Danielle – Age 16
My name is Danielle LaLuzerne and I am a sixteen year old with a funky immune system. I love hiking, traveling, water coloring, learning new languages, and I have had type 1 diabetes (T1D) since I was four years old. Although T1D has not prevented me from achieving anything, it does make life more demanding. I have always been very independent with my diabetes care, so going to camps, studying abroad for a month, and spending a semester away from home was not a big deal for me. However, I have to take more precautions than other teenagers would when doing these things. I always have to be aware of my blood sugar levels, and how they may fluctuate due to exercise and food. My insulin pump site often falls off when I swim, which has been an issue for me. This cuts short a fun activity and results in having to go home, change my site, and deal with a very high blood sugar. Backpacking is somewhat difficult as well since I don’t want to bring too many or too little diabetes supply, and also I have to account for a lot of physical activity, which affect my blood sugar levels greatly. My insulin pump makes it easier for me to be spontaneous and adventurous, but it is not substitute for a cure.
When I was first diagnosed, it was a big lifestyle change for my family and me. It was difficult to constantly be aware of how I felt in relation to my blood sugar levels. Catching low blood sugars was especially challenging. In the hospital, I had to get used to all the finger pokes and insulin injections. I had never liked needles and was not too happy about this side of diabetes. Like most little kids, I believe band-aids would make everything better, so I wanted band-aids on every single finger that was poked. Similarly, my understanding of diabetes was not very accurate. For example, I thought that the “bolus wizard” in my insulin pump was an actual magical wizard and not something that helped figure out how much insulin I needed (wouldn’t it be nice if the bolus wizard could make T1D disappear with one stroke of his magic wand…). One thing I did know was that I had something called diabetes and that there were a lot of differences between me and the other kids my age because of my T1D. It was such a big change, so I’d often compare what things were like “before diabetes” and “after diabetes.” That comparison eventually stopped.
I can, and often do, imagine what life without T1D would be like, but living with this disease has become part of my everyday life so much that I sometimes forget that most people don’t have to check their blood sugars numerous times a day or change their insulin pump sites (or even have an insulin pump site for that matter). The main difficulty with type 1 diabetes is that it is never stable. I am constantly balancing carbohydrates, insulin, and all the factors that play into blood sugar levels. It can be exhausting to have to keep track of everything I’m eating and everything I’m doing. T1D is difficult for my parents as well. Since I was very young when diagnosed, they handled most of my diabetes care initially. They had to give me injections and check my blood sugars in the middle of the night. I remember many nights when my dad would be trying to feed me something for a low and I’d sleepily chew on the snack, while still being mostly asleep. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve taken ownership of my care from them and managed my T1D more and more independently.
Although T1D requires a lot of attention and definitely has it’s downsides, it has in many ways made me who I am today. Since I was four years old, I’ve had to advocate for my needs from teachers, friends, and others. I was shy as a child, but I had to speak up for myself so that I could be medically safe. T1D has also led me to be more responsible and independent person. I learned how to accomplish task on my own, so I didn’t need to depend on others for my health. I take initiative so that what I want to happen, will be accomplished. Managing T1D on my own has taught me how to assess risk and make sure I’m doing what I need to in order to be safe. T1D has helped me grow a lot as a person and I am thankful for all it has taught me. While diabetes is a large part of my identity, I still believe that I would be better without it (and so would the world). The best we can do is work for a cure so no more children or adults have to face the difficulties of T1D.
I am grateful that I was able to share my diabetes story with you all and for the work that all of the families associated with JDRF are doing to help find a cure for T1D! JDRF was there for my family from the beginning and is still a part of my life today. I look forward to representing the JDRF Western Wisconsin Chapter in Washington D.C. this summer at the 2019 JDRF Children’s Congress. I will be advocating for funding for the Special Diabetes Program (SDP) and for all of you!
As Danielle mentioned in her story, she will be the JDRF Western Wisconsin Chapter Delegate at the 2019 JDRF Children’s Congress! Danielle’s mom, Valerie, is also participating in the 2019 JDRF Ride to Cure in La Crosse. If you want to support her efforts for a world without type 1 diabetes, visit her fundraising page here. Thank you to Danielle and her family for sharing their story and setting a great example for the T1D community!
If you want to submit a story about your diabetes journey like Danielle, please contact Jen Allen!