What I’ve Learned from Living 32 Years of Life with Diabetes

Celebrating 32 Years with Type 1 - dog in a party hat with confetti

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May 5, 2024, marks 32 years of living my daily life with diabetes. I was diagnosed with type 1 at the tender age of 12, and I’ve dealt with it literally every day since. Although I do my best to manage it well and keep my blood sugar in target range as much as possible, it’s not always been easy.

I’ve learned a lot over the years of my life since my diabetes diagnosis. With this milestone approaching, I’m hopeful to give you some encouragement from the lessons I’ve learned through it all.

Lessons I've Learned from 32 years of life with diabetes

What is Life with Diabetes Like?

Beep, beep, beep!

I slowly opened one eye to glance at my phone. It was just past midnight, but I was getting an alert that my blood glucose was on the rise and had gone above 160mg/dl. I needed a dose of insulin to keep it from going too high while I slept. So I took enough insulin to keep my blood sugar from going too high, and then I programmed my alarm clock app to wake me in a bit to make sure it had gone down.

I rolled back over in bed, feeling tired. I was glad it was high blood sugar, and not a low blood sugar. Then I would have to stay awake until it came up. So at least there was that. I was hoping I could fall back asleep quickly, although I knew I’d be awake again soon. If you ask me, sleep is underrated. And it’s especially important with a chronic illness like diabetes.

To be fully transparent, there are times I hear that beeping and I just don’t want to deal with it. Even with healthy eating, highs and lows can happen. But it’s the middle of the night and I’m wishing there were a snooze button on my continuous glucose monitor. Why can’t diabetes sleep during the night, too?

(Side note: since I wear an insulin pump, you may be asking why I’m not on a closed loop technology that would attempt to prevent this from happening. While that’s a valid question, it’s an intentional decision I’ve made. And that’s for another blog post at another time. My point is this: diabetes doesn’t take a break day or night.)

Life with diabetes can sometimes interrupt sleep

Another Example of Life with Diabetes

I had just finished putting dinner together for my family of four. The main dish came piping hot out of the oven, and the veggies were perfectly steamed. The kids were washing their grimy little hands, and I was filling water glasses when I realized it. I hadn’t yet dosed for dinner. Dang.

I know I need to pre-bolus around 10-15 minutes before I start eating, or my blood sugar will climb very quickly. And then I will be fighting it for hours to try to get it to come down. And because that’s a battle I don’t want to deal with, I just sat at the table and waited while my family ate. I chatted with them until I could eat without spiking my blood glucose level, and then I warmed up my food.

While the two examples I’ve just offered here aren’t exactly monumental, I’m hoping it paints the picture that diabetes can make even everyday happenings like eating and sleeping more complicated. Diabetes affects so many parts of our lives. And when diabetes does this at every turn throughout the day, it can be exhausting.

But through all of the experiences and exhaustion, I have learned a few things. I’m hoping they will be helpful to you today.

Lessons Learned from Living Life with Diabetes

1. Offer Yourself Grace

One of the main things I’ve learned over the years is flexibility! Plan A almost never works, so I’m very accustomed to living in plan B mode. That goes for life owning my own business, life with two young children, and life managing a constantly-changing chronic illness.

In these moments where I need to shift on a dime and come up with a new plan, what I need most is grace. I need to remind myself that I didn’t thwart plan A so it would fail. And I didn’t intentionally sabotage anything. I did my best. Diabetes (and life) seems to have a mind of its own, and sometimes our role in it can only be reactive.

Could I beat myself up for forgetting to pre-bolus before a meal or for having a high blood glucose overnight? Sure. But that doesn’t do any good. That just makes me feel negative about myself. And that isn’t helpful for mental health either. If I know I’m doing what I can — things that form a healthy lifestyle like maintaining healthy glucose levels, making healthy food choices and portion sizes, maintaining healthy weight, and getting regular physical activity for good physical health — then I’ve done my job. That’s all I can control.

So grace it is. When my blood sugar is high overnight, plan B is setting my alarm to make sure it comes down. That’s the best I can do, and that’s all I can do.

When I forget to pre-bolus, I dose right away and then wait to eat. That’s plan B. And it works. With diabetes, you just have to roll with it. If you try to have complete control over everything, you’ll drive yourself crazy! (We don’t actually have control over anything, when you get right down to it.)

