Q&A About Diabetes Preparedness and a Diabetic Alert Dog

Type 1 Diabetes Warrior Chelsea with her diabetic alert dog

This post may contain affiliate links. Please review my disclosure policy.

Today I have the privilege of sharing an amazing conversation I was able to have with Chelsea. She’s a personal trainer who has been living with diabetes for 18 years. During this chat, she shared about her diabetes alert dog, diabetes preparedness, and her faith that helps pull her through.

I love her Instagram profile (t1d_faith)! Her posts are just so encouraging, and I’m thankful she is willing to share with me in this Q&A to inspire you!

Q&A with an 18-year type 1 warrior living with diabetes for 18 years.

Diabetes Preparedness Q&A

Q: Hello, Chelsea! I feel like we might be all over the place in this conversation. There are so many topics I want to dive into with you in this idea of diabetes preparedness. But let’s start here… this spring marked 18 years you’ve lived with diabetes. (Congratulations on that, by the way!) So, tell me about your diagnosis – how old were you and what happened?

A: Thank you! It’s crazy that it has been that long ago, but now it’s hard imagining not having T1D. I was diagnosed at age 11, actually just a week before my 12th birthday and the day after Easter. I hadn’t been feeling well for a while. Also, I had lost weight, was drinking constantly, and had little energy. My vision even started getting blurry to the point that I needed help with school work.

It didn’t concern my mama that much until I went out to lunch with her and my grandma. I remember after hardly eating my quesadilla, I downed two large lemonades. Then I couldn’t make it the thirty-minute drive home without begging her to stop so I could use the restroom and get another drink.

My grandma was a retired nurse. She told my mama she needed to get me in to see a doctor soon. We went in that Monday to the pediatrician and I was diagnosed immediately. Then I was sent to an endocrinologist down the street.

This picture was taken on Easter, the day before I was diagnosed.
I was a little thinner than normal and unknowingly eating more sugar, which was the worst thing for me at the time. But healing started the next day with insulin injections!
This picture was taken on Easter, the day before I was diagnosed. I was a little thinner than normal and unknowingly eating more sugar, which was the worst thing for me at the time. But healing started the next day with insulin injections!

Q: And how do you manage diabetes?

Early on, I used MDI (multiple daily injections) and finger pricks to manage diabetes. I remember refusing an insulin pump for a while because I hated the idea of being kept alive by machine. But after about 2 or 3 years, I gave in and started on Medtronic. I stayed on the MiniMed pump for about 13 years. Currently, I’m using Ominpod insulin pump (since 2019). I also wear a Freestyle Libre CGM (since 2021) to manage diabetes, and really love both!

Besides the technology though, I manage the highs and lows with unwavering support from my husband, friends, and family. As I’ve become more open to sharing this part of my life with people, I’ve found incredible support within my community.

And in 2018, I also got my diabetic alert dog, Oshie, to help me manage. 

Oshie the diabetic alert dog
This was first meeting Oshie at his training facility in South Florida.

Diabetes Preparedness with A Diabetic Alert Dog

Q: Ok, let’s talk about Oshie. We could probably spend the whole conversation talking about him — he’s so adorable! Can you tell me about him and how he helps you with diabetes preparedness and managing diabetes?

A: Thank you! He’s a good boy. Oshie is my almost-seven-year-old diabetic alert dog, and we’ve been together for just over 5 years now. He’s a pure yellow lab breed from ShowMe Labs in Missouri and was trained in South Florida at Canines4Hope. He’s been trained to alert to both highs (over 250 usually) and lows (under 70). He paws at my leg and sitting with me as I recover from low episodes.

He is trained to alert others if I am ever unresponsive. Thankfully, that hasn’t been put to the test yet. He is able to alert to highs by smelling ketones on my breath and to lows by the scent of my skin. These alerts happen regularly, specifically for lows in my case lately, although it was mostly high alerts early on.  

type 1 diabetic alert dog

How a Diabetic Alert Dog Helps People with Diabetes PREPAREDNESS

Q: What gave you the idea to look for a diabetic alert dog? And how has he helped you so far?

A: I was placed on one of the earliest CGMs around 2008. However, I had such a horrible experience with it (they’ve come a long way since then!) that it took me a while to come around to trying one again. But my A1C was far too high to try for pregnancy, and that has always been a dream for my husband and I.

My parents and husband agreed to looking into a diabetic alert dog to help manage my levels without going back on a CGM. The whole process took about a year. We first looked into training schools and sent in an application and payments. Then we were matched and he had training (and so did I as his handler). And then we finally got to take him home. While I did finally give in to getting a CGM, Oshie is trained to help prevent the dangerous lows and highs. In some cases he alert me before the CGM does.

