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Angela A. was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was just 11. More than three decades later, she still remembers the night she was diagnosed.
“The weeks leading up to my diagnosis were a scary time,” she says. “I remember drinking liquids constantly and using the restroom a lot. My family lived in South Louisiana, though, so my parents just thought I was thirsty because it was hot.”
No one in Angela’s family was a diabetic, so the disease wasn’t on anyone’s radar. It wasn’t until an observant babysitter noticed Angela looked like she was losing a lot of weight and mentioned it to her mom.
When they weighed Angela, the scale showed she had lost 20 pounds in less than two weeks.
“My parents immediately took me to the ER,” Angela says. “My blood sugar was 800. The doctors said if I had gone one more day without treatment, I would have been in a coma.”
Angela was admitted to the pediatric ICU, and her journey with diabetes began.
“My endocrinologist taught me how to give myself insulin shots by letting me give her saline shots,” she remembers. “Before then, I struggled with giving myself injections.”
Three insulin shots a day were the norm for the first few years after Angela’s diagnosis. Despite the daily needle pricks, she found a surprising upside to her disease.
“I got to eat snacks in class when no one else was allowed to have food. All the teachers paid special attention to me. And I got to go to a summer camp for kids with diabetes. I was happy. Everything was good.”
Things changed when Angela entered high school. Suddenly, she didn’t like standing out from everyone else.
“Every time I ate, I had to go to the restroom to check my blood sugar and give myself an insulin shot,” she explains. “I didn’t get to eat all the foods everyone else was eating. There were never any diet drinks or sugar-free foods at school events or the parties I was invited to. I felt left out and started questioning, ‘Why me?’ Why did I have to be the one with a chronic condition that wasn’t curable?”
Angela credits her supportive parents and faith for getting through that difficult time.
“I finally reached a place where I accepted my diagnosis,” she admits. “I realized that God had a purpose for me and that my diabetes could be used in a positive way. My diagnosis taught me how to deal with tough situations – which would shape my life forever.”
After a while, Angela’s perspective changed from worrying about health limits to embracing possibilities. When the insulin pump showed up on the scene, managing her blood sugar became much simpler and gave her more freedom.
“When I need insulin now, I just push a button,” she explains. “And if I don’t eat, I don’t have to take insulin at all because the pump provides a constant stream of insulin all day long – just like a healthy, working pancreas. My pump settings and insulin dose and dosing times are all personalized to me.”
So, what does Angela’s diabetic life look like today?
“I don’t do everything perfectly, but I try to manage my diabetes well,” she says. “There are times when I don’t check my blood sugar as often as I should, but I am faithful about attending all my endocrinologist appointments every three months to monitor my HbA1c results. They average 6.8 – which anything less than 7, my doctor says, is good for someone with Type I diabetes like me.
“I get an annual eye exam, exercise at the gym at least 2 days a week for 1½ hours each time, and try to eat healthy most of the time. Other than having three premature babies – who were all healthy despite being born early – I haven’t had any complications related to my diabetes.”
Angela admits there are a few days when she still asks, “Why me?”
“I remind myself to not get discouraged because I have a chronic condition. By living in the healthiest way possible, I can encourage others through my experience. Diabetes doesn’t define who I am. Instead, it has contributed to the person I have become.”
Originally published 10/9/2017; Revised 2022
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