Me, Myself and Diabetes

Me, Myself and Diabetes

Let me tell you my story 

I was 23 and none of my family had diabetes.

Blue circle for diabetes logo
Blue circle for diabetes

The nutrition was already just a bowl away

Just born I was a sweety chubby baby with tender skin-rolls all over the body and that adorable chubby cheeks that close my eyes when I was smiling.

That’s was my body shape (and in some way it is still!) similar to the one of my mother and my grandma. For this reason, my mother was not used to cooking for me (and for her!) any cakes or buy lots of confectionery, ice-cream, chocolate and so on. We both have a sweet tooth!
For instance, I haven’t be used to any kind of bubbly sweetened soda. I don’t like coke, Pepsi, Sprite, ice-the, any kind of candies, I’m not used to adding sugar to food and I started to drink alcohol quite late, a lot later than my 18s (and I still don’t drink a lot, and I rather dry than sweet by the way).

Sport is one of my main passion since ever!

I played tennis for 7 years, I was used to riding my bike into town every afternoon after school, I love football and I played it every time I got the chance. Ok, I have never been an athlete, but I have always been quite active. 
I grew up in a big green area in the centre of Italy where children are used (before more than now) to play outside rather than watching television or playing video games. 

Something has changed…

It feels like my 20s has been a turning point in my life. I started to feel the need of getting out of my comfort zone and I realised my town was only a tiny spot in the world. 

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In the summer of 2015 my friend planned to go on a trip with her cousin, but for some reasons, the cousin quit the idea just a few weeks before the departure. I took the chance and decided to join my friend in the most challenging trip I had ever done until then: ride my (old) bike along the all 600 km (and more!) of Italy’s Adriatic coast. 

We made it! The trip took us nearly 2 weeks and reaching the destination goal has been one of the most incredible feelings in my life. 

I was just getting ready and I didn’t know it yet

Coming back home in September I thought I wouldn’t stop there. I would have liked to do all these little things I have never done yet and I would have committed myself in catching all the good opportunities to do them. 

During that period my gym offered a free nutrition course of few lessons. Even if nutrition was not my main passion I decided to subscribe myself and I enjoyed it!
I learned all the good nutrition’s fundamentals and it was nice to learn it into a classroom with others. The thing is that as the average of the people, I was not into nutrition and I was not aware of what I had been really eating. That course has brought me closer to know food better: something that would have been really handy in the upcoming years. 

diabetes awareness brainstorm
Diabetes awareness brainstorm

It was not an error

That November I decided to cross off my list another thing I had never done: donate blood. 

My veins are so tiny! Only a few nurses are able to take off my blood from my arm, lots of them prefer to take it from the back of my hand. But I still would have loved to donate it, and that’s what I have done. 

It was the 18th of November 2015, and that morning I proudly headed to the hospital with Alice, a friend of mine. 

It seems as I was following a path, step by step, to be ready for what would have happened. 

My blood results were ready just a few days later and I got a call for collecting them. That was weird, because usually hospital doesn’t ring in these cases, but that was ok. The doctor explained me that everything was all right, unless a big black asterisk on the side of my glucose level. They would like to repeat the test as the previous one states my glucose level on fasting was 225 mg/dL (12,5 mmol/L) and it could have been a mistake since my 23 years old and my no familiarity with diabetes. 

Two weeks later my blood results state 239 mg/dL (13,28 mmol/L). 

Sweating cold

Diabetes was something totally unknown for me, nobody I knew has it (or maybe they have but I didn’t know yet).
Finding out that your life would have “drastically” changed from that moment onward, it is a feeling that makes you sweating cold. You don’t know what to think, what to do. It just clear that from that moment onward everything will be worse and you don’t like it at all. 
You would like to do something but you know you can’t and so you feel terribly disarmed and you slowly lose the hope (hope in what, you don’t know either). 

The acceptance of the illness took me some weeks. Both for me and my parents. I have to admit we actually made it quite quickly, but it is not important: everyone must follow the own pace taking his/her time. 
Now, I know diabetic people that have accepted it as fast as me, it took a long time to others and someone is still struggling with it…

No matter how long, but it is essential you’ll understand that diabetes is not that monster you think.

Diabetes: blood sugar control
Diabetes: blood sugar control

You don’t choose to have type 1 diabetes, it chooses you

(and that’s not the case of feeling honoured!)

Why have I started so far away for telling you the story about how I have discovered diabetes? Because I would like you to understand that I did not choose it, at all.
Too many times I hear questions as: 
“You have eaten lots of sugar during your childhood, haven’t you?” No, I have not. 
“Maybe you didn’t do enough sport or activity…”
No, I did it instead.

While, despite the similar names, type 2 diabetes is a whole another thing, and anyway you won’t meet any young person with type 2
(unless exceptions I am not aware of, sorry).

Yes, that’s because type 1 diabetes born with you and your genes, due to the predisposition to the contracting of the disease.

