I never thought that getting a math question wrong could be a matter of life or death. If I knew that way back when, I probably would have paid a bit more attention in elementary school.
Three years ago, at a small west Edmonton doctor’s office, my doctor explained the dangers of living on insulin. With it, I could die and without it, I would die. I have Type 1 diabetes (T1d), which means my pancreas doesn’t produce the insulin I need to survive, and injecting insulin isn’t a cure. It’s more like a Band-Aid.
When I was diagnosed, I was naive about how much this would truly change my life.
People often associate T1d with food.
To be fair, that’s probably when most people see me measuring my exact portions — doing math to calculate how many carbohydrates I’m consuming and how much insulin I need — and giving myself said insulin. And if I get those calculations wrong, I could be in serious trouble.
Even if I get those calculations right, sometimes our bodies do what they want and I can find myself spiraling into hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or skyrocketing up into hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). My activity levels, the temperature outside, illness and even my mood can cause chaos in terms of managing my disease.
If blood sugars go too low, you risk seizures, loss of consciousness, a coma or death. If they are too high for too long, patients can lose limbs, their sight, have organ failure and again, death.
I think about diabetes every minute of Every. Single. Day.
I think about my chronic disease when I sleep, eat, work out, work and every minute in between. I’m always taking note of how I’m feeling and if there are any symptoms of a low or high blood sugar. It’s truly exhausting — physically and emotionally.
It means you have to think ahead and prepare for the worst. I carry low treatments with me wherever I go, especially if I’m exercising. I also monitor my sugars closely using a Continuous Glucose Monitor, or CGM, a costly device that many living with the disease can’t afford. I also use an insulin pump to regulate my blood glucose levels. Before the pump, I was giving myself up to six needles a day.
I’ve spent countless hours learning everything I can from doctors, nurses and diabetes educators to make sure I am as best-equipped as possible to care for myself. Advancement in technology and best practices means that myself and others are able to live relatively normal lives.
In Canada, approximately seven per cent of people aged 12 and older have diabetes, according to government data.
On May 30, the Alberta Diabetes Foundation is hosting a Day to End Diabetes.
The day celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Edmonton Protocol – an International Standard of Care for islet cell transplantation.
From 6 a.m to 6 p.m. Thursday, Corus TV and radio stations throughout Edmonton will be broadcasting live from the Li Ka Shing Centre at the University of Alberta to raise funds to support innovative diabetes research in Alberta and for the world, and for the continued search for a cure to all types of diabetes.
There’s so much to the disease that you can’t see and it would take far too long to get into here, but what I can say is I’m a true believer that there will be a cure for this disease in my lifetime, and there’s a good chance that it could be made here in Alberta.