By Steven Santoyo | Published January 31 2018
To love others, you must first be able to love yourself. However, loving yourself, your body, and your highs and lows is hard to do when you are a person with diabetes. Finding a way to truly love yourself, however, is the key to living a happy and healthy life with diabetes. It took, what has felt like a lifetime of diabetes management, the death of a friend, and a network of supportive friends to turn my life around and allow for me to truly be in love with the life I am leading. I am a first-generation college student, a communication major and honors student, a resident-assistant, a campus tour guide, and a friend to all.
But today I am happy to share that being a person with diabetes is my life’s greatest honor – a role that I love living. I hope that sharing my story about having diabetes in college will empower others and will make them feel they can manage and live with this serious disease, because for once in my life I am not ashamed or embarrassed to share it.
I was diagnosed at the young age of 13 during the spring break of my eighth-grade year. At the time, high school was around the corner, and all of my fears, worries, and uncertainties only intensified because of my diabetes. I knew no one with diabetes and feeling alone in the fight was the worst way to start a diagnosis. I spent much of my time as a young adult denying the fact that I even had it. In my eyes, the less people that knew, the better. I wanted so badly to look and feel, “normal.” Little did I know, however, that having diabetes was normal, and there were even others out there who knew exactly what I was going through.
The first two individuals to enter my life with diabetes were and are incredible people from my years in high school. Ford was a grade below me and a teammate of mine on our varsity baseball team. Like me, he came from a loving and supportive family, loved baseball, and even had the same birthday as my mom. Kayce and I were both in the same grade, but unlike Ford and me, she was new to the world of diabetes having only had it for a few years before we met. I am not sure if I can recall an instance between the two of us when we were not laughing or smiling. She was simply one of those friends you could always count on to turn your bad days into good ones, even when you both had diabetes. Friends forever.
Kayce passed away unexpectedly due to complications from diabetes the spring of our freshman year in college. I cried. I felt guilty. I felt angry. I felt shaken. I felt like I had been diagnosed with diabetes all over again. A few months after her passing, The College Diabetes Network (CDN) entered my life. I didn’t know anyone on campus who had diabetes, but now with the help of CDN, I decided to make the first affiliated Chapter and registered student organization on campus for other people like me who had diabetes. Type Texas, The CDN Chapter at UT Austin, was born.
At Type Texas, our goal is to connect, inspire, and empower individuals living with diabetes. The Type Texas Chapter has 30 members with diabetes and counting. Our first large event as an organization occurred on November 12, and we will be walking as a team at the JDRF Austin One Walk, an annual celebration where we walk to raise money for people living with diabetes.
In my six years as a person with diabetes, I have learned that everything in life happens for a reason. The College Diabetes Network, Type Texas, and diabetes, mean the world to me, because it is the world to me. As long as I am living and as long as blood pumps through my heart and onto a test strip, I will do everything I can to connect, inspire, and empower everyone that enters my life. For myself, for Kayce, and for every person with diabetes that I have met since starting Type Texas, making a difference is the least that I can do.
The above blog was written by a College Diabetes Network (CDN) Student Leader. The College Diabetes Network is the only organization focused exclusively on helping teens and young adults with T1D transition to independence—facilitating peer camaraderie and programs and providing life-changing information—giving young adults the confidence to take ownership of their health to live a full life without compromise. Novo Nordisk is one of CDN's Corporate Members and will be featuring several blogs written by CDN students.
The College Diabetes Network (CDN) created a Corporate Membership Program in an effort to build a sustainable business model to support its programs, and as a way to engage industry partners in building an “ecosystem” of support for young adults. CDN’s Corporate Membership provides industry partners a way to better connect with, and understand, young adults with diabetes. In addition, engaging with industry partners allows CDN to bring the voice of young adults with diabetes directly to the decision makers within these companies.
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Abby Blaustein is a Certified Diabetes Educator and Registered Dietitian who leads Novo Nordisk’s Garden State Educator team, which comprises 11 passionate Diabetes Educators of varied backgrounds.
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