While I can’t say dogs should be expected to replace CGMs, he has consistently been a security to it. Between Oshie and my CGM, I’m currently within range enough and have brought my A1C from over 8 to 5.4. Now my endocrinologists are comfortable with me trying for pregnancy.

I love that story, and I love dogs. Congratulations on such a great improvement!

Chelsea and her diabetic alert dog
Working on Oshie’s agility

The Importance of Diabetes Preparedness

Q: Ok. Let’s switch gears to a different kind of diabetes preparedness. Where you live in Florida, you’re accustomed to hurricane season, I’m sure. One of the devotions in my book “Devotions on Diabetes” is about how I have family in Florida. I was glued to their live streaming news when hurricane Ian hit. And I wrote in the book about how a hurricane can specifically affect people with diabetes. What has your experience been with hurricanes, and how do you prepare for a natural disaster like that?

A: Of course! I was born and raised on the Florida Gulf Coast. As a child I relied on my parents to think of those things, I’ve thought about it more as I’ve grown up. Yes, there’s always a bit of extra diabetes preparedness to think about for hurricanes when you have T1D.

Mostly, it involves making sure I have backups of everything. From batteries and charged power banks for my phone (which is also my CGM reader) to my 4AllFamily insulin cooler. I want to be prepared in case we lose power to stocked insulin vials and OmniPod pump supplies. In the past we have lost power, but only temporarily.

Of course, it’s important to prep for the worst to the best of our ability each time. Despite attending a smaller church, we actually have a really strong T1D group. We’re there for each other when needed!

Diabetes Preparedness for Exercise with T1D

Physical Trainer with Type 1 diabetes hiking

Q: Something else you need to prepare for in advance with diabetes is physical activity, which you know as a personal trainer. And I know you love to hike. I feel like hiking is different than other types of exercise because it typically happens over a longer stretch of time. What works best for you? Can you share any tips or suggestions on how you prepare for something like that?

A: Yes, I LOVE hiking! I think its such a peaceful pastime (despite the high level of physical activity). I’ve gotten to see some of the best of God’s creation that way.

I was encouraged to exercise early on in my diagnosis. So this is what I latched onto in my parent’s footsteps. Being on a Pod & CGM, I’m able to put on a low temp basal from the start, keep plenty of high protein snacks on hand (like a trail mix) for balanced levels, and a mid-sugary drink option like a regular Gatorade. Dried fruit is good to quickly bring up lows. I’ve also used energy gels or jelly beans when running half-marathons.

Type 1 diabetic living with diabetes for 18 years
Hiking the Narrows in Zion

Diabetes and Faith

Q: Let’s switch gears again and talk about your faith. Can you tell me your faith story?

A: I’d love to! In short, I was raised in church, baptized as an infant, and then again in childhood. But I strayed far from Christ in high school and even further in college, despite being a leader in my Christian sorority. I believed in Christ and His gospel, but my actions proved I was far from Him in spirit.

By my senior year of college, I found myself lost in purpose and direction. I worked tirelessly for the life I thought I wanted, and my efforts came up void over and over. I was exhausted and the joy I searched for kept eluding me.

From where I am now, I can see all of this really brought me back to my confession of faith. I was actually, truly trusting in it for the first time. I met my husband that year and we’ve grown together in faith for these last nine years. We strengthen each other through the highs and lows.

My faith has been refined a lot these last four years or so as I’ve discovered a love for knowing Him better through the study of scripture, journaling, and worship through the trials.

study of scripture, journaling, and worship through the trials.

The Intersection of Diabetes and Faith

Q: I love how you said, “worship through the trials.” Can you explain how do you see the intersection of diabetes and faith? What does that look like in your life?

A: I see the two interwoven all the time now! It really is true that the more you study and meditate on His word, the more you see Him at work in your life through the truths revealed in it. For the longest time, I simply saw T1D as an obstacle to overcome in the way of accomplishing what I hoped for. Like a daily roadblock. But as my faith has grown, I see His purpose in it constantly.

Enduring this fight for over 18 years, I’m now able to help, encourage, and love others in this space in a way that I would have never been able to prior. It has deepened my dependence for Him in daily provision, the very literal highs and lows, and the consequences of them. It has forced me to see myself in a new light — not simply the superficial, as is easily seen by others, but in the light in which I’m seen by my Savior and Creator.

Sharing Diabetes and Faith with Others

Now with Instagram, I’m given a space to give Him glory for all He’s done in it. I point to all the little ways I see Him each day. If you had told me 18 years ago that I would being sharing this part of my life publicly in this way, I definitely wouldn’t have believed you. Social media is traditionally about sharing the highlights. But with this account I’m able to share the lowlights and Christ’s presence in those too.

