40+ Years Of Living With Type 1 Diabetes

Young diabetic (Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk)
Young diabetic (Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk)
Young diabetic (Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk)

I remember waking up inside a white painted room with a window on my left side. The unfamiliar bed and that “medicine smell” gave me a feeling of insecurity. My mother had a sad and worried look on her face and I did not understand why. Mom told me I was sick and I have to take shots every day. I don’t think I even asked why. And that “medicine smell” became all too familiar very quickly because it became a start to my journey as a type 1 diabetic for the rest of my life.

I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of five years old back in the Philippines, the year 1972. Back then, very few or it seems like I was the only kid I knew with Type 1 diabetes. I ate differently, lived differently, seemed like was treated differently. Mom always had to talk to my teachers during the first day of school to discuss my condition and warn them of what they needed to do if I acted “funny”. Mom also wanted me to wear a “diabetic badge” which was attached to the back of my school badge.

There were no disposable syringes and needles back then. I remember using a glass syringe and hypodermic needles. Both had to be boiled with hot water to sterilize and re-use for many times. Checking for glucose in my urine required what I remembered a test strip called Tes-Tape. Insulins back then were made out of pork and beef.

Diabetic supplies and treatment options had changed so much in the past 40 years. Literatures back then did not give me any hopes of living a long life. There were so many restrictions on what I can and cannot do. But Mom did everything she could to provide for me and with all the gadgets and trips to the endocrinologists office every month to keep me well. Mom kept everything together for me and my 2 younger sisters and my younger brother. None of them have diabetes.

I migrated to the USA in 1986 and the rest of my family followed one year later. Mom had told me several times that America would be full of opportunities for me, my health, and have a better life for the rest of the family. We just have to start working, earn money, and enjoy the fruits of our labor. We had been working ever since and we had done pretty well.

I am not sure how my life as a diabetic would be different from any other. I wouldn’t know how to live any other way otherwise. Just like everyone else, I had my teen-age rebellious years. I had my personal battle with weight, and it took a long time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grow up. The only difference is I had to take insulin shots everyday, watch out for hypo and hyperglycemia, check my blood sugars, which are all normal part of living for me.

It has been 41 years since I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and I had learned so much about myself and diabetes. The lessons learned became an inspiration on why I wanted to become a nurse. There’s so much to share and still more to learn. I will be periodically posting insights, ideas, and personal experiences with diabetes in my blogs. I would like to let other diabetics know that it can be done. Maganda pa rin ang buhay kahit may diabetes. We can live a substantial life with diabetes.

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  • My father is a diabetic so I am worried for him and for myself also. His side of the family has a history of diabetics that’s why at the young age of 18, I don’t eat any sugar filled foods anymore unless it’s a special occasion. No chocolate for me here.