Today, I’m speaking with Taylor Serna, a young woman who is moving forward in life and not letting anything stop her, including diabetes. She’s had type 1 now for almost 8 years and while there are some more difficult days, she still starts each one with a smile on her face ready to take on the world.
First off, what type of diabetes do you have? We have readers with all types, so it’s important to talk about this first.
I have Type 1 Diabetes, and I have had it for almost 8 years.
How were you made aware that you had diabetes? Please share your diagnosis story with our readers.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on November 26th, 2008, which was also known as Thanksgiving Day in that year. I had a regular doctor appointment the day before. My great-grandmother decided that I needed to go because she knew that something was wrong with me. I was drinking a lot of fluids, not eating a lot of food, going to the bathroom more that my whole house combined, and was very shaky. Since she could not take me due to her own appointment, my mother decided to take me.
I got my height and weight done, and then we told my doctor my symptoms and also what my family was seeing in me. They tested my blood glucose, and it was 484. They then sent me to the hospital, and I could barely walk. My mom had to get me a wheelchair, and the security guards at the hospital had to rush me to the emergency department. We got into a room, the nurses started an IV, and I was very scared. I did not like the feel of needles, and it was very scary for me since I was only 10 years old. I did not eat or drink ANYTHING that whole day due to observations that the doctors and nurses needed to make on me. The next day, the nurse came in with a HUGE plate of eggs, and I ate them all. The doctor came in and then diagnosed me with Diabetes, but I was not diagnosed with Type 1 until about 2 weeks later by my endocrinologist.
We’re all curious, even if we live the life, everyone is different, what is a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me starts out with waking up at 6 am, and testing my blood sugar. I wake up earlier than most people because I work for a couple hours in the morning. After I test, I get ready for work. I eat breakfast on the way to work, and I take my insulin afterwards. After work gets out at 8:45 am, I go home, get my other things, and head off to school. Before I even start driving, I test my blood sugar. I do not want to go low or high to the point where I am not capable enough to drive myself places. I get to school at 10:15 am, go to class, and then test after class for lunch. I then go eat with a couple of my friends at around noon, and take my insulin again after I am finished eating. I go to my class again after lunch, and then I go home. When I come home, depending on the day, I either start my homework or eat dinner first. I test when I get home regardless whether or not I am eating or doing homework first. If I am not eating, I have to test again before I eat dinner, obviously, and then I take my insulin after I am done eating. After all my homework is done, it is usually around 10 pm, so it is time for me to go to bed. I test, take my medication (for other diagnoses), and then I go to bed. This is a typical day in the life of myself.
Describe the one scariest moment since your diagnosis.
The absolute scariest moment that has happened to me since my diagnosis would have to be when my blood sugar went down to 28. This was about a year after I was diagnosed. I was in the 6th grade, and I had to do my normal blood sugar test for lunch, so I went down to the nurse’s office and tested my blood sugar. I tested, and looked at the meter. It read 28. I told the health technician, and she told me to test 2 more times to make sure that it was the right number. I tested those two times, and the number still read 28. I did not feel a thing during this, so that was the real scary part. Since I did not feel anything, they had me sit down, eat a lot of carbs (including my lunch), and just wait for about an hour so I could make myself go high. It worked, but I will always remember the day that I had the lowest blood sugar that was ever recorded throughout my diagnosis.
Living with a chronic illness can be overwhelming, how do you cope with the constant battle of trying to maintain a proper balance with your blood sugars?
The way that I deal with my blood sugars on a daily basis is that I watch what I eat, try and exercise with the time I have between work and school, and always make sure to test my blood sugar on a regular basis.
If you could give one tip to someone newly diagnosed what would it be?
I would say that for a new diabetic, they need to make sure that they try as best as they can to do what their doctors tell them to do. From experience, I would never want to listen to my doctors because they did not know who I really was and how my body worked. Still today, I somewhat do not know how my body works, but I have better communication within my doctor and nurse team.
What is the most challenging aspect to you, in living with diabetes?
The most challenging aspect of living with diabetes is the constant questions that I get asked. Yes, most people do not know about diabetes and the affects it has on our daily lives, but the constant questions do get annoying. I have been answering them for almost 8 years, and I will always be sick of them. Some of the questions that I would get from my friends and others if they knew would be the following:
- Can you eat this?
- Are you sure that you took your insulin?
- Doesn’t it mean that you’re fat if you have diabetes?
What was your reaction when you found out you had diabetes?
My reaction to finding out that I had diabetes was not really there. I did not understand what was going on, but as I got to the education portion of what to do before I go home, it set in. I did not like having diabetes, and I still do not to this day. Living with diabetes sucks, and every diabetic would agree with me, but since it is my lifestyle now, I got used to it. I have realized that since then I can do far more than what I expected that I could do with diabetes.
What was hardest for you and your family — emotionally? Or financially?
I would have to say both for myself and my family. Even though my family has great insurance, there is still a copay for prescriptions and doctors until we reach our deductible for the year. Insulin and the actual doctor visits are what cost us the most.
Emotionally, my disease has taken a toll on the WHOLE family, including members that I talk to but not see as often. Whenever I go on trips to friends’ houses, go to school for a long period of time, or anything that is away from home for more than 24 hours, my family worries. They need to make sure that I’m safe, being responsible, and have everything I need for a “just in case emergency issue.” I always have everything with me and carry it, but they are all worried for my well-being and safety. Family members who do not see me much do not know how to help me in a crisis situation (i.e. if I have a really low or really high blood sugar incident). This worries them because they want to help me, but they have no way in doing so since they do not know what to do. This is why I try and teach my friends and family about what to do if I would ever need them to help me with anything diabetes related.
How often do you have to test your glucose levels?
On average, I test my blood sugar about 5 times per day.
What insulins have you used or do you currently use?
I am currently on Novolog, but I started on Humalog when I was diagnosed until the insurance switched insulin companies. Both brands have the same effect on me.
What would you like people who have diabetes to know?
I want people who are also diabetic to know that we are all united by a disease, and that we can all help each other out no matter what happens. My best friend of 7 years happens to be another Type 1 Diabetic, and we met at Diabetes Camp. She knows that no matter what, I will always be here for her to make sure that she is okay and safe wherever she goes. There are many different outings, social groups, and much more to do with other diabetics in your area, such as camps.
Who do you get support from? Who treats you?
I mainly get support from my family and friends, but I also get some from the different doctors that I see. I go to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois for my treatment. I see Dr. Lopez, and she is a fantastic doctor. She cares for you like you are her own, she is very understanding, and she also listens to what you have to say. I have always had great experiences with Loyola, and I intend on keeping Dr. Lopez for a very long time.
Let’s conclude on a positive note. I know it can be difficult to find the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you thought really hard, what is one positive thing that diabetes has brought to your life?
One positive thing that diabetes has brought into my life is my best friend. If it was not for my diabetes, I would have never met her. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I can’t thank my diabetes enough for signing me up for camp and meeting her. My best friend is Emily, and we get along great. We have blood sugar competitions with each other, we remind each other to take our insulin (I know that this sounds cheesy, but it’s true), and we just love to have fun with each other.
Another thing that I am thankful for diabetes for introducing me to would be my job right now. I work with children that have special needs, and I love every single minute of it. My diabetes has realized that I can do anything with my life, and has also made me realize that I want to help people become as mainstream as possible. Helping children with special needs is an outlet for me. I love seeing their smiles every day, and just interacting with them keeps me happy. It makes me feel good inside that I am able to help someone have a better day, or help someone overcome an obstacle that they have been trying to do for a little over a week. My diabetes has taught me so much, and I’m happy that it has.