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Damage Control

1. What are some ways that you have responded to the hard times when dealing with diabetes?

Working in education with diabetes can be very hard because with diabetes if you're having a bad day you need to still be able to put on a good attitude and face for the kids and that can be hard with your blood sugars. One way I have responded to that is by communicating with my co-workers and really just pushing through the day. When I get home and I get my blood sugar in control, just go to bed, and wake up the next day with a fresh mindset because sleep is so important.

2. How have you become stronger because of diabetes?

Diabetes has given me a community to represent and something that I feel like I belong to. As diabetics, I feel like we go through similar struggles and no one else really knows how those struggles

truly feel unless you are in those shoes. I think it's given me something to try and show others that might be struggling that there are other people like us and that we can achieve anything even with our diabetes.

3. What have you learned about yourself through dealing with diabetes?

I've learned that diabetes, while it impacts my life in a lot of ways, it doesn't control my life necessarily. It has its challenges, but life has its challenges and I am still able to do whatever I want for the most part. At the end of the day, I see diabetes as a speed bump that won't stop me from doing what I want to do.

4. Is there a story that comes to mind when you think about how you are taking control of diabetes?

Running both of my marathons. Running and diabetes can be very tough especially when you are running as long as 26.2 miles. Doing long runs close to that distance can be challenging as well. You have to be prepared for lows and highs and all kinds of curveballs diabetes might throw your way. Communication with my endocrinologist is something that has helped me get through these as we are able to come up with a strategy that works. For both my marathons, I had near-perfect blood sugars!


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The Lowdown

1. What were some of your initial struggles with having diabetes?

One of my initial struggles with diabetes was getting a handle on carb counting. This is something I still struggle with sometimes, especially with things that are not pre-packaged or when I am out to eat. Sometimes the foods do not match up with the serving size found online or different things are added, so sometimes I will go high or low and then have to manage it from there.

2. Is there a story that comes to mind where you realized that having diabetes is really hard?

There's been a few times where I have had some really bad blood sugar days where my Dexcom graph looks like a roller coaster and having to deal with the effect that it has on my body has been tough. Often times when I am having those days, it affects everything from my mental well-being to my physical well-being and I get really tired. When that happens, I often try to get my sugar in range and go to bed for the night, knowing that tomorrow is a new day. That's the one thing with T1D I have noticed; not every day is going to be perfect. Like anything, there are good days and bad and we just have to find ways to get through the bad days.

3. What are some struggles that you still experience now?

The impact that T1D has had on my mental health is a struggle that has definitely affected me a lot. I constantly worry about blood sugars and the impact that a bad blood sugar day has on me. I work

with kids, so I have to be able to keep a good composure and attitude and sometimes that can be hard when your body isn't working right.

4. How have you dealt with these struggles?

For the past few years, I have been talking to a therapist and have also been to a psychiatrist for anxiety. It has helped a ton. The biggest advice I could give someone that was diagnosed at a late age and feels the same as I did is that there is no shame in asking for help talk to someone!

Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Jake’s DiaStory, “Damage Control.” Gretchen Boger-O’Bryan is a writer, editor, nonprofit toiler by day and, most important, parent to a T1D, no matter the hour.


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High & Dry - By Gretchen Boger-O'Bryan

The “Freshman 15.” You know the phenomenon, first-year college student finds themselves with increased independence amid a new environment, friends, experiences and responsibilities -- and often 15 or so new pounds. Rite of passage? Perhaps. For Jake, though, his freshman-year experience took a different turn on the scale.

“I had lost a lot of weight, and was going to the bathroom an insane amount. I thought it was just because of a change in environment. I came home one weekend to watch my old cross- country team compete in the sectional meet. While home, I got my symptoms checked and my blood sugar was more than 600 and I had ketones. My doctor said I needed to go to the hospital right away.”

Jake passed time in intensive care with his dad by his side, the pair watching the Mets-Royals World Series. “I was diagnosed that next morning -- on Halloween -- by an endocrinologist who’s still my doctor today.” Guess you could say Halloween 2015 was neither trick nor treat but, rather, a dose of reality.

After moving from the ICU to a regular room, family began to visit and, thanks to grandparents who know him well, the athlete and avid sports fan soon had the sports section of the newspaper in hand. Jake was able to focus on his fantasy lineup and soon settled in to watch the Bears because, he admits, “The Chicago Bears are everything to people in Chicago, myself included!”

During the game, someone passing through Jake’s hospital room mentioned that Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler is not only Type 1 diabetic but was diagnosed while in the NFL. “That was eye opening to me,” says Jake, “because if it could happen to him and he could still play in the NFL, I can do anything!”

Now, in addition to watching football, checking his fantasy team and checking in with concerned friends and family, Jake turned to research to help wrap his mind around what doctors were telling him. “I began looking up T1D athletes like myself. My reaction [to diagnosis] was relief and shock. Relieved I finally knew what was wrong, but also shocked, because I’m not supposed to get diabetes. I’d always eaten healthy and exercised -- I’m a runner for crying out loud!” Jake admits he’d thought diabetes was something older people get, those less active, those with extra weight. Since then, of course, he’s learned otherwise.

During his hospital stay, Jake experienced his first low blood sugar. Well, “low” when compared to the 600s it had been. “I remember feeling the typical low symptoms and was very shaky. The nurse was shocked I felt that way at 120 blood sugar,” he says.

As Jake continued to adapt, he knew that also meant getting back to school. “My transition from the hospital was a tad overwhelming. I was grateful my university didn’t require I make up assignments missed the weeks I was away. During that time, I needed to get used to giving shots every day and carb counting, managing highs and lows while doing things I love, such as running, or going to a sporting event or movie. Even hanging out with friends, or going out to eat pizza or Chinese food, it all requires getting used to.”

Crucial to that adjustment, he says, is getting a great support system. In addition to family, Jake says he leans on two friends. “Danny, who I’ve known since elementary school. He’s been my go-to. If either of us ever need an extra [pump] site or Dexcom, we exchange. He’s given me a real picture of what it’s like for a guy my age to live with this disease. My friend Ron is older than me and, since his diagnosis at age 21, he’s seen technology change and improve. He’s helped me realize I can live with this. Ron’s a pro at a golf course and once, while golfing, I went low. Before I knew it, there he was with Gatorade, candy and whatever else was in the clubhouse. At that moment I realized how tightly knit the diabetic community is.”

Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Jake’s DiaStory, “The Lowdown.” Gretchen Boger-O’Bryan is a writer, editor, nonprofit toiler by day and, most important, parent to a T1D, no matter the hour.


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