As Oprah Winfrey says, "Everybody has a story. And there's something to be learned from every experience." That was never more true than in the Diabetes Community!

Today we're thrilled to hear from fellow type 1 Wil Wilbur in the Dallas-Forth Worth region of Texas, sharing his fascinating story of working as a professional culinologist who helps research all that goes into kitchen creations. Just recently, he's also joined the Diabetes Online Community with his blog, The Busted Pancreas.

 

On a Food Career and Joining the #DOC, by Wil Wilbur

My memory of my diagnosis is a bit foggy, as I was only 2.5 years old. It was 1991 and we lived in Boynton Beach, Florida, at the time. What I do remember is how I felt: My mom was home with me and I was sick. She was ironing, we were watching TV and I was in the fetal position on the couch with tears in my eyes. I could hardly stand up, and when I did it was only to run to the bathroom to throw up or pee. My father was at work, and after hours of my being violently ill, my mom took me to the hospital. All I remember is being at home at one moment and pulling up to the hospital the next moment. It was night time, and I was in the back seat. I can still see the lights from the front of the hospital entrance as we pulled up.

Next, I remember being in a hospital bed with nurses, doctors and my parents there. I had a catheter in (talk about a weird feeling as a 2-year old) and there are memories of disliking the food I was given. My mom stayed with me in the hospital for three weeks.

That was the beginning.

For the first 20-ish years of being old enough to be in charge, I did the minimal to take care of myself. I barely checked my blood sugars, didn’t give myself correct dosages of insulin (usually never enough) and I ate junk food all the time.

Luckily in my early childhood, my parents took care of me by making me check my sugar and helping me with I:C ratio calculations. In school, I was required to go to the nurse’s office to test my blood sugar for lunch and give myself a shot. If it weren’t for that, I probably would’ve never done it.

It wasn’t until high school that I really started getting bad. I probably checked my blood sugar on average once every three days (no joke). I drank 2-3 energy drinks a day, and ate fast food for ¾ of my meals. This habit didn’t get any better in college with the addition of alcohol and working 12-16 hour days on my feet. I didn’t want to think about my blood sugars, testing and calculating carbs. I wanted to be a kid... having fun, going to the movies with my girlfriend (now wife!) and hanging out with friends.

Insulin pumps were discussed, but I always refused. I never wanted a device attached to me, and especially a tube hanging off to get caught on things. I was perfectly fine with multiple daily injections... plus it meant that I could keep the fact that I was a diabetic as discreet as possible.

I was a young guy -- I thought I was invincible. You probably remember that time in your life, eh?

 

Finding an Insulin Pump, and Love

Out of college, and getting into a “real” job, I started thinking more like an adult. My fiance Molly wanted me to be healthier, and we started talking about options to get my blood sugars under control. Around that time my mom came to me one day with a pamphlet for the Omnipod insulin management system.

I was amazed. I had never seen an insulin pump without a tube hanging off it. The number one reason for not going to an insulin pump was now not an issue. Molly was all about it, no matter the cost. She knew that it would make taking care of myself easier and help keep me alive longer.

Within hours I think I called Insulet (makers of the Omnipod) and started the process of getting that insulin pump. I have now been on the Omnipod system for about six years. I couldn’t imagine being on any other pump. I’ve even had to go back to multiple daily injections for short periods of time, and the Omnipod is still a life-saver. Now, I’m just waiting on them to create an app to control insulin delivery from your smartphone!

It has been the first step in taking better care of myself, by giving myself insulin and in more correct doses than the previous 10 years. I still wasn’t doing everything I needed though (like testing my sugar often enough).

 

A Food Technologist with Diabetes?

By trade, working in the food industry, as a food technologist or culinologist -- which essentially means I get to play with food for my job!

It all started in high school and wanting to be in a “easy” class with my girlfriend. She registered for a “hospitality services” class at an off-site campus, so I chose that class too. Then I realized that I loved being in the kitchen, especially after an internship at a Marriott hotel in Dallas.

