Because of the T1D Community

August 18, 2017
Kameran Ulferts
University of Nebraska - Kearney, ‘18
I’ve been living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) for close to nine years of my life, and I have learned so many things about the disease and about myself in the midst of it all. Believe it or not, I am still learning every day. In the early honeymoon years of my T1D journey, the term “chronic illness” sounded like a scary medical label that made me a fragile alien on this planet where the majority of the inhabitants have functioning pancreases. As a young adult, I now know that defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word chronic means “continuing or occurring again and again for a long time.” Boy, isn’t that the truth? Diabetes is the one thing that remains constant in my ever-changing life. As my life changes, so has my attitude towards and knowledge of diabetes.

So I’m writing this to let you in on one of the most important un-written rules of diabetes care that I have come to learn throughout my years, experiences, and adventures with diabetes.

“T1D community is so incredibly important.”

I remember the first time my doctor recommended I go to diabetes camp when I was twelve years old. My initial thoughts were “I don’t want to spend a week with a bunch of weird diabetics.” A year after my diagnosis in 2009, my younger brother was also diagnosed with T1D. At that time, I thought that we were all each other needed to “get by” with our diabetes. My brother and I were self-proclaimed experts and we didn’t need anyone else to tell us how to live. Little did I know about the true magic that lies within the diabetes community.

In my high school years, I occasionally would speak about my diabetes to close family and friends, but I had an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude with my diabetes. I created my own secret community in my head that only emerged when I was alone.

That all changed when I worked as a counselor at a diabetes camp one summer, Camp Floyd Rogers. When I arrived to staff training, I heard other people’s devices beep. What an incredible feeling it is to not be the only part-robot human in the room. After a week of camp, surrounded by 60+ other people with diabetes, my notions of fear, self-doubt and hopelessness for the future vanished. After finally being able to relate to others who had gone through similar experiences as me, I was inspired to not only take control of my diabetes, but to become more open about my diabetes.

This change in attitude and the craving for more connections and education in my life led me to sign a team up for a JDRF One Walk. I was later connected with a T1D at my university who helped me to establish a The Diabetes Link Chapter on our college campus and connect us with other T1D young adults in our community. A year after starting our Chapter, I was accepted to attend the 4th Annual CDN Leadership Retreat with 25 other T1Ds from across the country.

So, if you’re still keeping up with all these connections, that amounts to roughly 200+ T1D connections. Because of the “I have diabetes, too” conversations, I have had experiences that I have learned so much from. Because of this, I have became a new and better person.

“Because of the T1D community:”
I have created incredibly genuine and positive friendships.

Knowing that I have people to go to both close to home and in various cities and states is very comforting.

I have became more motivated within my personal diabetes care management.

Seeing so many individuals of all ages thriving with T1D has inspired me to work harder and to be better with my diabetes care for myself and for those who care about me.

I have found resources and outlets to help me through aspects of diabetes that I wasn’t prepared for.

Through the diabetes community, I have learned how to cope with diabetes burnout and anxiety. Without connecting with T1Ds and T1D professionals who know how to handle the mental aspects of T1D, I would be lost.

I have learned to love myself, through the peaks and valleys of diabetes.

The scars, the beeps, the doctors’ appointments, the juice boxes in my purse and so many other aspects of my life that make me “different” than others do not define me. I am not “the diabetic girl” I am “Kameran, the girl who can certifiably rock this life while managing diabetes.”

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