When were you first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?
I was diagnosed on February 10th, 1999. I was 14 years old. It was at Children's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.
What symptoms did you exhibit?
There was increased thirst. I woke up at least six or seven times a night to urinate. I lost close to 20 pounds in about a week. It seemed like the more I ate, the hungrier I got and the more I drank the thirstier I got. I also experienced extreme fatigue. The day I finally did go to see a physician, I could not physically get out of bed. I had to have help from my mom.
Had you heard of diabetes before your diagnosis?
Not really. I had heard of diabetes but I didn’t know anything about it and I didn’t know anyone with the disease. I had heard that if you get diabetes you get your leg amputated. So I didn’t have a lot of knowledge and I had to do a lot of research about the disease.
Did the diagnosis affect, either positively or negatively, relationships with friends and family?
At first, it was a negative impact because I didn’t want to be viewed as different or as a person with a disability. So I decided to hide it from my friends. But once I accepted it because it wasn’t going away, then it became a positive thing. I got to teach my friends. We bonded over it. They saw a vulnerable side of me. They got to help remind me monitor, estimating the carbohydrates. And they were excited to be a part of that. When I was excited because a new pump was coming out or a new technological advance, they got excited with me.
It definitely changed my lifestyle for the better. We had to make sure all the meals were compatible with the diet. I had to change not just what I eat but the way I think about eating so it was a process for all of us.
Did you always want to become a role model for those with type 1 diabetes?
I never really thought about it. I just knew that when I was that age, I said I wish I had someone to look up to. I wish I knew people doing good stuff that I could look forward to.