What does it really mean to have type 1 diabetes?

By Joleigh Burgett     

Imagine your life changing in a blink of an eye, with no way of turn back. On the outside it may look like nothing but on the inside, it is so much more. It means that those with diabetes have survived days, weeks, months and maybe even years, that they should not have. What most people don’t understand is diabetes is more than just putting insulin in your body every time you eat and checking your blood sugar a few times a day.

It’s constantly having to carry a barrel load of supplies or having to be attached to a device, that is your only way of survival. It’s the late nights waking up from a low blood sugar, and then not being able to fall back asleep due to the fear of never waking back up. It’s the crazy high blood sugars that leave you with a migraine and with a thirst that makes you drink an oceans worth of water. It’s being one of the few, maybe even only student, in a school of a few thousand other students that are bringing ignorant remarks, and judgmental stares. It’s the constant bicker of people telling you what you, so call, can and can not eat. It’s the constant fight within your own head, whether to eat and take a shot, or not to eat and not have to worry about how your body is going to react.

Having diabetes is not being able to stress out, because your body is most likely going to react in a negative way. Its everyone telling you to stop slacking, but they really have no clue how difficult it is to deal with something you didn’t ask to have, nor could have prevented. It’s all the people telling you, they would much rather die than have to give themselves multiple shots a day, and it’s the constant thought of how different your life would be without this incurable disease. It’s the doctor’s appointments every three months, and it’s the thousands of dollars put into supplies every month, just in order to survive the next. Having diabetes means having to try just a little bit harder each and every day.

Although this disease has made me fight every day, and has challenged me in every way possible, I know for a fact that I would not be the person I am today, without it. I have diabetes, but having diabetes is not what defines me as a person. It is in simple terms, a disease that I must live with, but I will never let it control who I am, or how I choose to live my life.

-My story of being diagnosed:

My name is Joleigh Burgett and I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, when I was 17 years old, on September 14, 2015. I had all the typical signs prior to being diagnosed, like extreme thirst, frequent urination, lethargy, fruity breath odor, and extreme sudden loss of weight. All together I just felt absolutely terrible. Like a lot of others, I was misdiagnosed three times. By the time I was diagnosed I was in DKA, also known as Diabetic Ketoacidosis. After a few long days in Children’s Hospital, I was released and immediately sent to the Barbara Davis Center where I had to learn about this new life that I was just thrown into. Learning how to live with type 1 diabetes is like learning how to live again, but now with needles, insulin dosing, carb counting, finger pricking and so much more.

-Why I think it is important to spread awareness:

I understand many people don’t have type 1 diabetes, so spreading awareness isn’t a priority. But the day before I was diagnosed, it wasn’t a priority for me either. For those who understand, no explanation is needed. But for those who do not understand, it constantly feels like no explanation is possible. But what those people don’t understand is spreading awareness could end up saving a life.

-Things that have helped me since I was diagnosed:

The key for me has been, telling myself that this disease will never stop me, and making sure I don’t let it get to me or slow me down. When I take a minute to stop and look around, I have so many friends and family that are supporting me through it all, so I don’t have to worry. Sometimes it’s hard, and I don’t think that I can do it, but they remind me that there is so much more to my life. When I was diagnosed I was blessed with the wonderful staff at the Barbara Davis Center. From the people at the front desk, to the people who took my vital signs, the nutritionists, the nurses, the doctors, the research groups, and support groups, I would not be where I am today without each and every one of them. I was on shots and finger sticks for about three months and then immediately got on an insulin pump and a CGM. These two devices, that I am very lucky to have access to, have helped me better manage my diabetes.  

-What has Diabetes taught me?:

Diabetes has taught me to not take anything for granted, because in a blink of an eye everything in your life could change. The little things, like not having to count carbs before you eat, are things I know I took for granted before I was diagnosed. Diabetes has tested me in every way possible but it sure has made me realize just how brave and strong I really am.


Leave a Reply