Q&A: Managing Multiple Chronic Illnesses


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Today we continue in our Q&A series with a conversation on what it’s like to manage multiple chronic illnesses. Anna shares her experience with type 1, Hashimoto’s, and Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria. She is not only a diabetes warrior, but a warrior in general who is sure to leave you encouraged. Take a look: 

Q: When were you diagnosed with type 1? And what was that like for you and your family? 

A: I was diagnosed on October 14, 2002. I was 5 years old, and it happened to be the same year that I got glasses, as well as a new baby sister. It was a big year for us! I remember it started out with a UTI and visits to three doctors before ending up in the hospital. I remember being in the hospital and my parents having to learn how to give me injections, check my blood sugar, count carbs, and more. 

Q: What was it like for you living as a child with diabetes? 

A: I absolutely hated having diabetes as a child. In the beginning though, I thought it was “cool” because I could have snacks in class when other students couldn’t. But other than that, I absolutely despised it and was in denial for years. 

I hated having injections (the first year) and pump site injections (from age 6 to 25). I hated that I couldn’t just eat what my friends did or do the things that they did because I would either drop low or I would have to give insulin. I also snuck candy ALL THE TIME because I wasn’t allowed to eat it normally. In middle school and high school, I would actually disconnect my pump whenever I had to wear a dress for orchestra and just not wear it. I hated people seeing my pump tubing, the actual device, and the infusion sites. I just did not take care of myself. My A1c was always in the 10s until I turned 21 and decided to make a change. 

Q: How do you currently manage your diabetes?

A: I currently manage my diabetes with multiple daily injections (MDI). I was on an insulin pump from the age of 6 until I was 25 and actually switched to MDI due to my pump malfunctioning. I also use the Dexcom CGM to help manage my glucose levels. 

As I said above, I did not take care of myself until I turned 21. I decided that I was tired of feeling miserable all the time and wanted to change what I was doing. So I kicked my butt in gear and started to actually take care of myself. My current A1c is 6.5, and I don’t shy away from my diabetes. I’ve become a supporter for others with type 1, and I have loved showing people what it is like to live with diabetes. 

Q: Diabetes isn’t your only auto immune issue. Can you tell me more about the other issues? When were those diagnosed? 

A: In addition to type 1 diabetes, I also have Hashimoto’s and Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria (Hives). I don’t remember exactly when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, but my pediatric endocrinologist would always tell me that I had it but did not need to be put on medication yet. I was first put on medication when I was 21 as my Hashimoto’s had turned into hypothyroidism. I have been off and on medication for my thyroid since then, and am currently on medication once again. 

I was diagnosed with Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria in September 2022 while also trying to address gastrointestinal issues. 

Q: How did you realize something was wrong in either of those cases? 

A: For Hashimoto’s, I had landed in the ER when I was 21 due to not being able to keep anything down or in my body and had extreme dehydration. I was also constantly tired, exhausted, and had some major depression prior to getting sick. When I ended up in the ER, the doctors did tests on my thyroid and found that it had worsened to the point of hypothyroidism.  

For Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria, it started as small hives on my body. They occurred at the same time as the gastrointestinal issues. I was in my second year of graduate school and started to have intense stomach pain and hives. I landed in the ER several times for the stomach issues, During one of the ER visits, my hives had gotten worse, so I was given epinephrine. After being discharged, the hives grew massively to the point where they merged together into one massive hive covering 80% of my body. 

Q: How are those issues managed?

A: I am currently taking Levothyroxine for my Hashimoto’s. However, my thyroid has stabilized quite a bit, so my endocrinologist is considering taking me off the medication at my next visit. 

To manage the hives, I am currently taking 4x the usual dose of Zyrtec as well as getting the Xolair shot. Insurance had required that we tried everything under the sun prior to the Xolair shot which included several rounds of steroids, diet changes, taking an asthma medication, combining famotidine with allergy meds, taking medication for my thyroid, and more. All these attempts did not work and negatively impacted my diabetes. I currently receive monthly Xolair injections at my doctor’s office. The Xolair shots are approximately $2,000 grand per dose, and I was lucky enough to get on a co-pay program where I only pay $5 for each dose. 