I know our God is in the business of making beautiful things out of the broken and making all things new. And after this many years, I can see that now and I want to share it.

If the purpose of life is to grow in love and give glory to God, then this battle with T1D not only does that for myself, but it could be used to strengthen others in the same way. So what could I complain about? This T1D fight has deepened my purpose in life and, and through it all, has brought me closer to my Savior. What a gift that is!

Q&A with an 18-year type 1 warrior living with diabetes for 18 years, standing with her horse.

Facing Additional Diagnoses

Q: I just love your perspective. Now, you have recently received additional diagnoses. How does that affect your diabetes? And how has your faith played a role in that as well?

A: Yes, this year has been the most challenging one I’ve faced yet in regards to my health. After the New Year, I was sick with a laryngitis-type illness. That lasted strong for about a month and a half. Immediately afterward, I started having severe abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, etc., and it has gotten progressively worse.

I had surgery for endometriosis in August, a condition and procedure many women in my family have needed for pregnancy. (My husband and I have been trying for a baby for 6 years now without success.) While I’m fully healed from the procedure itself now, the symptoms have all remained. So I have been referred to a Gastroenterologist for continued testing, which I am currently awaiting. I was diagnosed with high gluten intolerance (a possible celiac condition which is common for T1Ds). But that has yet to be confirmed through a formal procedure.

Of course, it all has an impact on my diabetes. Sometimes the physical stress of it all causes stubborn highs. And then other times I’m too nauseous to eat which causes frequent lows. Apple juice has become a close friend of mine.       

Diabetes PREPARedness FOR SURGERY

Q: You mentioned needing to have surgery. Can you explain how your faith prepared you for that?

A: I feel His Holy Spirit reminding me frequently of Mark 4:35-41 & Matthew 8:23-27. After performing many healings witnessed by His disciples, Jesus gets into a boat with them and he falls asleep. Then a “violent storm” arises suddenly, and the disciples begin to freak out.

Matthew quotes the disciples waking Him up saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!” And Mark 4:38-40 quotes the following:

The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Mark 4:38-40

After all the first-hand miracles they had just witnessed in the prior verses, the disciples were still so afraid that He wasn’t going to take care of them — that He maybe wasn’t paying attention. But when He awoke, He wasn’t startled by the vast storm. It didn’t catch Him off guard or scare Him. All He had to say was, “Silence! Be still!” And it was so. 

This passage strikes me so hard because after witnessing God’s goodness, His provision, and His strength first-hand in my T1D diagnosis and the many other trials of life and the good it has all brought me, who am I to now say, “God, do you not care that I am going through this?” or “Wake up!” as if He weren’t aware?

My God knows, and He is sovereign and good.

My God knows, and He is sovereign and good. Every time I get anxious, I can hear Him say to my soul, “Why are you afraid, Chels? Do you still have no faith?” And this calm rebuke gives me peace. Whether the new diagnosis or a surgery, I’m resting in that faith.

I was at such peace throughout my surgery and the days leading up to it. The staff took such good care of me, and they even prayed over me prior to the procedure. That meant a lot, and knowing it was a Christian-led surgery center was an added blessing. I’ve recovered fully and promptly, and I am thankful for all of it. 

The Most Helpful Faith Tools: Scripture

Q: As you live out your faith walk, what kinds of things do you feel are most helpful for you? What works best to be sure you’re connecting with God and living out your faith each day? Do you have a reading routine, or prayer time?

A: I do! Since I’m working part-time currently, I have a little bonus time for it too, and I’ve certainly needed it. Even when I was working more, I would take my mid-day breaks at a local coffee shop. That’s where I’m best able to focus without the distractions of home-life. There, I like to spend time journaling, reading scripture and theology books, and listening to sermons and praise music. Its always the most at peace I’ll be all day, and I crave this time. I also spend time there after church on Sundays to dive deeper in the message and meditate on it all.  

Apart from that, my family has a daily devotional we do together. And each year at Christmas I like to pick a new one to do. This year we have “New Morning Mercies” by Paul David Tripp. Last year was “My Utmost For His Highest” by Oswald Chambers. My husband and I read together at night the devotional and paired scripture, and we talk about our thoughts on it, other related scripture, and its application. Reading it aloud together was my husband’s idea, and I’ve really loved growing spiritually with Him through it. My parents and brother read it at different times, but we have a text group to discuss it.

The Most Helpful Faith Tools: PRAYER & Worship

1 Thessalonians 5: 17 says “pray without ceasing” and that is currently a focus of mine. I spend so much time alone with my own thoughts of unimportant things or things that bring anger or anxiety. But if I keep those thoughts on Christ, speaking to Him instead, there’s joy in the midst of it all. I’ve wanted a “prayer closet” for so long, and maybe that’s my next step after I organize the space better!   

