Monday, November 17, 2014

Women with Type 1 Diabetes

On Saturday morning I was up and on the highway before the sun came up. I was in Cambridge Ontario before 8am and had my laptop and speakers connected before 8:15am.

By 9am, the room was full of women with type 1 diabetes. Some had their pumps out for all to see. Others showed no visible sign of a pancreas malfunction but the fact that they were there bright and early on a Saturday morning leads one to assume...

I wasn't scheduled to speak until just before lunch so I listened to the speakers who went before me. All medical professionals. All with important and helpful information geared specifically for women. Pregnancy, stress, menstruation, menopause, exercise and all sorts of other fun things designed to wreak havoc on blood sugar numbers.

When it was my turn to speak, I told my story. I talked about being a person first. A person with diabetes second. I talked about the emotional roller coaster that comes with being diagnosed as an adult, the challenge of trying to go back to the life I had before diagnosis and the day that changed everything. The day that I decided to become a runner.

I made sure that I talked about how running, or any other kind of exercise, is possible if you break it down into small and manageable steps. I made sure I talked about how I was not some super-athlete. That I was just a regular girl who started small and build my strength to the point where I could stand up in front of a room full of people and announce that I ran half-marathons and did triathlons for fun. I made sure I talked about the Diabetes Online Community and the difference that finding that community made.

Afterwards, several women came up to speak with me.

I met a woman who was diagnosed at 12. She is 60 now meaning that she's had type 1 for 48 years. She looked fabulous and strong and she talked about how important it was to be tough when facing type 1 diabetes. She asked me if I would come speak to the people with type 1 in her area. I accepted immediately.

I met a woman who had been diagnosed just a few years ago. They caught it early enough that she didn't have to go on a full-blown insulin regime right away. Instead, she is living with the knowledge that her beta cells are slowly shutting down and that she will find herself on a pump in the not too distant future. She and I talked about the emotional challenge of being diagnosed as an adult. We can remember what our lives were like before. Our partners and our families remember the way we were before. And our eyes welled up as we both found solace in the fact that we understood what the other person was going through. We are no longer the people we were before. She is still mourning that loss and I tried to find the words to tell her that it would be ok. And that she would find the courage to face the road ahead and come out stronger on the other side.

I met another women diagnosed as an adult who said she was shocked when I started talking and she started crying. "I didn't realize until today how important it was for me to know that there are people out there who really understand what I'm going through."

I met a women who had a baby not that long ago. She talked about how she too was misdiagnosed in the beginning. I was told I had type 2. She was told she had depression and prescribed anti-depressants instead of insulin.

It was an emotional event for me and for many of the women there. Not sad emotional though. Good emotional. The kind where you leave feeling better for having had the experience.

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