The Big Balance: Newly Diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes and College

May 4, 2018
Samira Hemraj
Florida Gulf Coast University
Samira Hemraj attends Florida Gulf Coast University, where she is a part of the FGCU chapter of The Diabetes Link. She studies marketing and business management and will graduate in 2021. You can follow her on Instagram @typeone_samira.

Hello everyone! My name is Samira Hemraj and I am a freshman at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) where I live on campus and have a meal plan membership. I currently take insulin with a pen and monitor my blood sugars at a minimum of five times a day. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) on December 26th, 2017 (Yes, the day after Christmas!). While in the hospital, I remember numerous nurses and doctors telling me, “Your life is about to change.” At the time, I was unable to fully understand the scope of this “life-changing” experience. Through all the endocrinologist appointments and an abundant amount of information about T1D, I started to truly realize my lifestyle was about to change. With only two weeks before the beginning of spring semester, I enthusiastically grasped the basics of T1D before moving 107 miles back to college, away from the comfort of my home. My parents questioned whether I would be able to manage my T1D away from home and I quickly took charge and assured them that I was ready to conquer this challenge.

Throughout my spring semester, I rapidly learned a tremendous amount about not only myself but the T1D community. Without further ado, here are my tips to help balance new diagnoses and college.

Be Aware of Yourself.

No one knows you better than you know yourself! When you are aware of your body and the signals it gives you, it becomes easier to manage your diabetes. While I was having a meeting with my CDE she told me to always follow your “little person.” This is your inner conscience, the voice you hear when you are thinking about something. Rarely it may be wrong, but most of the time it is correct.

“It is ok to stay home until you feel comfortable enough to be on your own again. I promise you the college “experience” is not going anywhere.”

One of my biggest decisions I made after being diagnosed was deciding whether I wanted to live on campus. As I had already attended my fall semester at FGCU, I was aware of the responsibilities of living in a dorm. To add to that, I would now have the duties of managing my diabetes. I felt as if I was ready to take this on, but not everyone will feel this way. It is ok to stay home until you feel comfortable enough to be on your own again. I promise you the college “experience” is not going anywhere.

Take Responsibility.

You are your own advocate! Now that you are in college you are responsible for your own actions including managing your diabetes. As a student with diabetes, your responsibilities extend beyond going to class and turning in assignments. A good way to keep track of your responsibilities includes making a to-do list, writing it in your planner, adding reminders in your phone, or even putting sticky-notes on your wall.

It is also very important to discuss any patterns that you may be experiencing with your endocrinologist. For me, I found between 12 am and 1 pm I would have a low blood sugar. As I discussed this with my endocrinologist she quickly gave me solutions to this problem. You are the only one that knows the way your body works and it’s OK to discuss any problems you may be having.

Be organized.

For me, I always put my health and well-being before anything else. I have found that creating a routine has helped me manage my diabetes. For days that I have class, my routine differs from days that I do not have class. I wake up at the same time, eat at the same time and take my long-acting insulin at night at the same time. If possible, I recommend trying to apply for early class registration accommodations. With this, you will be able to schedule and pick classes to better suit your eating schedule.

Another tip is to ALWAYS have a supply pouch with your necessities in it! This includes your glucose monitor, test strips, lancing device (finger pricker), lancets, glucose tablets (or anything you use to correct your lows), alcohol pads, a snack, insulin and backup syringes, and pump supplies if you use one. The pouch can be anything ranging from a makeup bag to a pencil case. No matter where I am going I always have this pouch with me! Even if I am not taking a purse or bag having your supplies in a small pouch makes it easy to grab and go.

“Knowing when you need a new refill or prescription is extremely crucial to your management.”

Whether you are living in a dorm or not, it is very important to keep track of your diabetes supplies. Knowing when you need a new refill or prescription is extremely crucial to your management.

To conclude, the biggest challenge I overcame is understanding that I am not alone. Many individuals are facing the same challenges. I always tell myself “If they can do it, then I can do it.” You are greater than your highs and lows! Your numbers do not define who you are nor do they restrict you from doing what you love. A quote by Joshua J. Marine says, “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

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