Name: Brant Ausenhus
Age at diagnosis: 3
Involvement with JDRF: Walk to Cure Diabetes participant, Hope Gala Committee Communications Co-chair, Board member (Outreach Chair and VP, Nominating Chair), Adult Type 1 Diabetes Initiative volunteer, Mentor
What is an obstacle you’ve faced in living with T1D, and how did you deal with it?
It’s changed as I’ve grown. When I was diagnosed as a child, the theory was that people with type 1 diabetes should try to avoid sugar as much as possible, so no candy, no soda, no sugar if you can avoid it. So as a child, that was really tough. Going to a birthday party and not eating the cake, not having candy on Halloween, these were things that as a child were very difficult for me. But I think back now and think, that was kind of nice; it instilled some healthy eating habits in me. Now I would say the hardest thing is the control of blood sugars when it’s most important. It seems like, in my adult life, it’s just when I don’t want a low blood sugar or high blood sugar to come up that it tends to. If I’m presenting in front of a group and all of a sudden I start to feel a low blood sugar coming on, or a meeting with clients, those are the times when it’s just terribly inconvenient.
What’s one way T1D has made you a better person?
It’s that self-control, the ability to regulate. I think I have an ability to say no to certain things, whether it was candy as a child or alcohol and drugs during high school. Now it’s probably back to sugar and candy but it’s that ability to know what’s best for myself and turn away from certain things.
What do you wish someone had told you when you were first diagnosed? Or, since you were diagnosed at three years old, any advice you wish you had heard along the way?
It would have been nice if somebody had talked about how treatment has evolved over the years and how it will continue to evolve. If somebody could have said early on that this is the hardest it will be to control your diabetes, and it will only continue to get easier as the years go by. For those that think T1D is daunting when they’re first diagnosed, to know that it’s only going to get easier, in terms of both treatment and your knowledge, would be impactful.
Have you encountered any misconceptions about T1D? If so, how did you respond?
Growing up, I can remember lots of time coaches and teachers would think that diabetes would somehow keep me from doing certain things. I think that’s probably the most common misconception; when somebody hears you have diabetes and suddenly the kid gloves come on and they think you’re very fragile. I think that’s counterproductive in a lot of ways, but just know that a child with diabetes may need special care in certain circumstances but not all the time.
Who has been your biggest supporter in managing your T1D?
Definitely my mom. She is the one that took me to all my appointments and she understood the disease and the treatment. She’s definitely the one that was the primary caregiver. Also, being a kid that really liked sports growing up, I really admired professional athletes with diabetes. There was a quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings named Wade Wilson that was around when I was growing up, and he’s one I used to read stories about and look to as an example of what could be done, even with diabetes. So those were more inspirational than impactful growing up, but always good stories to hear.