At the age of 27, having had type 1 for 13 years, I am a bilingual ER nurse with a bachelor degree in nursing from Boston College with a minor in Hispanic studies who has traveled to many countries and tried to learn how others with less resources live and die with this disease. I am one semester away from completing my master of science in nursing degree at Yale University’s School of Nursing, hoping to work as a Family Nurse Practitioner in a diabetes clinic upon graduation in May. Ultimately, my vision is to return to obtain my PhD one day in order to perform research on how type 1 diabetes is managed in adulthood in hopes of improving it and reducing its morbidity.
Meanwhile, I’m also a fitness fanatic, who lifts weights, runs and trains wrestling, Muy Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA in hopes of one day hanging a picture in my diabetes office of my glove raised after winning a fight. Whenever my coaches feel I’m ready to enter the ring or cage, my opponent will not be a person; it will be- and has always been- diabetes… and I’m fully prepared to kick its head off.
What is the weirdest question you’ve been asked about your diabetes, and how did you respond?
“Is that a tamagotchi?” Regarding my insulin pump. Naturally, I responded with “yes, and the cable allows it to charge from my body’s force field”.
Has anyone told you that you couldn’t do something due to your diabetes, and you proved them wrong?
In high school, my freshman basketball coach was awful. She refused to learn about type 1. She made us run suicides for over an hour after a particularly devastating loss, and I ran to the point of loss of consciousness with low blood sugar. She then sat me for the rest of the season (when I had been a starter every game). She said, “if you can’t keep your blood sugars up I don’t trust you to run during a game”.
Begrudgingly, I admit that it made me afraid to run long distance for quite some time. However, with the support of my medical team and my partner & family, I can officially call myself a runner all these years later, having completed 10k’s with the goal of a half marathon set in the next year. I also now train a much more demanding sport- mixed martial arts- and find that with supportive coaching and teammates, I will never experience such an emergency nor discrimination ever again!
How has diabetes contributed to forming you into the person you are today? Mentally, physically, or emotionally?
Diabetes entered my life during quite the transformative age- I was enamored with the kindness of the staff, the excitement of the medical equipment and the adventure of playing “guess and check” with carbs when I was in the hospital. That was helped- obviously- by a resilient family, an inspirational type 1 nurse caring for me, and the understanding that my uncle had been living well with diabetes for almost 50 years by then. I was turned on to the idea of paying it forward and caring for others, as I’ve been working as an ER nurse for the last 4 years and am one semester away from completing my master of science in nursing to work as a Family Nurse Practitioner with a specialty in diabetes. Diabetes has challenged me emotionally and mentally, as with this diagnosis, we are asked to spend much of your day thinking about food. It has taken so much effort to put that emotional effort into a healthy space, as I struggled with caloric restriction and disordered eating for a little while (which is all too common in type 1 teens these days). I found that I was able to have a healthier relationship with food when I addressed the reasons I was so angry at diabetes for all its highs and lows and the financial burden it places on me and my family. Although I will always hate that anyone has to have diabetes, I love that I’ve been able to cope much better than I used to with the condition and want to make others believe that they too can overcome all of the complexities of the condition and live life excellently in SPITE of the diagnosis!
Would you rather fight one horse sized duck or 100 regular sized ducks?
One horse sized duck. Because I could bite it’s throat out and win instantly. Too many throats to bite for 100 ducks.