Doctors were actually surprised to find out my diabetes at its onset when I was 23 years old. They state that I was a little bit too old to contract type 1 diabetes but I was definitely too young to contract type 2. Indeed, extensive testing confirmed the diagnosis of type 1.
For a while, I felt very unlucky, so close to escaping from diabetes’ noose and it caught me instead. (Later on, I met a friend older than me that discovered diabetes two weeks after I did. So, then was when I realised I wasn’t unlucky I was just one of the many).

So, after 23 years without any health issue (even flu was rare for me!) my doctor gave me an insulin pen and told me “Just do your injections on your belly in the area below your bellybutton, ok?”
Do you have any idea what it means to give a “syringe” ready to be used, to someone who has nearly never seen a syringe?

Emotional disaster.

Mostly because that someone knows s/he has to learn since that’s what s/he will do all days starting from today. 

I live in a little town and we don’t have a big hospital, unfortunately. The diabetologist is close to retirement and he’s used to working with old patients. He was so scared and sad in front of me, just after discovered the disease, that he kindly admitted he would have preferred that someone else (with most advanced technology) takes care of my case and send me to the closer “main” hospital (1 h 15 mins away). 
I have been in this big hospital (and I still go there) for the main test but I quickly realised that diabetes is not only made by controls and test in the hospital.

Glycaemia icon
Glycaemia icon

You are the first doctor of yourself

I am not saying that is not important to check yourself via medical visits, just that’s not enough. It mostly concerns “self-control” by daily checks.

The first check comes from you at morning time when you check your blood sugar just after waking up. When you (and just you!) decide how many units of insulin you must take before eating your breakfast. And again when you re-check your blood 2 hours later to control how your glycaemia is doing. And so on, when you do all over again at lunch, dinner and bedtime. 

You’ll be there every time there will be something wrong that probably you did and now you must fix.

As when it happens that you decided to inject 5 insulin’s units but then your friend offers you one more piece of cake to which you can’t say no, and later you realise you would have needed more units. Or vice-versa, you’re in that nice restaurant dreaming about the dessert and you have already injected your units. Suddenly, the waiter disappoint you saying: “I’m sorry, we don’t have any desserts left, unfortunately” and you know your glycaemia will go down.

You must be good in don’t make mistakes, but if it happens (it does!) you must be even better in fixing them. 

It is not only concerning what you eat…

There are lots of situations when blood sugar goes high or low and that’s not because of food. 
For instance, the flu! When you’re sick or you have an infection, your glycaemia tends to rise even if you eat less. Another example is menstruation (sorry boys!): blood sugar tends to rise in the days just before the arrival of the period and it drastically goes down when the period comes. 

Diabetes campaign
Diabetes campaign

Not because we have diabetes we are all the same. On the contrary!

It could be that these examples are not your case at all, and maybe someone else thinks that I’m right (and you’re weird! Ah!).

But most important, not because we have diabetes we are different from the others that don’t have it. We do have all the same possibilities.

The first week I discovered my diabetes I was so scared and disoriented. I had the luck of becoming a close friend of a diabetic nurse. She has diabetes for 20 years now and she has been my touchstone since the first moment. 
I asked her tons of questions, some important other silly. (one of the silliest was: “can I get direct sunlight when I inject my insulin?” I was totally confused. But I need also this to learn more!)

And by the way, there are no silly questions.

I was so scared to don’t be able anymore to do all the things I would have loved to do! Right now that I was ready to spread my wings and eat the world! Feel in a trap when you just desire to fly is another horrible feeling.
When I confessed it to her, she just said: “With diabetes, you could do everything you have already done without it, and even more. You’ll just need to do all this with an extra backpack on your shoulders. Can you do it?” 

I don’t need to specify that my answer was a strong “yes!”. So just 8 months after I have discovered my diabetes, I decided to go on a bike trip again: this time longer in terms of km and timeframe; definitely more challenging than the previous one. Once again with my friend (and with diabetes this time!): we would have ridden our bikes from Savona (Italy) to Tarragona (Spain) on a 1005km bike tour. (We made it! But that’s another story. I’ll tell you more soon…)

What I mean is:

Never make diabetes stop you. 
Don’t make it control yourself.

You’re on driver seat and only you know where you’re driving to.

Today is my diabetes’ anniversary: 3 years together…
It has been a love-hate relationship so far (much more hate than love!) but I think we’ll find the right balance (sooner or later!)
How do you say in these cases? 


(Let’s celebrate with a cake! …Or maybe not!)

Last thing: never stop laughing! Most of the time, 
self-mockery saves ourselves
…and moreover, serotonin reduce diabetes risk!


Let me know how many of you have diabetes or know diabetic friends.
I would love to know more about your/their stories and adventure with (and against) MR. D!


2 Replies to “Me, Myself and Diabetes”

  1. Great Tania, I always love to read story of people who made it! I would like to hear the story of your bike trip too. Hope you’ll write an article about it. Cheers!

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