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A Day in the Life of a Type 1 Diabetic

In this video, YouTuber ‘Diabetic Danica’ shares a glimpse into her daily type 1 diabetes routine

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas makes little to no insulin. Its treatments include insulin therapy, blood sugar monitoring, dietary awareness, and exercise. Generally, symptoms include frequent urination, increased appetite, exhaustion, and vision issues.

Diagnosis is a journey

Danica was diagnosed when she was just 11 years old, a common age of diagnosis for type 1 diabetes. “It was a complete shock. I went into what I thought was a normal check-up, but my blood sugar was in the 500s.”

Note: Your blood sugar level is considered normal if two hours after eating it is less than 140 mg/dL. After fasting for eight hours, a normal blood sugar level would be between 70 and 99 mg/dL.

“I was sent home to pack a bag and told to head straight to the hospital. I spent the next 3 days inpatient at the hospital learning everything we had to know about living with and treating type 1 diabetes,” she explains.

That “normal check-up” was only scheduled because Danica casually mentioned to her grandmother, who was a nurse, that she’d urinated about seven times in one night. “That’s when my grandma suggested we make an appointment, and she was so right, because I had type 1 diabetes.”

Despite learning everything she could about type 1 diabetes, it was still a challenge, and it took a lot of getting used to. “My biggest struggle after diagnosis was the needles. I was terrified of them. On the way to our “check-up” I just kept asking my mom if I’d have to get a shot at this appointment. Ironic then that this is when I found out I’d need to poke myself every day for the rest of my life!” In fact, it took Danica over a year to give herself a shot, and she cried at every injection.

Beyond the physical, her diagnosis was emotionally challenging as well. “I remember wondering, ‘Why me?’ We didn’t know anyone with type 1 diabetes at the time, and I thought it was something only older people had.”

Danica had to seek therapy after diagnosis, especially to help her with needle phobia, and she encourages people to do the same. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out for professional help in addition to reaching out to family and friends for support. With any chronic illness, there is an effect on your mental health, especially when it takes so much work every day to manage it.”

Over the years, things got more routine for Danica. “It slowly turned into a passion of mine, I attended diabetes seminars, diabetes expos, diabetes camps, and joined diabetes message boards online.” Now, she helps others by busting diabetes myths and providing resources for moving past needle fear.

Managing type 1 diabetes takes planning and patience

Danica’s method of management has changed over time. At first, she was injecting herself with insulin and using fingersticks (devices that prick the skin to gain blood sugar information) several times per day. Today, she’s on an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor.

An insulin pump offers continuous delivery of insulin throughout the day, which replaces the need for multiple injections. It’s a small device that is worn on the outside of your body and delivers insulin.

“I still fingerstick once a day (before bed), but otherwise I rely on my continuous glucose monitor for blood sugar data and get my insulin through my pump,” she says. Management also means Danica counts every single carbohydrate that she eats. By doing so, she can adjust the insulin according to her needs.

When you eat carbohydrates, your digestive system breaks down the digestible carbs into sugar (or glucose). After eating, that glucose triggers the pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream. It then enters your body’s cells, where it is converted into energy. Without insulin, the sugar would simply sit in your bloodstream, which can cause all sorts of health concerns, such as hyperglycemia (when the blood sugar is too high) and other issues. Hypoglycemia, or blood sugar that is too low, is also a risk for diabetics.

Danica also has to plan her insulin around what her day looks like, as activity can cause low blood sugar. “Every day I take into account my activity level and need to plan ahead to adjust insulin to prevent low blood sugar with exercise.”

In order to get ahead of any diabetes-related complications, she has to be prepared at all times, keeping her insulin, infusion set, cartridge, syringes, blood glucose meter, test strips, lancet/lancing device, glucagon, snacks, and more on her person.

“I look at my blood sugar on my continuous glucose monitor throughout the day. I don’t even know how many times! I get alerts throughout the day on my blood sugar and what it is doing.” In fact, she says, there are 42 different things beyond medication, food, and exercise that can affect blood sugar.

“Diabetes is way more finicky than people realize. You could do everything exactly the same every day and get completely different blood sugar readings.”

Other things that affect blood sugar include:

  • Smoking
  • Menstruation
  • Meal timing
  • Over or under eating
  • Caffeine
  • Time of day
  • Stress

Take type 1 diabetes one day at a time

“I think it is important to take diabetes one day at a time,” Danica says. “Sometimes even one blood sugar at a time!”

When type 1 diabetes patients think about managing the condition for their entire lives, she says, it can be totally overwhelming. Her advice? “Focus on today’s blood sugars and doing the best you can today. If you get a crazy blood sugar reading, address the blood sugar right then, and try to move on, knowing that highs and lows are expected in diabetes and that you can continue to try your best for the next one.”

Just be sure to take note of any patterns or trends in your blood sugar readings, of course, she says. This can help you better identify how you need to tweak your management.

Community is key for diabetics

Danica’s positivity and generous insight are a breath of fresh air for viewers living with a sometimes-stressful chronic condition. Recently, Danica even won “Diabetes YouTube Personality of the Year” at the first ever Myabetic Diabetes Awards in Hollywood.

When Danica started sharing her story online, she realized that she was helping people. She made her first video, which was about type 1 diabetes misconceptions, because she felt that people had no real understanding of the condition. “Slowly I began to get comments about how much I was helping other people try new things in their diabetes management, or to just feel better about having diabetes, or to feel that they weren’t alone.”

This is why Danica stresses the importance of community. “There is just something about talking with someone who completely understands what living with type 1 diabetes is like. You can learn from each other, which is awesome, but even better than that, you can relate to each other.” She often finds that talking to others about the emotional and sometimes even comedic aspects of the condition still helps her get through it.

Life lessons from type 1 diabetes

Danica says the diagnosis definitely changed her childhood, and her life. “I do feel that diabetes caused me to have to be more responsible and prepared as a young person. I had to be more aware of my body and how I’m feeling, and more aware of the food I’m putting in my body in addition to the activities I’m doing, since all of it affects my blood sugar.”

These experiences and her positive attitude all help her help others. She wants other patients to know that, “They can have an amazing, full life with diabetes, and it doesn’t have to be something that keeps you down. Sure, there’ll be some more steps along the way to make sure you can do the things you want, but you can still do them, and thrive!”

For nearly a decade, Registered Nurse “Diabetic Danica” has been sharing her personal type 1 diabetes journey with the world via her YouTube channel, which boasts 40,000 subscribers. Approaching the topic with a light heart, her stories and insights cover the gamut: diabetes pump reviews, diabetes myths, getting over needle fear, and accidentally using too much insulin.

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