Meet 22-year-old Lauren Gerenraich. Lauren has lived with type 1 diabetes for seven years, is an active volunteer with the JDRF and recently began her blog The LD. We really enjoyed her Diabetes Blog Week post where she wrote a letter to her 16-year-old self. Since she’s now a college grad, we asked her to reflect a bit and offer up some tips for those of you heading off to university this fall.
How about you? Anything you want to add for the college-bound? Don’t be shy – share in the comments!
Everything you have heard about college is true; the partying, all-nighters, stress, new experiences, weird roommates and procrastinated papers. Now throw in type 1 diabetes to make things really complicated. I won’t lie and tell you how I perfectly handled college, because I didn’t. From accidentally leaving my pump in my dorm to high blood sugar that impaired my ability to retain information to eventually landing in the hospital, I definitely made mistakes. I wish I’d had someone who could have spoken candidly to me about diabetes in college when I was 18.
I just wanted to be a normal college student. Although I didn’t ignore my diagnosis altogether, I ended up not feeling as great as I could have for a lack of care. I would check my blood sugar three times a day at most, and because the dining halls did not post nutritional information, I was guessing on everything.
Acceptance is key, I think. Truthfully, it wasn’t until recently that I fully accepted diabetes as part of my life. It isn’t who I am; it’s something that is a part of me. Making your health a priority is not something you can force upon someone (sorry parents). Acceptance happens on your own terms, whenever you decide to understand and harness the special care your body requires. Literally, one day I woke up and I intuitively knew I needed to read Mary Tyler Moore’s book, “Growing Up Again, Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes”. I yearned to know I wasn’t the only one who struggled with a 24/7 disease and she has since changed my life. If you already are in control, keep up the good work!
Here are some tips that I believe will help you keep your college experience fun:
1. Meet other type 1′s. Whether it’s online with a blog or twitter or starting your own club at school. Reaching out for support will help you get in control.
2. If you are going to college in a new town like I did, find an Endo you like before you move there.
3. Educate your roommates on things like how glucagon works and that your insulin needs to stay refrigerated.
4. If your school doesn’t post nutritional information on their food, bring it to their attention that they are creating an obstacle for you.
5. Be proactive with your supply orders. Don’t wait until it’s too late to realize you ran out of insulin and the pharmacy isn’t open.
6. If you are of legal age and choose to drink, talk to your Endo about ways to stay safe. Make sure people you are drinking with know you have diabetes. The safest option is to volunteer to be the designated driver. Most places offer free soda if you tell them you are DD and your friends will appreciate the safe drive.
Editor’s Note: You can also check out Dr. Kaufman’s post about drinking and diabetes.
7. ALWAYS have a back-up plan. Pumps break and you don’t want to be left with an emergency on your hands.
8. Stay active! Join a sports team or find a gym buddy if you need motivation.
9. Always carry glucose tabs.
10. CHECK CHECK CHECK your blood sugar!!
There is a happy ending to my story! I can now say I am a type 1 diabetic who is in control. Going to college can be scary, but you are going to have an amazing experience. Take this as an opportunity to shine for the next four years. Don’t forget to call or text your parents to let them know you’re well and to communicate with your Endo. Now get ready to have the time of your life!
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