Behind the disease

The truth of living with diabetes

Mackenna Briggs, Focus Editor

For most of you sitting and reading this article right now, you probably don’t even realize that inside your pancreas, your beta cells are making insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for helping your body store or use blood glucose – the main sugar found in blood and the body’s main source of energy – after each meal.

And for those of you who are aware of this process, do you know what will happen if your pancreas does not produce insulin? The sugars usually converted to energy by insulin would act as tiny shards of glass moving through your veins. And like glass, these particles could sever your veins, resulting in amputation of limbs, loss of eyesight, even death.

Luckily for most people, these threats don’t pose a problem. However, for juniors Jeva Honn and Daniel Ross, and senior Tyler Settle, these threats are very real.

That’s the reality of living with diabetes.

“Eventually, you just have to accept it because you can’t do anything to cure it,” Honn said. “But taking care of yourself is something you can do. It’s the best thing you can do. And the more you take care of yourself when you have diabetes, the easier it becomes to live with it.”

For Honn and Settle, taking care of themselves requires the aid of an insulin pump, which pumps this much-needed hormone into the body through the stomach; in order to avoid the development of scar tissue at this site, this pump must be changed every three days.

In cases as severe as Honn and Settle, if this pump stops working at any point throughout the day and a diabetic does not receive their insulin for an extended amount of time, he or she would experience something much like Settle did.

“When I was twelve years old, my pump stopped working in the night and I got really sick. Throwing-up sick,” Settle said. “I ended up in the ICU for four days.”

The doctors checked for anything that could have gone wrong, even scanning her brain for possible bruising.

“Even though it was just for a few hours, that kind of pressure on your body can do so much,” Settle said.

Yet Ross asserts that diabetes is not the worst disease to have in the world.

“I personally have a great disliking towards people who let diabetes define them,” Ross said. “By that, I mean people who act like it’s really hard to live with and use it to receive praise for living with it.”

None of these three students let their disease define them.

“It’s not a big deal to me,” Settle said. “I almost forget until other people see me testing my blood sugar or something.”

And as for Honn, she can even see the silver-lining of her disease.

“I’m grateful because through diabetes, I’ve matured a lot,” Honn said. “I see things differently. I don’t take life for granted. Yes, there are people who have it better than me, but there are also kids with a disease like cancer who have it so much worse than I do.”

One of the few things about living with diabetes that Honn, Settle and Ross wish they could change is also one of the simplest: how much people know about it.

“When I was younger and I told people I had diabetes, they would act surprised and even say something like, ‘but you aren’t fat…’” Honn said. “People view a typical diabetic person to be overweight – not healthy – but I wish people would educate themselves more because it’s such a common disease.”