It's National Diabetes Month

by Nicole Viau, Health Promotion & Communication Specialist, City of Nashua Division of Public Health & Community Services

November is National Diabetes Month, a time when communities across the country team up to bring attention to diabetes. This year’s focus is on taking care of youth who have diabetes. Diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions in school-age youth in the United States, affecting about 193,000 youth under 20 years old. Regardless of their age, sometimes youth who have diabetes need support with their diabetes care. That’s why it’s important to help your child or teen develop a plan to manage diabetes, and work with their health care team to adjust the diabetes self-care plan as needed. We encourage you to visit the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) for more information.

To learn more about diabetes and how it affects youth, Nicole Viau, Health Promotion and Communication Specialist at the Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services, interviewed her colleague Marle Duarte Canela, Public Health Nurse.

Q: What type of diabetes do you have?

A: I have Type One Diabetes; Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus

Q: How long have you had diabetes?

A: I have had diabetes for 13 years since 2007.

Q: How do you manage your diabetes as a young adult with an active lifestyle?

A: I manage my diabetes as a young adult with an active lifestyle by appreciating the amount of self-control it has given me. I try to be consistent with my care. I changed my diet to become vegetarian in 2017 and I have seen a lot of changes with my health in positive ways. I am now a pescatarian and try to consume as much protein as possible in my everyday meal.

Diabetes has not affected my active lifestyle as much, and if it does, I usually have a juice box in hand or my friends have snacks on them to help treat low blood sugar. Mostly everyone that I interact with are aware of my condition and one way or another actively take part in it, which I feel lucky about.

I grew up doing gymnastics, cheerleading, and track as a diabetic. I love hiking, going on walks or runs, and biking. I always make sure to carry a juice box inside of my fanny pack just in case my blood sugar starts to trend down.
I currently use an insulin pump, which has allowed me to better manage my care and follow daily trends of my blood sugars. Dexcom CGM is integrated into my pump, T-Slim x2. I also have an app on my phone where it can alert me if my blood sugar is dropping or rising. I am also able to share this data with loved ones.

Q: What is the hardest part of living with diabetes?

A: There are many hardships when living with diabetes. Some of mine include having to wake up in the middle of the night with a low blood sugar or waking up with a high blood sugar and feeling your insulin pump vibrating to correct this. I am sensitive with my levels. What I mean by this is that I feel my symptoms right away. I feel a low generally at 80 mg/dL with shakiness or sweatiness. I would feel my high blood sugar at around the 180s to early 200s with a headache or pinkish, warm cheeks. The ups and downs are tough and cause stress especially when you are full or tired. Growing up right now I feel that as I think of a family in the future I question if my children will be born with diabetes.

One of the hardest things for me living with diabetes before caring for my diabetes via insulin pump was having to check my blood sugar or give myself insulin in public places. I used to hate using an insulin vial and syringe because a couple of times I have been asked “You do drugs?” by either a syringe falling out of my bag or trying to pull out my medications after eating and having to rush to a private area to administer it. It used to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed, but I know that in general I can’t live without this “drug.”

There was a point in my life where I did not have health insurance for more than three months. I feared the thought of running out of insulin that I would stop eating. I even drank more water and would work out to drop my blood sugar levels. With high blood sugar it is not only the symptoms that bother you from hyperglycemia but the complications it can cause.

Q: Has living with diabetes affected your life in a positive way?

A: Life with diabetes has affected me in many ways, as funny as that sounds. It allowed me to become interested in body functions by asking myself “Why doesn’t my pancreas work?”, “What kind of stuff can I eat at a certain time that won’t make my blood sugar crazy?” “What happens if ...” even after 13 years I still ask “what if” questions because my diet and activity change on a daily basis. I became a registered nurse because of my diabetes. This was not my dream job when I was younger as I hoped to join the military until I found out that diabetics cannot join, which I completely understand now that I am older. I better care of myself and make better diet decisions. I am able to educate people who are unaware of the different types of diabetes or in general how to manage it.

Q: What do you wish people understood about diabetes?

A: What I wish people understood is:

  • You do not get diabetes by only eating foods that contain a high amount of sugar!
  • Diet and exercise is very important with blood sugar management. What you eat during the day you might not be able to eat at night. In real life it is not only just about your diet and exercise; your lifestyle has a lot to do with care management including your mood, especially stress.
  • Insulin is expensive and is not the only way to manage this disease.
  • Having diabetes does not mean you can't eat ice cream; moderation is important with your diet.
  • There are different types of diabetes, and you can be diagnosed at any given point. With type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes, the key point is prevention.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone living with diabetes?

A: The best piece of advice I can give to someone living with diabetes is that it does not control you. I have learned so much self-control as a diabetic by the many different decisions that I have to make every day. Yes, it can be a roller coaster at times, but once you have control over it, you will know what to do and how to do it. Self-love and self-care is very important in this type of management.

Photo by Kate on Unsplash.

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