Other little things include listening to and singing along with worship music when doing my chores at home. And I like to find faith-based tv shows and movies to watch to grow faith. Simply, the more I’m able to surround myself with Him and seek His presence in everything, the more at peace I am.

the more I’m able to surround myself with Him and seek His presence in everything, the more at peace I am

Calming the Stresses of Diabetes

Q: Speaking of peace, diabetes has a tendency to throw the inevitable curve ball that can certainly disrupt that peace. Is there a verse you bring to mind to help you process what’s going on and calm the stresses that come with diabetes?

A: The most obvious one for me is 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

The apostle Paul wrote this while in a Roman prison. Because he doesn’t specify what the thorn in his side was, and simply puts it in the category of “weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities,” it’s easy to put the daily T1D curveballs in this category too. Or any chronic condition for that matter.

As it says earlier in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, we are given these hardships that at times push us “beyond our strength” to remind us that we need God. While we need God equally in the good times and the bad, the difficult times are the ones that push us back to Him and help us rely on His strength in our times of weakness. Our weaknesses are simply a tool of grace to draw us back to the presence of our Lord and Savior and so it reminds me to be thankful for the condition(s) that does that daily.   

Our weaknesses are simply a tool of grace to draw us back to the presence of our Lord and Savior

Encouragement for Rough Times with Diabetes

Q: What would you say to the reader here today that is going through a particularly rough time? Maybe it’s an additional diagnosis like you recently faced. Or maybe something like anxiety or struggles with blood sugar management. It could be really anything that feels like life with diabetes is a struggle. How would you encourage them today?

A: I would say stay rooted and encouraged by God’s Word! It’s so full of people in the same kind of situations. They are situations that seem absolutely horrible and destitute on the surface. But they were made new into a beautiful testimony by the work of the Lord. It reminds us of who the Author of our story is. He is a perfectly good, perfectly just, perfectly holy, and perfectly righteous God. And He is for His people, not against them.

His story is often not the same as the one we’d write for ourselves. But in trusting and having faith in who He is, we can trust that His story for our lives is better. It’s simply not over yet. He is at work in every little thing. And the closer we stay to Him, rooted in His Word, the more often we’ll be able to see it.

I would also say to remember that the world clouds what’s real. It misrepresents what’s important, and it takes away our focus from what is. His Word will keep your focus on the big picture, the one that assures. With faith in searching for and loving God, we WILL be healed one day, just possibly on the other side of eternity (Revelation 21:4-5). Everything here is simply preparing us for it so seek the Healer more than the healing. The healing is coming.

Chelsea headshot

Chelsea has T1D and, by God’s graces, celebrated her 18th diaversary in 2023. Recently she was also diagnosed with Gastroparesis, Endometriosis, and a gluten intolerance. She’s a University of Florida grad who now works as a personal trainer, group exercise instructor & fitness professional. She lives in Brooksville, Florida with her husband and two pups. She loves horseback riding, hiking, dancing, painting, and journaling about God’s Word. Through life’s challenges she has found strength through Christ and His promises. 

PIN FOR LATER

Q&A with a type 1 warrior living with diabetes for 18 years

MORE POSTS TO ENJOY

15 Practical Tips to Prepare for Summer with Diabetes
How this Beauty Pageant Winner Overcame Trying to Hide a Diabetes Diagnosis
Q&A with a Fellow Type 1 and Diabetes Educator
Looking for more devotions? Devotions on Diabetes: A 30-Day Journey to Anchor Your Soul is on Amazon

Like this Post? Share with a Friend:

 

 

 

 

Kaycee - Devotions on Diabetes

HEY - I'M KAYCEE!

Welcome to my Devotions on Diabetes website! Thanks for stopping by. I've lived with diabetes for 30+ years. And I'm here to provide you with a heaping helping of encouragement while you deal with diabetes and navigate this chronic illness with God by your side.

There are lots of goodies here: devotions, diabetic friendly recipes, Bible reading plans, and more. So grab your favorite (sugar-free) beverage and enjoy your stay.

 

 

FOLLOW ALONG

 

 

Want MORE DEVOTIONS?

Devotions on Diabetes: A 30-Day Journey to Anchor Your Soul is now available on Amazon.

Devotions on Diabetes: A 30-Day Journey to Anchor Your Soul by Kaycee Parker

 

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Diabetic Recipes
Devotions on Diabetes: A 30-Day Journey to Anchor Your Soul
Bible Reading Plans - Instant Downloads - Printable
Devotions on Diabetes devotional blog