Ever since then, at age 15, I've been in the hospitality industry.

I’ve loved food, cooking it and especially eating it, alll my life. I remember going to diners as a kid, loving the quick greasy food. As soon as I could, I was cooking the pancakes at home on Sunday mornings.

Soon I evolved from eating at diners for breakfast as a kid, to culinary school (instead of nursing school... but that’s another story!) and into the food manufacturing world via a Culinary Science program.

Once I started working in professional kitchens, I found out that I truly enjoyed it. Time went by fast, it was fun and I never considered it to be a job. I knew in high school that I wanted to go to Culinary School, and own my own restaurant one day.

Throughout Culinary School, I learned about the food manufacturing industry and was then motivated to continue my degree to get a full Culinary Science degree. This combined my culinary background with food science and led to an internship at the company that I’m still at today. I’ve worked on the science side, in sales and have moved over into full-time culinary. My role now is a Research Chef, with the task of researching, traveling (sometimes around the world) and eating various cuisines in order to bring future trends to our customers.

You may think, how does a diabetic do it... eat and play with food for a living?

Lots of calculations, a ton of insulin (at times) and moderation. We all do plenty of calculations, and I may use quite a bit of insulin when we’re out eating at 10+ restaurants a day, but most importantly I have to employ moderation. Take a bite, or two of each dish and move on. This saves my stomach as well as my total food intake to bolus for!

A trick I do is to get some extra insulin pens to supplement my pump when on these food frenzies. That way I don’t use up all the insulin in my Omnipod in less than 24 hours (yes, I’ve used more than 200 units of insulin in less than 24 hours).

Most days don’t consist of these excessive amount of restaurant visits and food, but it does happen a few times a year. This is partly why I wanted to become more involved in the DOC -- to become more responsible as an individual PWD (person with diabetes) and be generally more engaged in my health.

 

A New Diabetes Beginning + Blog

So here I am in my last year of my 20s, driven to get more involved and help support this Diabetes Community.

In many ways, it feels like I'm really just starting my life with diabetes and finding the kind of peer support that I'd never really had growing up.

It was in late 2017 that I made a decision to start pushing myself in a new direction, to be healthier in general and start this new path in diabetes. This may have stemmed from my wife and I having our first kid in December 2016, or just becoming more of an adult and moving into that “old married couple” train of thought... LOL. Either way, it was time that I made a change, but I knew I'd need the help and support of my family.

For my birthday present last year, I asked my wife Molly for the permission to start my own diabetes blog. This included a paid website, a logo design, email marketing tool and the time to be able to do it. Immediately she told me that it was a wonderful idea and supported me. (She actually came up with the name 'Busted Pancreas' - thanks babe!). My small daughter is a big inspiration for doing this too (although she doesn’t realize it yet), and all of our family members have been tremendously supportive.

So in November 2017, I started The Busted Pancreas blog.

Along with it, came Instagram as my main social media outlet along with Facebook and Twitter, and periodically some Pinterest and LinkedIn action.

My initial goal and drive for doing this was (and still is) to be a bigger part of the D-community, both in-person and online. Since I’ve barely taken care of myself over the last 26-ish years, I figured it was time that I get my own act together and also try to help others who struggle with this lifelong disease.

Since starting this, I've been building more of an online presence and on social media and have begun attending JDRF and other local T1-related events locally in my area. Right now, it is crazy-busy but time has been set aside each week to keep writing, keep posting and communicating with others on my social media accounts. In person, I look forward to meeting more T1D’s in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and becoming friends!

Growing up, I never had other friends with diabetes, and I want this community to see how big we truly are as well as friendly and supportive.

As far as advocacy, I am learning... I want to get more involved in the community, to help host events and participate in diabetes organizations. All of it's aimed at ultimately making a positive difference for those with diabetes.

 

Thanks for sharing, Wil! We love to see the empowering message that PWDs can have any career they choose (event a food-laden one). And we love to see new folks get "woke" on diabetes connections and advocacy, of course!

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