Hebrews 4:16 about turning to God for grace

2. Renew Your Mind

As I mentioned above, it’s easy to beat myself up over something diabetes related. Or to think about all that can go wrong in our physical health. From high blood pressure and heart disease to kidney disease and nerve damage, the health problems and side effects of diabetes can be serious. Risk factors are everywhere, and complications can happen to basically any organ of our body (including even our blood vessels).

We are at a higher risk for a lot of other health conditions, too. But looking at diabetes through this lens all the time, worrying about what is yet to happen, creates nothing but stress, anxiety, depression, and more. Worrying doesn’t add one day to our life. (Luke 12) In fact, the stress of it all can make our disease worse!

We need to focus on the truth. The truth about diabetes complications is that people with diabetes are living a long time with great quality of life in good health these days. Care for diabetics has evolved like crazy over the last century, and we now have better tools for proper diabetes management and to prevent an onslaught of complications from coming our way.

Our job in managing diabetes is to simply do our best. That’s it! Again, grace prevails.

The other truth I focus on is found in the Bible. Romans tells us this:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 

Romans 12:2

Not only do we need a healthy diet for our bodies, but we need it for our minds, too. That’s why I post devotions. That’s why I create Bible reading plans. We need our minds renewed. Jesus is the good news we need, and connecting with God through His Word and prayer is the best way to renew our minds.

woman reading the bible and praying

3. Give Thanks

Over the years, I have learned to look for the good. I’ve looked for reasons to be thankful. Would it be easy to focus on the negative? You bet. It’s everywhere. But that’s not the best God has for us.

During the middle-of-the-night alarm I mentioned at the start of this post, I was still able to be thankful. (Ok. Maybe not in the moment when I was groggy at midnight, but the next day for sure.) I was thankful that I had CGM technology with my Dexcom to alert me to the rising blood sugar levels. And I was thankful I could take insulin from my pump. I didn’t even have to get out of bed!

And, maybe most surprising, there wasn’t even a needle involved! Thinking back 32 years to when I was diagnosed, I was basically a human pin cushion. Needles at least four times a day for checking blood sugars. Needles for every injection of insulin, also multiple times a day. Had you told me then that I would be able to check my blood sugars and take insulin without needles in the future, I would have laughed.

100 Years of Life with Diabetes

We have come a long way in the 100 years since the discovery of insulin therapy, friend. Prior to that, diabetes was unfortunately a death sentence. But thanks to Sir Frederick Banting and his colleagues in 1921, we can have life. And we can be grateful for that.

Plus, we have so many ways to manage different types of diabetes, especially type 1. I know many people who wear insulin pumps. And many people take injections or diabetes medicines. People wear continuous glucose monitors. Treatment today can be so personalized. And we can be thankful for that, also.

I talk about this idea of living with a thankful heart in my book called Devotions on Diabetes on day 9. If you don’t have a copy, you can get one today on Amazon. There’s also a Bible reading plan download on “How to Have a Thankful Heart Through a Chronic Illness” as well.

Having a Heart of Thanks With a Chronic Illness

A Thankful Heart Challenge

Today, I want to challenge you to be thankful. Reach out to your family members or a friend who has been gracious and understanding of your chronic illness. Think of someone who has been instrumental in your diabetes care or mental health about it all. Maybe it’s even a healthcare professional you’ve worked with that really made a difference. Let them know that you are grateful for the important part they have played in your life. Let them know you appreciate their understanding and support and listening ear. Tell your healthcare provider they are a key part of your diabetes education and healthy lifestyle. Do it today.

Showing our gratitude is the next step in having a thankful heart. And guess what! That’s something we can do that doesn’t affect our blood sugar!

How Long have you Lived Life with Diabetes?

How long have you had diabetes? What has been your experience? Please reach out and let me know. I would love to hear from you!

Get More about Life with Diabetes

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Lessons I've Learned from 32 years of life with diabetes

MORE POSTS TO ENJOY

The Role of Rest with a Chronic Illness
The Time it Takes to Manage Diabetes
stack of top ten books for diabetes management
Looking for more devotions? Devotions on Diabetes: A 30-Day Journey to Anchor Your Soul is on Amazon

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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.

 

 

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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