As a person who has family members with diabetes, I was shocked at the recent statistics of how many people are diagnosed every year with the disease. Blood sugar monitoring, living an active, balanced life and making healthy choices are common decisions diabetics make every day. However, what was more shocking was how little the average person knows about the disease. There have been many cases of people mistaking a Type 1 diabetic reaction for a public disturbance or a passer by giving a diabetic more insulin during a diabetic reaction. These mistakes can cost people their lives. Since many people have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, it is essential that the public is made aware of the day to day life of a diabetic. But how does one explain the everyday routine of a diabetic person? Can they live and lead a regular, fulfilled life? Absolutely!
Enter Claudia Arseneault-Rainusso. At only eleven years old, this Ontario, Canada resident wrote her class speech about living with diabetes. She explained clearly about the disease and the common misconceptions people have. As a Type 1 diabetic herself, she also explains her transition to using the pump, an apparatus that slowly feeds your body insulin. I want to share her speech internationally for those who want to learn more about diabetes and to be inspired by a new generation of writers :
My name is Claudia. I’m 11 years old, and I have Type 1 Diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease – don’t worry it’s not contagious! – that affects an organ in my body called the pancreas. Everyone has one, but mine just doesn’t work right – go figure!
When I was 2 years old, Diabetes decided to move right on into my body. My mom says that before I was diagnosed, I was sleeping a lot, thirsty all the time and going to the bathroom 20 times a day! She brought me to the emergency room because she thought I had a bladder infection, but the doctors knew right away what was going on; I had Type 1 Diabetes. I had to stay in the hospital for one week while the doctors and nurses tried to control my blood sugar levels, and they also had to teach my parents how to take care of me and my Diabetes – they had a lot to learn!
This is how my body works differently from yours: When we eat any kind of food, it turns into glucose (sugar) and our bodies use insulin to turn that glucose into energy. That pancreas I told you about earlier, its job is to make special cells which make the insulin. My pancreas doesn’t make those cells, so I have to get insulin another way. In my case, it’s by a snazzy insulin pump which runs on batteries – yes, yes, I run on batteries. Ha! Ha! Every three days, I give myself a needle which has a tube around it that stays under my skin when the needle is pulled out. The tube is connected to a long cord which attaches to my insulin pump that is loaded up with insulin. The pump gives me a tiny bit of insulin all day long, and anytime I eat, I input the carbohydrate amount of that food and – Voila! – it calculates how much insulin I need to break down that food to be used as energy for my body! I like to think of my pump as my artificial pancreas that I control! A needle every 3 days may sound like no fun, but its way better than it used to be. When I was first diagnosed, I was getting four to six needles every day! When I was five years old, the doctors and my parents agreed that I was grown-up enough to start pump therapy.
Sometimes, I get too much insulin which causes my blood sugars to go low. I get tired, dizzy and shaky. I can drink juice or eat some candy to bring my blood sugar back to a normal level. My little sister and some of my classmates think it’s cool that I have Diabetes. They see me get special treatment, like drinking juice or eating candy in class, when my blood sugars are low. Trust me, having Diabetes stinks! Sometimes it can be really hard to control my blood sugars, especially when I get sick with a cold or flu. When I get sick, my blood sugar can get very high. When this happens, I get really hyper, really thirsty, and it can be hard for me to focus. If my blood sugar doesn’t come down soon, I can end up in the hospital. I started in a new in school last year, and a few weeks after school started, I got strep throat and my blood sugars went crazy. It was pretty serious and I was in the hospital for one week. It’s embarrassing enough to be the new kid at school, but the new sick kid at school is much worse. That was not the first time this had happened, and it wouldn’t be the last. This summer, I went to California with my little sister and grandmother. I caught a simple little virus at Disneyland, and I ended up in the intensive care at a Children’s Hospital because my blood sugars went crazy again! When I was younger, sometimes kids would say mean things to me like, “Are you going to die because you have “DIE”abetes.”, or “I don’t want to play with you because I don’t want to catch Diabetes.” It really hurt my feelings then, but now I know that those people didn’t know much about Diabetes. My parents taught me how to teach other people about Diabetes, and that’s it’s nothing to be scared of.
There are a lot of people who I meet that think that because I am Diabetic that I can’t have any sugar; this is NOT true. There are two types of Diabetes: type 1 and type 2. I have type 1 Diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes is the one where you have to be careful about what you eat. A lot of type 2 Diabetics can reverse or manage their Diabetes by eating healthy, taking medication and exercising. A lot of the time, but not always, type 2 Diabetes is caused by not taking care of yourself. Type 1 Diabetes is totally different. There is nothing I could have done to prevent this disease from happening to me, and it’s not going to get any better or worse. I can eat what I like and give myself the amount of insulin I need for that particular food choice.
Sometimes it really bothers me that I have Diabetes, and I wonder why God would allow this to happen to me. When I get discouraged, I remind myself of God’s promises and determine to not let my Diabetes get me down. God promises He is with us always and will give us the strength to handle whatever comes our way. My parents painted a scripture verse on my bedroom wall that says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I try to look at my Diabetes as something that I have been trusted with, and it’s my job to have a good attitude despite having not so great circumstances. One day, I hope there will be a cure for Diabetes, but until then, I will rely on God for the strength I need each day and pray that one day soon a cure will come.
Claudia’s clear and concise speech outlines that there are ups and downs to diabetes, but with a great attitude and an excellent understanding, you can live a fulfilled life. Her faith is her guiding light. It is important for each of us to find our own. Understanding diabetes does not have to be complicated, that is why it is best to hear about it through the example of a young person.
*Special thanks to Claudia for sharing her speech*
*Photo credit: Alicia Arseneault