Over the years there have been immense advancements in the treatment and management of diabetes. In my 10 years with diabetes, I have witnessed the development of treatment and devices I never even imagined were possible when I was first diagnosed. Since I've been diagnosed, the insulin pump has grown tremendously, the continuous glucose monitor has been advanced to near perfection, glucometers have improved, new types of insulin have been introduced, and much more has been advanced. I remember that when I was about 8 years I was part of a trial to test one of the first continuous glucose monitors. I had to carry a large device around with me and I was connected to a long, thick tube for 3 days. I even had to cover the device in a plastic bag since it wasn't waterproof and take it in the shower with me. However, now, most continuous glucose monitors are wireless, waterproof, and barely the size of your palm. At this point in time, it's hard to imagine what is next. Talk of an artificial pancreas, smart insulin, and much more has been rumored for a while now. However, a few days ago, the development of the Bionic Pancreas seemed to be promising.
The definition of bionic is "having superhuman strength or capacity." The bionic pancreas has more strength than the inventors could have ever imagined, simply because of the way it could change the development of diabetes management from now on. The bionic pancreas consists of two insulin pumps, one that delivers insulin and one that delivers glucagon; basically one to lower and one to raise your blood sugar. A continuous glucose monitor is also attached to the patients. Finally, a single smartphone app is used to control all three devices. The bionic pancreas was tested for 5 days on 32 teens aged 12-20 at a diabetes sleep-away camp, and 20 adults in their normal life. When compared to 5 days on an insulin pump, the bionic pancreas lowered the teens average blood sugar 19 mg/dL and lowered the adults average blood sugar 26 mg/dL. It also lowered the amount of time spent with a low blood sugar from 7% to 4%. No extreme low or high blood sugars were reported during the test, and everyone tested would have an A1C below 7, the ideal A1C (3 month blood sugar average) for a non-diabetic patient, if they remained on the bionic pancreas for 3 months. Researchers hope to conduct an outpatient trial incorporating all three devices into one monitor within the next 18 months.
Although the bionic pancreas is a while from being on the markets and available to the public, every other major innovation we use today was also a long time from reality at one point in time! The bionic pancreas has the ability to change the lives of everyone living with type 1 diabetes forever. Simply inserting one site every few days could replace the burden of managing my blood sugars, counting carbohydrates, adjusting for lows and highs, waking up in the middle of the night to test my blood sugar, and so much more. Although it is not an end all cure, it is a step towards one and it would make daily life with diabetes much more enjoyable. With constant innovations and research like the bionic pancreas, I think that there is always hope for a better tomorrow with type 1 diabetes.
When I was young and first diagnosed and just learning how to adjust to diabetes, I used to tell my mom that God gave me diabetes so that I could spare someone else from having it. I guess when I was 6 years old, I thought there was a finite amount of diagnosis's to be made, and that I was sacrificing living with diabetes so that someone else didn't have to. Although my six year old brain had an appealing idea, that is unfortunately not the truth. As you grow older, it is sometimes hard to stay as optimistic as you were in first grade. It's disappointing to accept the truth that as you begin to face the real world, "Everything happens for a reason"s and "I'll be here for you"'s are nice, but they sometimes aren't enough, and that there will always exist instances in life in which, no matter what anyone says or how greatly anyone consoles you, you will continue to question "Why? Why me?" From the simplest of questions to the most complex pondering, it is sometimes hard to accept that there are some occurrences in life simply out of your control. However, questioning them is a natural and completely normal response.
This past fall during cross country season, I got injured with a stress fracture one week before my team's first championship race. After months of training, I was devastated that I wouldn't be able to race, and watching from the sidelines every day for the next few months was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Of course, I constantly questioned myself and everything I possibly could have done to prevent it, but most of the time I asked myself the question 'Why?". I could not seem to understand why, more than how, this had happened to me. Now that I am finally healed and the stress fracture is behind me, I think I can finally safely say that I will never find the total answer to either questions, but I do know for sure that I grew as a person and learned from the time. Perhaps, the why was to bring me closer to my teammates who were there for me, or to teach me specifically how to cope with disappointment in sports. It wasn't until I learned to accept the injury that I was able to finally start to physically heal and train to get back to running. Either way, the question was always there in the back of my mind, and I had to learn how to deal with it and try to find an answer for it.
Specifically relating to diabetes, I remember personally that it was at first extremely difficult for me and my whole family to come to terms with my diagnosis. It took a long time for us to adjust to life with diabetes. Everyone had to deal with the life changing event in their own way. While I had to learn to handle diabetes in school, my parents had to learn to let me go and lead as normal of a life as I could at the time. Everyone did what they had to do, but the news was a shock, and it was hard to figure out why we were forced into these new lifestyles. Even today, nearly 10 years later, on any given day, one of us could talk about diabetes and wonder why I was diagnosed. Now, I am not merely referring to the genetics or science of the diagnosis, but mostly the morality of it. My family and I think we are good people! This didn't deserve to happen to us! After repetitive finger pricking and insulin deliveries, questioning why it has to be yourself that this happened to is annoying, but it is also natural. Sometimes, my family and I get frustrated about this, but we then however begin to think and realize that we almost wouldn't be able to imagine life without diabetes. Then, we think about all of the great relationships, events, and opportunities that came with diabetes. Although paired with the needles, highs, lows, carb counting, boluses, and the bitter scent of insulin, the experiences and lessons we gained from diabetes sometimes proves true the cliche "Everything happens for a reason".
It is important to talk about your emotions and how you feel when you begin to question these sort of complex topics, especially if you begin to question diabetes. I know that if I don't talk about what I am thinking while I am questioning these sort of topics, I get very stressed and overwhelmed. For me, my go-to-person is usually my mom or best friend, but it is important to know that you always have your family and friends (and PPU team!) there to support you, and to know that your doctor is there, to help you deal with strong emotions. Talking about your feelings about diabetes and anything else in life that frustrates you is almost just as, if not as important as, managing your health and blood sugars. Everyone feels stressed or confused about occurrences in life that can frustrate them, but it is how you manage these feelings that truly matter.
"We're good people, why did this have to happen to us?!" is probably a common phrase heard in families everywhere about almost any situation in life, not just regarding diabetes in the Anolik household. However, maybe my first grade brain was on the right track. Maybe I did in fact get diagnosed for a certain reason, even if it wasn't to spare someone else from the disease. Maybe I was diagnosed as a way for me to grow, as a way for me and my family to learn to grow closer during times of stress, or for me to better learn how to take care of myself. Even though I may never know for sure what the reason was, I know that I will always have my family and friends by my side to support me and that I have tried to make the best of diabetes.
Hello everyone! I'm Hannah! I'm 16 years old and have been living a normal life with type 1 diabetes for 10 years! I'm so excited to share the journey of Penpals United with you through our blog!