By Rebecca Flannery
During Diabetes Month in November, the American Diabetes Association spreads awareness of the disease and its effect on people’s everyday lives.
While diabetes is a widespread disease, not everyone diagnosed manages it from day to day in the same way. This week, Cypress freshman Ivy Watson describes what it was like being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in a family with plenty of experience with the disease.
When were you diagnosed?
I had just turned 13, so I was in eighth grade. A lot of times you find out you have diabetes through other infections. I had an infection, so I had those symptoms along with normal symptoms of diabetes like having to use the restroom a lot, drinking tons of water and being moody. I was lucky that it was shown through infection because they were able to catch it really fast.
Were your parents concerned or is this something pre-existing in your family?
My dad has had diabetes since he was 7. And my mom is a nurse, so she’s used to the procedure of it from her nursing, as well as the fact she’s been with my dad for so long. They knew there was a chance of one of their children having it, so while they were sad for me, they were able to view it as a blessing because it’s something they know a lot about. They know how to help me and they’re prepared for it.
My mom kept saying how bad she feels for parents who have no idea and have to figure it out after they’re blind-sided by the disease. They kept saying how lucky they were to have prior knowledge. Whenever I have questions, I can just call my dad, so that’s been a huge blessing.
When you were diagnosed, what did your doctor tell you needed to happen?
My doctor is awesome. I went to the hospital when I was diagnosed because my blood sugar was about 700, when it’s supposed to be around the range of 80 to 120. She came into my room and told me, “You’re not allowed to skip school tomorrow, you’re not using this as an excuse, you’re going on with your daily life and you’re staying in your sports.”
So, having her and my parents support me and tell me there’s nothing I couldn’t do was really cool. I mean, I can’t drink Coke all the time, but physically I can do a lot.
What about your life before diabetes had to drastically change?
A big change for me was just trying to monitor it. Diabetics have a sliding scale, where one unit of insulin for me is about five carbs. So, everything I ate I had to figure out how many carbs were in it and how many units I needed to take. Being so young, that was a huge change. Before, I didn’t have to think about what I was eating, I could just eat a bowl of ice cream at a sleepover if I wanted.
I didn’t realize how much you had to think about everything you ate. Figuring out the mechanics of it all was really difficult.
At the time, did you think diabetes was going to set you back in life?
Being an insecure eighth-grade girl, I would question why I had to go through it and why I was different than my friends. At first, it definitely was a big deal for me since it was such a huge lifestyle change. I had watched my dad monitor it, but for me to test my blood sugar eight to ten times a day just to get used to it and take shots all the time was really hard.
Because of all that I started to pull back from a lot of things in my life.
Do you view it as a setback anymore?
I don’t anymore. It’s a part of my daily life, and that’s OK. I don’t know if there was an exact point I figured that out, I think it was more like I got over my “poor me” moment and realized I can do things other people can.
I got to go to diabetic camp when I was younger, and it was so funny because I was dreading it to a point as if I were going to jail. My mom made me go and I begged her not to leave me there. It turns out all the people there were so fun and so nice. It was really cool, we were all testing our blood sugar together, but other than that it was a normal camp. It was so nice to bond with people going through the same things as you, but also it made me realize we’re the same as everyone else.