Meet Lurina, or as the diabetes community knows her, The Glucose Glitch. She has been in the diabetes game for 22 years – here’s her story and her best advice for a happy life with diabetes.
Can you tell us your diagnosis story?
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 16 in 2000. I came home from school and my parents thought I was just exhausted because of the athletic season that was taking place. After returning from school I went into my room and crashed down on my bed and literally didn’t have the energy to get up again. My mom brought dinner to my room, but I had no desire to eat. I remained in bed and didn’t return to school the next day. For a few days, I stayed in bed, too tired to do anything other than sleep. I had no appetite, only an unquenchable thirst and I had to urinate very often. I lost 6kg in a matter of four days.
My parents didn’t know what was wrong. My whole body just felt sick to the bone. After five days of not getting any better and just deteriorating, we visited the doctor. The doctor checked my blood sugar and it was extremely high, so they sent me to the Emergency Room. On our way to the Emergency Room, I started vomiting and everything became blurry. I do not remember arriving at the hospital and when I opened my eyes again, I was in a hospital bed with a number of doctors surrounding my bed and various IVs in my arm. At times I dozed off. I eventually woke up in the ICU a few hours later.
When they told me at had Type 1 diabetes, I had no idea what it meant. I received a stack of information leaflets and when the Diabetic Educator came to inform me of my diagnosis, it was a massive system overload. I had no idea where to begin and I clung to the pamphlets, reading them over and over again, trying to understand my new “normal” while dealing with the fact that my previous “normal” was gone forever.
What advice do you have for people who have just been diagnosed with diabetes?
Being diagnosed with any type of diabetes is like climbing a mountain. You will see the peak of the mountain and you know you want to reach the top. You see yourself at the top, you tell others you’ll make it to the top, but to get there will be a very long journey.
There will be steep uphills. There will be scary downhills. There will be rocky areas. There will be thorns. But only by following the path and making sure you have a support team, will you see yourself excelling.
Sometimes you’ll need to stop and take deep breath. Sometimes you’ll fall. Allow your support team to catch you or help you get back onto your feet again. That is okay, the mountain top is waiting, and you will reach that top, and just imagine the view and how good it is going to feel!
How has your diagnosis changed your life?
It changed my life in positive as well as negative ways. When I was diagnosed, I felt like an outcast. I was a happy-go-lucky person, but after the diagnosis, I became more introverted. It made me feel as if the word DIABETIC was carved into my forehead and I didn’t want to leave the house. In retrospect, I don’t know why it made me feel so embarrassed. I guess it was because I was a teenager and I just wanted to fit in, and this condition made me stand out. At that time in my life, it was not what I had in mind for myself or the rest of my future.
The old Lurina took a long time to return again and she only came back as my confidence in managing my condition started growing. Diabetes forced me to take care of my body, to make healthy lifestyle decisions and harvest sober habits. It didn’t happen overnight and it’s a constant process where I am always aware of my body: what it needs, what I put into it, how I feel about myself, health goals, etc. It is a good thing, but it can also be a negative thing, as it can become time-consuming.
What challenges do you face living with diabetes?
When I was diagnosed, it was an extremely scary reality to accept that it is a 24/7/365 condition with the possibility of rather intimidating long-term complications including blindness, nerve damage, cardiovascular disease, amputations, etc. That is not something you want to think about when you’re sixteen years old.
A daily challenge is having to manage my Type 1 diabetes every second of every day and every night. There is no vacation, I even need to manage it while on vacation, otherwise my vacation becomes a disaster and I need another vacation. Because there is no off switch, I think about it non-stop, while juggling all other aspects of life, and sometimes a ball is dropped and then I need to do some damage control.
What makes your life sweet?
Knowing that there is a network of strong individuals, rising up, standing together and reviving the diabetes community, while crushing Type 1 diabetes stigma into the ground. It helps to turn our frustration into education and makes the weight of living with Type 1 diabetes a little bit lighter and life with diabetes a whole lot brighter. I believe that #togetherwearestronger
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