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Tabatha Marie Kilgore · Tekoa, WA
This photo represents type one diabetes. We all met at a summer camp for type one in Angeles Oaks camp Conrad Chinnock. The camp is celebrating its 60th year of operation. I went to this camp for the first time in 1981. I returned to be a counselor this summer. Facebook has helped me find my camp peers and we get together to celebrate life. When everyone is a diabetic you take the diabetes aw...ay. I have been lucky to live complication free after 37 years of onset. At this camp, I learned how to take care of the diabetes so that it didn't control me. The new control allows me to do so much more. Many of us are living longer. But there are many who with just a few years of onset have been diagnosed with kidney issues, vision issues, gi issues, MS, heart issues and ulcers that won't heal the list goes on. I think the real hero's are those living with complications. In this group some are living with the listed complications and you would not even know it. These people are my diabetic family and I could not be the diabetic I am today without them. See More
— with Crystal McRae, Demmeri Carr, Manny Moreno, Jessica Joy Guiragossian, Cori Neal Cummings, Jessica Goldstein Ridgway and Natalia Varanko Hirsch Ringo.
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Monica Beebe - Long beach. CA
In the fall of 1980, I was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes (T1D) at the age of 8 years old. This disease was not new to my family as my brother, Mark was diagnosed T1D just a few years earlier at the age of 3. My mother must have taken my brother in to see his doctor a few times due to the fact that he was not looking normal. She was told he had the flu. When he was unable to walk across the room due to being lethargic he was taken in and given the T1D diagnosis, at age three. I was a skinny 8 year old child, my symptoms included no appetite, lost weight, extreme thirst and I was peeing at least 3-4 times per hour. My mother had just made a frozen an orange juice container and noticed within a few hours it was gone. My brother could not reach it, she knew she didn’t have any and I had a glass of it in my room. She put it all together and asked me to test my urine to see if I was running ketones. At the time, blood testing at home had not been discovered. T1D’s home program was urine testing and injections.
I remember locking myself in the bathroom refusing to take such as test. “This was my brother’s issue not mine!” Sure enough with encouragement, I agreed to take this urine test and the color was not favorable. I was admitted later that evening with T1D. My blood sugar in the hospital was reported to be 800+. Fortunately for me, it was caught early as my mother knew what signs to look for.
Even with my brother’s onset, I remember feeling all alone. It felt like my brother and I were the only ones who had it. My mother went to my class room and attempted to explain type one diabetes to my second grade class. All this did was make the other kids afraid to be near me. As much as the kids were told it was not contagious they all told me, “You have cooties.” They also expressed to me that, “I don’t want to have to take shots. When I met my endocrinologist I asked “How long I would live.” I don’t remember him giving me much of an answer. He told me if I did not take good care of myself I would not be able to see and could lose my legs. I was 8 years old when I was told this. After getting used to the idea of having to take shots a few times a day this was my biggest fear. Thank goodness for my mother signed me up to attend a diabetic sleep away camp. At this camp I saw that there were so many children just like me. I finally felt at home. I did not need to explain anything to anyone. I wished I could stay at this camp year round. I realized that the staff were also diabetic I was so excited to see that they were able to walk and see. When I went back to visit my endocrinologist I cannot remember what I said to this man, but I remember it was not your typical kid listening to instruction. This was probably the meeting that created the monster in me. This is when I learned to advocate for my needs and the needs of others. It is no surprise I grew up to be a social worker.
Those of us with the diabetes onset before adulthood would share that the type one onset took away our childhood. The level of care needed to control the diabetes made us more responsible than the typical child. I was drawing up and giving my own injections at the age of 9. I had to learn to be aware of my symptoms when my blood sugar was high and low and learn how to treat each one.
I do want to share that the control for diabetes has changed so much over the 37 years of my onset. When I was first was diagnosed we only had long acting insulin given via syringe and urine testing. With the results of urine testing if there was no sugar spilling in your urine the test looked normal. Many times my blood sugar could be in the 200’s without showing signs of being in my urine so you could imagine we ran higher. Running higher caused many of the side effects that people with diabetes struggle with to name a few are vision issues, GI issues (neuropathy of the stomach muscles) making it hard to digest and get rid of waist, kidney failure, sores on feet that don’t heal, heart complications and the list goes on. A normal A1C, which is a blood test to determine you average blood sugar reading over a 3 month period of time. A non-diabetic would have an average reading below 5. A diabetic will run higher based on the level of their glucose. At the time of long acting insulin and urine testing my A1C was recorded somewhere between 12-14’s. I should also state that I had issues with running low with the long acting insulin. I was not able to recognize the low symptoms in my sleep and had many seizures in the middle of the night with the long acting insulin peeks. I was picked up by an ambulance at my middle school. Talk about being embarrassed. I had more seizures due to low blood sugar reactions that the fingers I can count with. Teenage normal dieting and college drinking was much more difficult with diabetes.
As an adult and with better control with shorter acting insulin, more accurate blood testing supplies I was able to have two successful pregnancies. My A1c levels are not perfect, but at a range to try to avoid type one complications. Today, I live complication free. I surround myself around other type ones so that I don’t feel so alone. With the use of social media I have gotten in touch with many of my childhood camp friends that I lost over the years. When everyone is a diabetic you take the diabetes away. You no longer have to explain anything. I am sharing my life with my diabetic boyfriend from 1984. We found one another 30 years later on Facebook. I know that living with this disease has made me the adult I am today, but I would gladly be the first in line for the cure. The day to day struggles to find blood sugar balance, having to control the uncontrollable is not an easy life. At camp we were taught to control the diabetes so that it does not control us. Until there is a cure there is camp. My camp peers are my diabetic family. Even though we all don’t live close I no longer feel alone.
I was 17 when I was diagnosed with T1D. It was a rough year. My grandfather (the only father I knew) passed away and my mother sort of checked out. I managed to figure things out. I graduated.
I went off to college and worked 2 jobs. I still managed to find insulin and test strips. I still managed to keep my endless supply of juice boxes and peanut butter cups. I later had a son, and married to gain 3 step sons, and a home. I continued my career as a software engineer for a lab. Sometimes in the middle of the night I'd have a low, and so not to burden my family, I'd sit and sob in the dark and eat (choke down) my candy. I still managed to wipe the tears away, tuck my pump into my pocket and go back to bed.
It's been 20 years now since I was diagnosed. I'm almost 40. Two step son's are marines. One who's a freshman this year in college. My youngest is a junior in high school and learning to drive. I bought a small farm a few years ago. A dream I always had and thought maybe it would never be. But somtimes the fruit snacks get dusty from the barn, but they keep me up and mucking stalls.
I just got remarried in April to an army vet. He loves and adores me. He asks if I've tested and has been my rock through my recent miscarriage. He wiped my tears away when the doctor told us I may go blind, and we can't have kids because of this. But, we've been discussing adopting siblings and giving a loving home to children that need one.
All these years, I've tested my blood sugars thousands of times. I've struggled through tired, foggy highs, and cried through the lows. I've fought the depression and the anxiety. Every day though I wake up feeling I beat it one more day. T1D is not easy. It won't define me. It won't draw the line in the sand for me. It's my struggle and my battle, but, all the more reason to fight for the blessings I do have in my life. If you are new, it's frustrating and scary, but you've got this. For the parents, your kids lives are not defined yet. Just because you have it for life, doesn't mean it's a life sentence. There's only one thing in this life that I won't beat, until then, I'm a survivor.
Please share your journey and thank you for letting me share mine!