“It just becomes second nature”

Kathryn Flanagan’s journey with Type 1 Diabetes written by Jessica Mertz

Montclair State University Student Kathryn Flanagan, 20 years old. Photo By Jessica Mertz

By Jessica Mertz 9/21/16

It was June of 2004, I had just gone to my 8 year old yearly doctors appointment and I hadn’t been feeling well for most of that summer, or spring. My parents decided to just wait until I had a doctors appointment and then when I was there they decided to do a blood glucose check and it came back saying that I was most likely a diabetic so my pediatrician decided to send me to the hospital for further testing, and that’s when I found out I had Type 1 Diabetes.

I was eight, so I remember most of it because it was a pretty big deal. But, I was obviously really upset and scared because I didn’t really know what was going on, just a lot of emotions. I was nervous because I didn’t really know what diabetes was. Most 8 year olds don’t know what it is and then hearing the word hospital you just freak out automatically because you don’t know what’s going to happen or what they are going to do.

When I first got it, it was different to have to stop to eat at certain times when I wasn’t hungry. That was awful, because I wanted to just do kids things and go play, I didn’t want to eat. I just remember being very upset being told, “no you have to sit here and eat.” Now that I’m twenty years old, I can handle things differently. But, there are still times when I have to change my pump’s inset or I have to take an insulin shot before I go to the gym. Just things that take time that no one else needs to do and its kind of annoying knowing that I have to pause my day just to change something but if I don’t do that I won’t feel well. That also sets me back if my sugar is very high or very low. I have to relax and make sure I feel okay before I go on with my daily routine. So that’s kind of a bummer.

The way everything is handled has definitely changed since 2004 when I first got diabetes. But when I first got it I was in the hospital for the first four days and they go through the routine of how everything is going to be, testing your blood sugar multiple times a day, every time before you eat, or if you don’t feel well. So, when I first had it for the first two or three years before I had an insulin pump, I had to do daily injections, which I did about 6–8 times a day. Now things are definitely more easy-going and a little bit more laid-back now that I’m a veteran at this and technology has kicked up a bit so that has definitely helped.

College is a big step and when I went to my diabetes doctors and nurses through high school they were preparing me to go off by myself. Most doctors say that diabetic children adjust to everything more than their parents do because it just becomes second nature. I pretty much all my life have been preparing to go off on my own. But, even know my third year of college it still takes a few weeks to get adjusted to everything because I just have a totally different schedule that I did during the summer. So I wake up at different times, I’m eating at different times, and I’m staying up later, so that all affects different things. College definitely changes things, but it just takes a month or two and it all adjust itself out and then its just back to regular life.