Home Type 1 Self-care for type 1 diabetes

Self-care for type 1 diabetes

by Keondra Jones
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Keondra “Kiki” Jones has lived with Type 1 diabetes for 24 years. She is going to school to become a social worker who helps women and people with diabetes live fulfilling lives.

When I was 10 years old, I started wetting the bed. My girlfriend’s mother took me to the doctor because I kept drinking and urinating. The pediatrician advised her mother to limit fluid intake after 8pm, but my thirst remained unquenchable. I would sneak into the bathroom in the middle of the night and drink water from the faucet.

In addition to being thirsty and constantly urinating, I started losing weight and felt extremely tired. Seven months later, my blood sugar levels exceeded 800 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), so I was taken to the emergency room and he was admitted to the intensive care unit for two weeks. At this time I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

That was 24 years ago. Since then, diabetes has changed and evolved. We know more about the warning signs and symptoms and treatment options. However, many still do not understand that you can live a full life with it.

For me, I want to be part of the solution. Advocating for people with diabetes, listening with an empathetic ear, and empowering others through education feels like my calling. Every person with diabetes should know that there are no limits to what they can do.

I learned to do what I love and never give up hope. Here are my girlfriend’s type 1 diabetes self-care strategies. I hope this inspires you too.

Diabetes is like everything else in life. If you put in the effort, you will reap the fruits of your efforts.

Strategy #1: Connect with others

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes (at age 11), I felt alone and scared. One of my biggest concerns was standing out from my peers. At first, it was impossible to escape my differences. The treatment plan I received required multiple snacks each day to prevent hypoglycemia. This meant we had to eat at designated times when others were not allowed. The snack table was just for me. I think some kids resented it.

But I soon learned I wasn’t alone. He spent two weeks at Camp Nejeda, a summer camp exclusively for children with type 1 diabetes. That was a pivotal moment for me. There were a lot of kids around me who were just like me. It was the first time I witnessed other children taking insulin. The animals also had diabetes. This discovery was empowering and meant that my battle with diabetes did not happen in a vacuum.

Strategy #2: Empower through education

Throughout my diabetes journey, empowering myself and others has always been important and kept me motivated. I find great joy in teaching and sharing my experiences with others. Education is essential to managing diabetes. I used the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and followed several other people with her type 1 diabetes on Instagram for tips and ideas.

Being diagnosed at a young age meant I was constantly learning. I wish I had learned more about hyperglycemia when I was younger. High blood sugar levels make you feel excited and alert. Her mother says, “Please check your blood sugar level.” And sure enough, it’s expensive. People who don’t know me may interpret my attitude as rude, but I explain that it’s a side effect of my illness.

I hope my personal experience will empower others to take better care of themselves. Becoming a social worker allows you to educate and empathize with patients on topics that only those with experience can understand.

We also want people with diabetes to understand the seriousness of this disease. Without proper management, type 1 diabetes can be dangerous (and even life-threatening). Managing diabetes allows you to live a long, healthy life.

Strategy #3: Do what you love.

Traveling is my passion, but having diabetes requires more preparation and care. Instead of getting sidetracked from traveling, I take chances. I make sure I have enough supplies, including snacks, to deal with potential low blood sugar levels.

In preparation for my flight, I have my doctor write a letter explaining my condition and that I am wearing an insulin pump. This can be helpful if you are asked questions or stopped while traveling abroad. I will also let airlines and hotels know that I am diabetic and insulin dependent, so they will know in case of an emergency.

It may sound like a lot to think about, but diabetes doesn’t stop you from traveling. I have lived in Costa Rica, the Bahamas, Ireland, Turks and Caicos Islands, Jamaica, St. Maarten, Antigua, Puerto Rico, Japan, Dominican Republic, Mexico (Tulum and Cancun), Jakarta, Barbados (where my family is from), and you. Pretty much everything in the Caribbean you can think of. This year I went to Bali for my birthday.

Strategy #4: Celebrate progress

Treatments and technology for type 1 diabetes continue to evolve. I have made tremendous progress over the past 20 years and my quality of life has improved. From multiple daily insulin injections and having to prick my finger multiple times a day to test my blood sugar levels, I started using an insulin pump and continuous blood sugar monitor.

I now use various forms of technology to manage my diabetes by eating nutritious food. Diabetes is like any other disease in life, and if you put in the effort, you will reap the rewards.

I would like to advocate for a cure. I would like to see more efforts at high levels to support and allocate funding to find treatments, such as stem cell research. I hope I can be part of the solution.

If you are newly diagnosed with diabetes or are caring for someone with diabetes, know that you are not alone.

Strategy #5: Never give up hope

Diabetes diagnosis and treatment have made great advances over the past 24 years. Thanks to these advances, plus my dedication and hard work, I was able to thrive with her type 1 diabetes. If you are newly diagnosed with diabetes or are caring for someone with diabetes, know that you are not alone. With proper education and management strategies, you can live a fulfilling life with diabetes.

Use technology as an aid to connect with people like you and learn about your disease. Travel the world (if you choose) or do whatever your heart desires. There are no limits to what you can do.

Barbie Cervoni, MS, RD, CDCES, CDN

Written by Keondra Jones

Keondra “Kiki” Jones has had type 1 diabetes for 24 years. She is going to school to become a social worker who helps women and people with diabetes live fulfilling lives.

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