Diabetic dispels common myths about Type 1 Diabetes

By Melissa Huber, I-O Reporter

At the beginning of November Conrad native and CHS graduate, Whitney Mielke, took to Facebook to educate people about an illness she has lived with since the age of 11. November was Diabetes Awareness Month, and as of Nov. 29 Mielke has been living with Type 1 Diabetes for 18 years.

The Mayo Clinic staff defines Type 2 Diabetes—once known as adult-onset Diabetes or noninsulin-dependent Diabetes—as “a chronic condition that affects the way your body metabolizes sugar (glucose), your body’s main source of fuel.

With Type 2 Diabetes, your body either resists the effects of insulin—a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells—or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level.”

Like Type 1, there is no cure for Type 2 Diabetes, but unlike Type 1 it can usually be managed much easier by eating well, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight. People with Type 1 are not so lucky.

Type 1 Diabetes was previously called juvenile Diabetes due to its onset happening most frequently during adolescence, though, it can also happen in adulthood. It is defined by the pancreas’s failure to produce insulin. This is when injections become necessary for survival.

Due to the confusion most people have about the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, Mielke mentioned she would love to see Type 1 be given a new name to prevent confusion, and she’s not alone. Numerous Type 1 sufferers are speaking out about the facts to educate people about their illness on sites like Facebook.

Here’s what Mielke says she wish people knew about Type 1 Diabetes.

Yes, we can have sugar.

I count the carbohydrates in my food and give insulin accordingly. I read a lot of labels and memorize serving size and carb count for what I eat. I have no restrictions. There’s nothing like not getting a cupcake at a birthday party, because they thought you couldn’t eat one.

There is no cure.

Cinnamon, coconut oil, exercise, or the hokey pokey won’t cure Type 1 Diabetes. Some Type 2s can reverse their condition with lifestyle changes, but Type 1 continues to go unsolved. The specific cause is even unknown. Like many Type 1s, I had a flu-like bug not long before I was diagnosed. While my immune system was fighting the bug, it is likely that my body basically attacked itself and killed its ability to produce insulin. Why this happens is unknown.

Almost everything I do

is affected by my Type 1.

Each diabetic is different, so we can have varied effects. Stress, illness, and exercise can all cause my blood sugar to go high. Exercise can also cause my blood sugar to go low. Even when my control over my insulin needs is very good, I can still have a bad day and feel sick because of my blood sugar levels. It is a constant balancing act and becomes very frustrating when you are doing everything right.

Technology makes Type 1

much easier to manage.

The first four years of having Diabetes I took insulin through a syringe multiple times a day, but I’ve been on an insulin pump for 14 years and that has changed my life.

My pump gives me insulin in tiny increments (about 30 percent less than with syringes) constantly, 24 hours a day, mimicking a working pancreas much better than a syringe would. I use to have to maintain a very strict routine in order to give my insulin at the right time to make it most effective. With a pump I can be much more flexible about when I wake up or eat.

The pump doesn’t do all the work for me. I still have to count my carbs and punch the numbers into the pump for a bolus (or dose). I still have to poke my finger to test my blood sugar about four times a day, but even glucose monitors have advanced. They require less blood and less time to get results.

Mielke also went on to add that “high blood sugar makes your body feel toxic. Your limbs feel heavy and it almost feels like the blood in your veins is thick making them ache. You are extremely thirsty, constantly have to pee, and are tired. Left untreated long enough a person can go into a diabetic coma.”

She explained that when your blood sugar is low, however, you sweat, get very hot, shaky, and nauseous. Sugar is required for your brain to function properly. This means that diabetics that are experiencing low blood sugar levels have a tendency to do strange things.

Mielke gave examples of this. “I’ve put socks in the toaster, I’ve licked my husband’s hand when he’s offered it to me to help me stand up, and I’ve forgotten that I was low and then struggle to understand why everything I do seems so complicated.”

The constant balancing act is something Mielke has learned to live with and accept. However, she went on to say, “Ultimately, Type 1 Diabetes is a serious disease that takes a lot of time and work to manage. The only way I can do it is with a sense of humor and the grace of God. The best thing that anyone else can do for me is be patient with me when things are hard, understand I can do anything a non-diabetic can (sometimes it just takes a little work), and be willing to learn.”