The most difficult aspect of type 1 diabetes to explain is why it’s so all consuming. It really is. Even though my daughter has a busy, fulfilling life, we’re always aware that we’re just a
2. Pump failure,
3. Bolus failure,
4. Bad insulin,
5. Pump site failure,
6. The million other things that affect blood sugar
away from a trip to the ER or even the ICU.
And here’s the best way I can think of to explain it.
First, know this about blood sugar. If you don’t have diabetes, your blood sugar most likely sits at a comfortable range somewhere between 80-120 all day long. No matter what you do or eat. You could indulge in a whole cake (think Matlida), and YOUR pancreas would distribute the perfect amount of insulin to keep up with your intake of carbohydrates as easily as a hare keeps up with a tortoise. Your pancreas could hop circles around your food intake while crocheting crocodile slippers and not miss a beat. Your pancreas is on perfect cruise control, doing exactly what it needs to do to keep your blood sugar in perfect harmony with your body’s needs.
However, if you DO have type 1 diabetes, there is no cruise control because your pancreas, for purposes of making insulin to keep up with…life, is a glob of useless cells. And your throttle is inconsistent, and your gas and brake are completely psychotic. People still ask me sometimes what my daughter’s fasting glucose or base blood sugar is.
Important note: People with type 1 diabetes don’t have a base blood sugar. Let me say that again… There’s no such thing as a “fasting glucose”, or a “normal”. There is no normal. Why? Because for someone with type 1, blood sugar is completely a product of human intervention, 100% of the time.
When people state that insulin is life support, that sounds pretty melodramatic, –but, well, it really is! I mean, it’s not like a ventilator where flipping a switch could result in near instant death, but it’s still what keeps people with type 1 diabetes alive day after day. And it’s not at all like other required medication, because a person with type 1 needs it all the time. It’s not just about food. Every body needs insulin to keep going, like you need air to keep going. Just as you breathe in oxygen every few seconds, a person with type 1 diabetes has a constant need for insulin – and the fun part is, the amount of insulin needed changes constantly depending on activity, exercise, stress, food, state of mind, time of the month, illness (that’s a biggie), etc.
Type 1 requires you to be (I’m gonna start making up words now, ok?) proreactive. You can’t be completely proactive with type 1 diabetes, because there’s no way to 100% accurately predict how her body will respond to the amount of synthetic insulin working through it. So you are also constantly reacting to changes in blood sugar.
And you can only proreact when you have information. Information which comes in the form of about 10-15 drops of blood every day that result from stabbing a sharp object into a finger and feeding the meter (Ours is named Audrey II – anyone get the reference?).
Type 1 diabetes is intense, and perfection is completely elusive. And when you see someone with type 1 diabetes who is doing amazing things, who is full of life and vigor, and who is smiling and happy and healthy – that is the product of a BOATLOAD of work that person (or their parents, or both) put into staying healthy – 24 hours a day, no… 1,440 minutes a day of work.
That's why people with type 1 are so awesome, because they manage life while simultaneously managing a very challenging health condition. And most of them make it look easy. Cause they're just amazingly awesome like that!