As I reflect on my 43 years of living with Type 1 diabetes, times have certainly changed. I grew up during a time when diabetes management and treatment looked drastically different – purified pork and beef insulin pumps were still being used and urine tests for glucose were administered instead of the blood tests that are used nowadays.
I was too young to remember being diagnosed with diabetes, but I clearly remember changes I had to make as a result of the diagnosis. At school, I wasn’t able to eat cookies or cake when my classmates brought them in for their birthdays, and the hardest part for me then was not understanding why I couldn’t eat those treats like the other kids. Up until age 18, my parents took good care of me and helped me manage my diabetes. When I went away to college and was left to take care of myself, I started to eat whatever I wanted and managing my diabetes fell to the bottom of my priorities list. My overall health and vision suffered; diabetic retinopathy combined with glaucoma and cataracts escalated my vision issues, and fast forward to right before my 30th birthday, I was declared legally blind.
Learning to navigate the world without any vision was a difficult adjustment. From learning to cross 6 lanes of traffic with a seeing eye dog, learning how to cook, and completing other daily activities.
I am grateful for the support of my partner and my diabetes care team who have helped me prioritize and manage my diabetes and eye health better. While my life drastically changed at age 30, I am currently in a great place with my diabetes – having the lowest A1C I’ve had in my life of 5.8!
One thing I want to say to those who currently live with diabetes or prediabetes is don’t think complications can’t happen to you. I never imagined I would be blind, and I wish I had taken my diabetes and eye health seriously - so, take it from me.