“Type 1 Diabetes is a completely manageable disease – but there are some days that are just rough.” – Nick Jonas
I’ve realised in the past few months that not many people actually know what having or living with Type 1 diabetes is like, and many are actually quite interested, so I’ve decided to write this blog post. This is Diabetes and Us!
This is my partner, Kieran.
He’s 26 and builds cars for a career. He’s a qualified football coach and an amazing big brother.
He also has Type 1 diabetes.
Before you ask ‘is that the bad one’, let me explain.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by lifestyle choices or from it running in your family (not actual running, although this would probably help). It is caused by the sugar levels in your blood being too high. It is treatable by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, or through medication.
Type 1 diabetes isn’t caused by anything in particular. The healthiest people can still suffer with T1. It is caused by your pancreas being unable to produce insulin (the chemical that keeps your blood sugar levels balanced).
Both types are ‘bad’, but both are treatable in different ways.
So in order to treat his diabetes, K has to monitor his blood sugar levels constantly throughout the day and often throughout the night. He does this by pricking his fingers to get a drop of blood and testing it on a little machine, which will churn out a number between 0-30+. Healthy blood sugar levels will come back between 4-8. If this is the case, he’s all good and doesn’t need to do anything. If they are low, he has to eat something that will make them return to the ‘healthy zone’, and if they are high, he has to inject himself with the right amount of insulin, via a little needle on the end of a ‘pen’ to bring them back down. There’s a lot of maths involved in this but I won’t go into this just yet.
So he will test his blood every couple of hours, and on a bad day, might have to inject on every one of them. This is unlikely, but sometimes his body just doesn’t behave!
Now on top of this, imagine having to do maths, and then inject yourself with a needle every time you wanted to eat. This is just reality for people with T1. For every meal and every snack, every drink and every treat, Kieran (and his mum a lot of the time!) has to weigh, measure, and note down the amount of carbs in everything he eats. (Carbs because they are directly related to the sugar content.) He then has to inject enough insulin to counteract the carbs!
To give you a quick idea:
- 1 unit of insulin will bring his blood sugar level down by 3 (so if it’s 17, he’d have to inject 4 units to bring it down to 5)
- 10g of carbs requires 1 unit of insulin (so if a muffin has 25g carbs, he has to inject 2.5 units of insulin)
We’ve heard people say “awh I couldn’t do that, I hate needles”. But the reality is, he has no choice. It’s that, or a coma. Like genuinely.
He tests his blood and injects all over the place: in the car, in restaurants, in castle gardens. If we eat pizza late at night we will set an alarm for 3am to check his levels aren’t through the roof. He gets up at 6am every day to inject a ‘baseline’. It’s just a way of life.
The truth is, he can eat what he wants. If he wants a cake or chocolate, then he eats it. He just has to balance out the sugar with insulin, just as a healthy pancreas would. The downside is that diabetes often comes with tiredness, thirst and changes in mood.
So far, thanks to his attention to detail and the incredible care from his family, he has managed the diabetes amazingly, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.
Please don’t ever be afraid of asking questions. Diabetes shouldn’t be a taboo, and you’ll probably find people are relieved to be asked rather than being watched!
I hope this gave you a tiny insight to Diabetes and Us!
Ps. I am doing a skydive on June 9th to raise money for DiabetesUK. If you would be interested in sponsoring me, the details are on my Facebook page. Thank you.