Diabetes: A Lifelong Struggle

Regan Quinn, Reporter

Excessive thirst, itchy hands and feet, loss of motivation, and weight loss are a few symptoms that Bailey Quinn experienced when her pancreas failed during her sophomore year of highschool.  Because of her weight loss and the fact that she was constantly drinking water, her mother was sure that she had an eating disorder.  Bailey said, “I did research on my own and told her that I have diabetes.  She took me to the doctor to show me how serious she was about the assumed disorder.  That trip to the doctor’s office was the first time that I was truly disappointed and to say I told you so..”   

 

Type one diabetes is a chronic illness where the pancreas fails to produce insulin, which breaks down glucose into energy needed for daily bodily functions and activities. The exact cause for type one diabetes is unknown, but it is sure that the immune system mistakenly attacks insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Genetics and environmental factors, such as a virus are believed to play an important role.

 

A newly diagnosed type one diabetic has a lot to learn.  Bailey had to learn how to test her blood sugar, give insulin shots to herself, and count carbohydrates and proteins.  “It was terrifying learning how to manually regulate my own body,” she said.   

 

Diabetics have to know how much insulin is needed for what they’re eating and doing. So many things can alter blood sugar levels, such as stress, hormones, activity, food, and emotions.  They discover how they feel when their blood glucose is low and how they feel when it is too high.

 A low blood sugar can cause tingling, dizziness, and shaking. If a low blood sugar is unrecognized or ignored, it often leads to passing out, because the body  lacks the energy to maintain consciousness.  

 

On the other hand, high blood sugar can lead to nausea, vomiting, extreme thirst, shortness of breath, and stomach pain.

 

Diabetes cannot be ignored. Long term high blood sugar can lead to nerve damage, kidney damage or failure, loss of sight, many infections, and major complications.

 

Taking care of yourself as a diabetic can become stressful and it may feel like that is all you think about.  “There were times that I stopped caring completely.  I wouldn’t test my sugar, or give myself insulin.  It all got so annoying and I was fed up with it, but my family helped me understand the consequences of not doing what I need to,” said Bailey.

 

Bailey was told that she has to test her blood sugar at least four times a day.  She has to test before she eats, before and during exercising, before bed and sometimes throughout the night.  She keeps insulin and testing materials in the nurse’s office, and has to go down to test before going to lunch.  Bailey has to know how many carbs and proteins are in everything she eats.  If she goes out to eat she has to google search how much there is so she knows how much insulin to give herself.  She sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night because her sugar is not at a good number.  Bailey said, “The hardest part is trying to maintain normalcy.  It’d be really easy to give up, and just stop monitoring my glucose levels and injecting insulin.  It’d be easy to pretend like I’m normal, but if I ever did that I could end up blind or an amputee or worse.  Motivation to stay healthy is sometimes hard to find in such an unhealthy society.   My sports performance isn’t as good as it used to be.  Giving 100% can result in low blood sugar.  I’m afraid to do my best because I don’t want to pass out on the field.”  Diabetes has affected Bailey in every single aspect of her  life.

 

“Diabetes has become such a central part of my life. I am thankful for the challenges thrown my way. It taught me moderation and I gained strength, intelligence and motivation through my weaknesses. What doesn’t kill you can truly make you stronger,” said Bailey