Everyone has that one topic they get asked the same questions about all the time. I recently saw a TikTok of a guy who is over seven feet tall and hands out business cards with answers to all the questions he gets asked most often like “yes, I play basketball, yes my parents are tall, too,” etc.
For me, that topic is diabetes, and I’ve found I’ve started getting even more questions since I started wearing a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) on my arm. I never mind getting asked these questions and I definitely don’t mind answering them, either. I would rather people ask questions than make assumptions, and I consider it to be a sign of empathy and openness when someone is curious about another person’s journey.
Before I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I knew very little about the disease. Knowing all that I do now, it’s interesting to me to look back at this time with a sense of appreciation for how much I’ve learned and how far I’ve come. This is why I’m totally understanding of anyone who may have misconceptions about T1D, or ask questions that those of us who have been living with the disease for years may consider “obvious.”
Whether you know someone with T1D or you are just hoping to learn, here are five of the most common questions I’m asked about life with the disease that may surprise you. Keep in mind, these things are from my own experience and may be different from you or your loved one’s journey!
1. When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed at age 21 in fourth year university. Prior to this, I thought type 1 was “the kind of diabetes you’re born with” and type 2 was the other kind that’s related to lifestyle factors and age. Surprise, I was wrong! I know many people I’ve spoken to since then have also believed this myth, but it’s false: you can be diagnosed at any age, although it’s most commonly diagnosed in children.
2. Do you have to take insulin?
If you have T1D, you are insulin-dependent. This means you need an exterior source of insulin to live, and you either take insulin injections (via pen/needles) or wear an insulin pump. People who don’t have T1D secrete insulin out of their pancreas to move the glucose from their blood stream into their cells, but people with T1D have stopped making insulin naturally, which is why we need this exterior insulin source. I take insulin injections but may eventually switch over to a pump because I hear it’s more convenient and acts more like a natural pancreas.
3. Do the injections hurt?
No, they don’t hurt if you do them properly. You’re supposed to pinch your fat on your stomach or hip area and guide the needle in slowly but sometimes if I’m in a rush or hit it in the wrong place it can sting a bit!
4. What is that thing on your arm?
Last year I started wearing a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) on the back of my arm. This was revolutionary for me because it meant that instead of using a stone-age-1990s-cellphone-looking-brick and pricking my finger to get a drop of blood to test my glucose levels with, I could stick an adhesive circular patch with a tiny needle in the centre on the back of my arm, bluetooth it with my phone and continuously monitor my levels throughout the day (and night) instead. Not only was this pain-free and so much easier, but it’s also much safer because if you’re having a blood sugar low you can test your sugars much faster than with the kit. All that to say, I get more questions about my diabetes now and more curious looks about the patch on my arm, but it’s pretty cool being able to act as a fly on the wall of my own blood stream.
5. Do you have to watch what you eat?
With T1D, you technically can eat whatever you want as long as you cover it with the appropriate amount of insulin. People with T1D have a “carb ratio,” so if your ratio is 1:6, you will take 1 unit of insulin for every 6 grams of carbs. This means that no matter what you’re eating, you have to track and count it. However, I still try to eat healthy-ish so lots of complex carbs, vegetables, lean proteins, fruit, etc., and exercise. We’re basically just like everyone else, we just need to do a little extra homework!
Did any of the above surprise you? If so, which part(s)? I would love to hear from you!