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Tanner’s Take: Students with Diabetes – Part II

Tanner Barton

Written By: Tanner Barton | @Tan_Man_Barton
Member of Ball State Men’s Swimming
Spokesperson for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

Click here to read Tanner’s Take: Part I.

Tanner Barton

Tanner Barton

Day 2 at Students With Diabetes Conference in Tampa, Fla.
On Day 2, we went through pointed sessions related to our lives with diabetes.  I first attended a session titled The Real World: Money, Work and Insurance. All of the sessions were so uplifting and energetic. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say this session scared me.

When it comes to medical expenses, Type 1 Diabetics pay $11,500 more (on average) than non-diabetics… PER YEAR. I know I’m only embarking on my third year of college, but I can’t deny the reality.

My life-sustaining medical supplies are expensive. I’m so fortunate to be under such great insurance, but my heart was breaking for other T1Ds. People shared insurance horror stories. Some students do not have such benefits from health insurance, and others don’t have any insurance.

They are forced to take any insulin health centers are providing, even if their bodies reject this pharmaceutical company’s chemical formula. They are trying to buy expired test strips online because they are less expensive than buying them at the pharmacies, but since they’re expired, test validity is seriously questioned.

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Ball State swimmer Tanner Barton and friends at SWD 2015 in Tampa, Fla.

It’s not fair. We didn’t ask for this disease. I shouldn’t have to worry if my friends will be receiving their insulin. I shouldn’t have to worry if my future employer will pay for my diabetic supplies.

When health insurance companies say our conditions could have been prevented by lifestyle changes and early detection, we must educate THEM on the difference between Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes. My disease is an auto-immune disease. Do you think I woke up one day and said, “You know what… I want to be a diabetic! I want to pay an additional $11,500 in medical expenses so I can stay alive.”

Anyway, I continued attending the sessions until we left for the Calypso Cruise Dinner! We Type 1s were treated to a special sunset dinner cruise at Clearwater Beach.

It was raining before we got on the cruise, so there were rainbows in the sky. I saw dolphins swimming in the ocean. I spent time eating, talking and dancing with my fellow T1Ds. It was such a unifying event, and one that I’ll forever remember.

Day 3
Today, Kyle Cochran spoke to us T1Ds. Kyle is on the primetime show “American Ninja Warrior”.  He was diagnosed with T1D at age five.

I personally loved talking to Kyle. He understands the rigors of working out and competing with T1D. He knows how frustrating it can be to miss a work out because you’re experiencing severe low blood sugar. He knows that competition suffers when our blood sugars are in the 300s.

While others may be ignorant and think we should be performing even better since we have “so much energy,” we actually don’t have any energy. Our cells begin to attack our muscle and fat, and our performance greatly suffers.

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Tanner Barton competing in the 200 IM against the University of Evansville. (1-17-15)

At the collegiate level, other athletes don’t understand this. They can try to understand this, but since they don’t personally live with the disease, they will never fully grasp what I’m going through.

I can never just worry about my warm-up, my intensity, my race. I’m forced to constantly monitor my blood sugar. I often find myself drinking juices behind the swim blocks or giving myself an insulin shot five minutes before I’m expected to jump in the pool and swim my fastest. It’s exhausting. But I do it. And Kyle does it.

But here’s the thing… NO ONE should have to deal with this disease. We didn’t choose to be T1Ds. The disease chose us. And please don’t tell me or the other 159 attendees that “It’s not cancer” or “I could never give myself shots”.

We know it isn’t cancer, and for that, we are fortunate.  However, diabetes is still one of the three leading causes of death. If one can successfully overcome cancer treatment, he could be in remission. Unfortunately, there never is a “remission period” or “vacation” from diabetes.

And I know you would give yourself shots if it guaranteed your survival. Would you rather shy away when seeing needles, or overcome your fear to see another day? I think the answer is pretty clear.

In short, I’m so glad I attended the conference. I met such inspiring individuals who all live with T1D. We must stay together. We appreciate the support from our loved ones and outsiders, yet it is our job to educate them and promote diabetes awareness.

We will keep fighting until Type One becomes Type None. In the meantime, we will continue to text, Facebook and SnapChat one another.

Our bond is special. We’re the only people who can say “I really need to shoot up,” or “I’m WAY too high right now” without being judged.

Were Type 1 Diabetics. And we’re proud.

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