Jack – Age 20
I was 4 ½ years old when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (T1D). Given my young age, I don’t remember much of anything from I was first diagnosed, but my parents tell me that they realized something was wrong when I was thirsty all the time and frequently had to go to the bathroom. I was displaying the telltale signs of hyperglycemia. Looking back on it, I am incredibly fortunate to have two physicians in the household because they could pick up on my symptoms so quickly.
We were not unfamiliar with T1D at the time of my diagnosis. My dad’s sister, Susan, was diagnosed at a young age and has beat this disease her entire life. Then, in the span of one week in March 2001, my cousin, Sarah, and I were also diagnosed. My Aunt Susan was one of the first people we called when I was diagnosed and, within hours, she was sitting next to me in the hospital. That day, she told me that I could do anything, that diabetes is something I would have to deal with my entire life, but that it could never hold me back. To this day, she reminds me of this both in her words and in how she lives her life. Not only is she an accomplished, mother of six, she also maintains near perfect control of her blood sugars. She is truly my role model and my hero.
Although cliché, it’s true that dealing with Type 1 diabetes turns your world upside down, at least until you get used to the routine. Luckily my family has supported me every step of the way. After my diagnosis, we became more in tune to what we were eating. Carb counting and shots of insulin became second-nature, not to mention the eight finger pricks that I would do by myself. Not many people are familiar with how to do it, but by age seven, I was drawing up my own insulin doses and giving myself shots. Thankfully, a few years later, I would get an insulin pump, which I believe to be one of the greatest inventions ever.
My journey with type 1 diabetes has not been without roadblocks. Often, I feel that just when you get the hang of the process, the disease throws you a curveball. The biggest obstacle for me was a hypoglycemic reaction that I experienced at a swim meet a few years back. In the years following, I developed a fear of any low blood sugar, which challenged my ability to correct high blood sugars. That event was the scariest moment of my life. It was a humbling reminder of just how careful diabetics must be and the stakes at hand if we lose our focus. The biggest effect that reaction had on me was that it made me question whether I could deal with diabetes. Thanks to my tremendous doctor, Dr. Connor, and my family, I finally got back on top of it.
Despite these roadblocks, diabetes has not stopped me from achieving my goals and I never intend to let it. I played all the sports I wanted to, learned all the instruments that interested me, and excelled in school. However, I know I wouldn’t be here, if it weren’t for the help of those around me. Dr. Connor has helped me develop a plan and has reminded me to cut myself a little slack when I make an error. My parents and siblings have been a source of constant encouragement and have often helped me spot highs and lows before I could. They have also been active in the mission to find a cure to this disease, participating in walks and bike rides with me. This next summer, we look forward to biking the Ride for a Cure in LaCrosse.
I am especially fortunate to have someone as kind and supportive as my Aunt Susan. Whether it’s a text about dealing with the frustration of a high blood sugar or sending a box of Chuckles (my favorite low candy), she has always been there. Dealing with diabetes is much easier when you can look up to someone that has excelled for years. I hope to be there for others, as my Aunt Susan has been there for me, and help to remind other diabetics that they can accomplish anything they put their minds to.
Jack and his family have been involved with all aspects of the JDRF Western Wisconsin Chapter from participating in the JDRF One Walk, attending the Spring Gala, and now in the JDRF Ride to Cure program. Jack will be riding with his family in La Crosse this year and we wish him the best of luck! Thank you, Jack for sharing your story.