Throughout life as a diabetic we get to meet others who are new to the condition. The newness can be overwhelming, scary, and damn right unfair. This overview is designed not to make everything rosy again, but to give some tips and confidence to those off us “new to the club”, whether it be as a care giver or an actual patient.
So, take a deep breath (breath in …… breath out- I know you are feeling better already) as we explore
I have just been diagnosed with Diabetes – What Now?
Well it never hurts to have too many deep breaths, so take another couple.
1. You are going to go through stages
When dealing with challenges in life, there are always stages of emotions that people go through. There is disbelief, followed by anger, then sorrow, until life returns to normal. Don’t feel bad for any of these emotions, it is completely normal. The trick is to wade through each one, and not get stuck.
2.Diabetes is not a death sentence
The average life expectancy of type 1 diabetics is significantly greater now. The good news for you, is that the life expectancy is from populations that did not have access to the modern medicine or understanding of the disease that we have today. Good control and a healthy lifestyle could actually mean in the future that diabetics can expect a longer life than those without it. The key is to have good control (if you are feel like reading more on this, I wrote further info here).
3.Diabetes does not mean an end to dreams
Many people have succeeded as a direct result of diabetes. Sebastien Sasseville, was the first Canadian Type 1 to summit Everest, a quest he began AFTER his diabetes diagnosis. Sir Stephen Redgrave, won his final and perhaps most important gold medal at the 2000 Olympics, rowing as a type 1 diabetic. Bottom line, it is not a dream killer.
4.Your diabetes can fit your life – not the other way round
All to often when diagnosed with diabetes, people think that everything now must change. The truth is, your diabetes can be managed to fit your life. If you are a back country skier, finding glucose gels that are light weight to manage hypos allows for easy transport. If you are an avid sportsmen, then working out through trial and error what works with the meds you take, is the approach; Giving up your life and your loves is not the answer. (you can find out more info on the right to choose here).
5.Kids, Eyesight, and Keeping your limbs
Yes you can have kids, no it won’t make you sterile and no you won’t necessarily loose your eyesight, provided good control is maintained. The same applies to keeping fingers and toes.
6.The Diabetic Disease is Better Understood
Since the discovery of insulin by Banting, Best, Macleod and Collop (yes there were actually four scientists that discovered it), the understanding of type 1 diabetes has increased exponentially. While we haven’t found the cure yet, the devices that have come to market, sure have made our lives easier. This, if nothing else, should give us hope for what is around the corner. Soon there will be an all inclusive feedback system (called a closed loop system) which will take the guess work out of managing it (by soon, I mean in medical terms which is 3-4 years, depending on where you live). Whether a cure is found in the next 20 years or not, we know one thing, currently management is better than it has ever been, and 20 years from now, it will be better than it is today. Don’t waste your time complaining about there being no cure, either find one yourself, or use the technology available now.
7.There is a huge diabetic community for support
Whether you find it online or find it through you education centre, there are people who share your struggles (my facebook page is here if you want to connect). Just remember, there are a lot of different opinions on how to best approach the disease. The way to know what works for you, is it will feel right when you discover it. I have some basic guiding principles when it comes to online information as this can be a minefield of info. If someone or something isn’t working for you, then find something or someone that does. It is your right and it is your life.
8.The options for Diabetes that get shown to you, are not the only ones
Whilst having a health care team is awesome and I would thoroughly recommend you use them, be aware they often give you a device or insulin based on a system. One hospital I know, gives one brand to odd chart numbers and another brand to even chart numbers. This is not exactly giving the patient the choice that works best for them. Make sure you are fully informed of what is available in your country by going to pharmacies and asking to be shown everything from devices to drugs. Do your own research on the net. Here are some options you might not have been aware of.
9.Take the pressure off
Whilst I am a big advocate for great control, I don’t mean you have to be perfect. You are trying to do the job of an organ in the body, without the feedback systems in place that the body has. For this reason you need to give yourself a break and realize there are going to be mistakes made. When they occur, congratulate yourself for sticking with it, and see if there is something to be learned from the experience. Diabetes is all about your next blood test. Forget any ones that were not in the range, and move to the next one.
Hopefully this helped those of you who are newly diagnosed, or even those of you who have lived with it for years. Now all that remains, is to go forth and test.