Earlier this summer, I attend the Students with Diabetes conference in Tampa, Florida.
Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999, hosted this fifth annual conference. When she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 19, it took her five years to meet another Type 1 Diabetic.
She felt alone. She felt lost. She felt lifeless. She created this conference to show other T1Ds and myself that we are not alone; we are not lost; we are not lifeless.
In fact, it’s quite the contrary.
I was one of 160 undergrad and graduate students who came to the conference in Tampa.
We all came from different walks of life. Different universities. Different backgrounds. However, we were all unified in one way — we live each and every day with Type 1 Diabetes.
As Type 1 Diabetics, our pancreases do not make insulin. Insulin converts glucose into energy, so without insulin, glucose remains in the blood stream, thus leading to high blood sugar.
When one has chronically high blood sugar (medically defined as hyperglycemia), he can suffer from diabetic complications including kidney disease, blindness, heart disease, and death. Therefore, insulin must be obtained from outside sources, like insulin injections or via insulin pumps.
With constant supervision and meticulous management, diabetics can still live healthy and fulfilling lives, yet diabetics always suffer from the burden of living with this life-threatening disease.
Are my blood sugars okay? How many carbohydrates are in this meal? Why can’t my blood sugars come down? Will I be discriminated against because of my diabetes? Are my parents and loved ones worried about the possibility of my diabetics complications?
The physical, mental and emotional burden of this disease can never be minimized.
Thankfully, I was with 160 other college students who “get it.” We don’t even need to define it. As diabetics, we speak a universal language.
We instantly understand the literal (and figurative) daily highs and lows. But, it’s important to note that we’re not moping in our worries. Instead of being alone, lost and lifeless, we are unified, driven and energetic.
The conference began on Friday night (May 22), and all of us diabetics began sharing our intimate diagnosis stories.
Before the evening’s main event, we were split into teams to perform on SWD Idol, where each team had to re-write TV theme songs with diabetic emphases.
Our group was lucky — we pulled out The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air! Naturally, we called ourselves The Fresh (Finger) Pricks of Bel-Air, since we have to test our blood sugars by pricking our fingers over 10 times a day.
If you’re somewhat familiar with T1D, you’ll appreciate these lyrics. If not, hopefully they can provide some insight into our daily lives. Here they are…
Now this is a story all about how, my life got flipped turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how my diabetes became a lifelong affair.
Iiiiiiin the ICU, I spent some of my days
Learning ‘bout highs and lows and changing my ways.
Shootin’ up, checkin’, relaxin’ all cool, and taking my insulin all day at school.
When a couple of juices didn’t bring up my lows, I started makin’ trouble and man was I slow.
Then my meter read 533 and my mom got scared
She said, “Take your insulin and water, then get out of my hair!
The performance can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TZozvco_oU.
After our performances, Crystal Bowersox took the stage. Bowersox was the runner-up on American Idol Season 9 and she also lives with T1D.
She described how T1D has impacted her life and songwriting, before treating us to a special concert. I remembered watching Crystal on American Idol and calling in to vote for her, but I forgot about her soulful and bluesy ways. She isn’t just a recording artist. She’s one of us.
Want to hear about Tanner’s run-in with another diabetic athlete? Wonder what Tanner is really thinking throughout the conference? Exclusive Day 2 and Day 3 coverage can be found only through Ball State Sports Link at www.chirpcitybsu.com.