb restrictions are now tighter than mine.
Ours might be a unique case because our daily struggles to corral blood sugars have inadvertently caused us to form a strong team dynamic. We work out together, motivate each other, bounce ideas off each other, share and analyze information, tweak our diabetes management plans and have overall formed a very close friendship.
If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that buried in the belief that there is no cookie-cutter answer to managing diabetes (type 1 or type 2), is the idea that we need to form relationships with other diabetics, both type 1s and type 2s, in order to fully appreciate what living with diabetes means.
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We think this is a great reminder that the power of the DOC is our diversity, and that we all have our own unique ways of doing things; maybe someone's life or strategy will inspire you to try something different.
Speaking of different types of diabetes, note that this coming Monday, Oct. 17, marks the beginning of LADA Awareness Week, a time to learn about and reflect on Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults — the type that turned my life upside-down! Click the image below for more info.