Q: What affects do these other conditions have on your diabetes, or vice versa?

A: The biggest affect I have seen has been between the hives (urticaria) and my diabetes. The hives caused a massive deal of stress on my body which caused my body to react differently in terms of blood sugars and insulin absorption. The steroids I was on also greatly impacted my blood sugars and caused my A1c to rise from 6.1 to 6.5. I am still working to get my A1c back down to pre-hive days. The hives also made it difficult to even dose for my carbs as I did not have a lot of places where I could give my injections or CGM. 

Q: I’ve seen you posting on Instagram quite a bit about fitness. What role does that play in your day-to-day life? 

A: Fitness has a huge role in my day-to-day life, as it helps me manage my stress and it releases the feel-good endorphins. When I exercise in the morning it also helps me with my insulin absorption throughout the day. With the exercise, I have also changed my nutrition lifestyle in a way that benefits my diabetes and my physical/mental wellbeing. 

I really don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t exercise. When I was experiencing the hives on a daily basis, there were several weeks where I could not exercise due to the pain and itching. Plus, heat made my hives worse and exercise = sweat. My mental health declined during these times. 

Q: You seem to have such a positive outlook even with the adversity you have faced and still face today. How do you explain that? What keeps you optimistic?

A: I have done a lot of self-coaching on my health and have worked to make my illnesses a superpower for me. In addition to my medical conditions, I have experienced a lot of trauma and turmoil in my life. Yet, I have been able to overcome those challenges. I want to show other individuals with chronic illness that they are capable of anything they put their minds to because they are NOT their disease or their illness. They are just individuals who have it and must live with it. There are still days when the diabetes, hives, or thyroid negatively impacts my day, but I don’t let that stop me. I just remind myself that I am capable of doing very difficult things!

Q: Where do you find your support community to encourage you?

A: I have made some great friends who also have type 1 diabetes and other chronic illnesses over social media who have been great supports, and I have some friends who don’t have any form of illness but are empathic and understanding of what I am going through. My biggest support, though, is my husband. He has stayed with me and taken care of me when I could not function, and he has faith in me and believes in me. 

Q: When did you come to faith and how did that happen? 

A: I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but I really struggled in my youth and teen years. It wasn’t until I turned 21 (there is a pattern here with being 21 and changing my life lol) that I really came back to my faith and put my trust in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I was in a dark place spiritually, mentally, physically, and I honestly was putting myself in dangerous situations. I hit rock bottom and was tired of being stuck down there. So I got myself up and climbed out of that hole. I studied my scriptures every day for an hour each day. I went to all my church activities and functions and became friends with those people in my church. I also spent a lot of time praying and asking my Heavenly Father for help and guidance. 

Q: How has your faith played a part in your diabetes (and/or other conditions)? 

A: My faith has played a huge part in giving me hope when it comes to living with my conditions. There are days when I want to give up, but then I am reminded that I was put on this earth for a reason and that I can do so much more. I know that my Savior atoned for my sins and knows exactly how I feel and the pain that I have experienced. Without the pain I have experienced, I would not know what joy is. Without my faith, I honestly don’t think I would still be living here today. 

Anna Bennion

Anna is a wife and fur mom to a young Cavalier puppy, and she has lived with type 1 diabetes for 20.5 years. She has lived with Hoshimoto’s since her youth and was diagnosed with IBS and Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria in September of 2022. Anna is a Certified Life and Performance Coach, BODi Partner, and is in the process of getting NASM Certified as a Nutrition Coach and Personal Trainer. She is striving to build a business working with others with diabetes and Individuals with chronic illnesses to empower them and help them strive to meet their goals in life. Anna has endured many difficult trials in her life, including ending a career path due to her health. 

If you would like to connect with Anna, you can find her on Instagram @_anna.x.marie_ or join her free Facebook Group: Hunting for Unicorns – Looking for that Perfect 100.


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