Admittedly I have become somewhat of an expert in the field of “parenting a child with type 1 diabetes”, out of necessity, of course. But it still amazes me how misunderstood type 1 is. I can’t believe how many people make comments about how Medium can’t eat sugar anymore, or how much healthier we are going to be eating now. But my personal favorite is the person who said, “Medium always did have a sweet tooth”, as if to imply that Medium did this to himself by eating too much sugar. It is hard not to get angry. I so wish that I could have prevented this somehow or that I could take it away from him or turn back the clock, but I can’t. No one can. Medium got this because he was genetically predisposed to it (his aunt has it, too). Then one day, while his immune system was busy fighting off some kind of cold/virus, it decided to also attack the islet cells that live on his pancreas and produce insulin. Type 1 (also called juvenile diabetes, but not as much anymore because adults can also get type 1) is an autoimmune disease. So, now he has hardly any islet cells left that are producing insulin. Without insulin, the carbohydrates that he eats (which turn into sugar) cannot get out of the bloodstream and into his cells where they can then be used for energy. The carbohydrates (sugars) stay in his blood and makes his blood sugar levels too high. Without sugar to use as energy, his body burns fat. As fat is burned it produces toxic acids called ketones which poison the body when present in large amounts. What happens next is bad, real bad. It is called diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA for short. DKA is a medical emergency. So, type 1 diabetics have to give themselves the insulin that their bodies do not produce. They give themselves fast-acting insulin with every meal based on how many grams of carbohydrates they are eating, (this is called a bolus) and they give themselves a slow-acting insulin once a day so they always have some insulin working in their body (this is called basal insulin). They constantly have to check their blood glucose levels to make sure they are in a safe range, because the wonderful, amazing bodies that God gave us know exactly how much insulin to produce to cover the foods we eat, but diabetics can only guess. So if a diabetic is managing his or her disease very closely, they are logging their blood sugars before and after meals and activity and logging how much insulin they are taking so they can find the right balance. And the extra fun thing about kids (*sarcasm warning*) is that as soon as you find a good balance, they have a growth spurt, or get sick or go through puberty (all things that affect blood sugar levels) and then you are back at square one, making adjustments. And a type 1 diabetic has to do this everyday, for the rest of their lives or until my prayers are answered and a cure is discovered.
Type 2 diabetes (also called non-insulin dependent or adult-onset diabetes) is very different. Type 2 diabetics still produce insulin, their bodies just do not use it correctly/efficiently, this is called insulin resistance. This is the most common form of diabetes and thus more people have heard of it and thus, thus people innocently confuse type 1 and type 2. Low activity level, poor diet and excess weight are risk factors, so in some type 2’s this was preventable. One of the biggest differences between type 1 and type 2 is that with a change in diet and exercise and lifestyle, type 2 can sometimes be curable. Type 1 has no cure. Type 2 diabetics can also sometimes manage their disease with just diet and exercise or a pill, no injections.
Whew! That was kind of long and boring. But while you are now half asleep, I feel better that I am doing my part to educate people. And after all, it’s all about me! Hee, hee. And, believe it or not, I have oh-so-much more that I could tell you about, but boring people with long-winded stories about sugar is actually my dad’s department. (Sorry dad! I just couldn’t resist! Love you!) (My dad has worked for a sugar company for more than 25 years and he likes to tell detailed stories about beets vs. cane sugar……zzzzzzz).
So if each of you would take what you learned here today and tell 2 people and then they each told 2 people, and so on and so on, then everyone in the world would understand what type 1 diabetes is and then I don’t have to get angry at anyone. Plus that would get us closer to a cure, too! Could you do that for me, please?