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Teenage Dreams and a T1 Diagnosis

By Karrie Hawbaker

Public Relations Manager

Posted:  5/10/2012 3:00 PM


Today we’re excited to introduce you to Katie Janowiak, who works for the Medtronic Foundation, our company’s philanthropic arm. It’s an exciting job, helping Medtronic employees get involved in the communities and causes we care about. But today she’s here to share something personal - her diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes 15 years ago and what she’s learned since then about living with diabetes. We can’t wait to hear more from Katie in blog posts to come!

Growing up, a generous portion of my time was devoted to a few choice activities: listening to New Kids on the Block, ensuring I had the coolest pogs, waiting for that glorious static sound that indicated a successful log on to dial up internet, and reading the entire Babysitter’s Club book series. 

Long before wizards, vampire romances, and tributes were the norm in young adult reading, The Babysitter’s Club series chronicled the coming-of-age of several middle-school-aged girls as they ran a babysitting business. Stacey McGill, (a native New Yorker and “one of the best dressers of the babysitter’s club”), was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in one of the chapter books, and for whatever reason – despite the extensive plot builds of boy drama, friend drama, drama drama – something random stuck with me: Stacey was very thirsty and peed, a lot.

I was very thirsty. I peed, a lot – so much in fact, that I couldn’t make it to a toilet on multiple occasions. When I began experiencing other similar symptoms, I told my parents, quite matter-of-factly, “I think I have diabetes.”

What a great imagination she has! Little Miss Self Diagnosis! How do you know what diabetes is? Maybe you have a cold? I think someone is about to hit puberty.

Regardless of what my parents must have been thinking, they agreed to schedule a doctor’s appointment for me – this was the day before Halloween, October 30, 1998.

From trading pogs to tapping insulin bottles in a matter of hours.

I remember friends coming to the hospital to visit. One asked me “What if you never get kissed now? Guys won’t want to get diabetes!” (I wish I could take this moment to knock some witty response into 12-year-old me. Having had fifteen years to think about it, I’m sure it would be brilliant.) The books and VHS tapes and nurses had all been extremely helpful, but no one had told me how to handle natural curiosity, or other’s lack of education surrounding Type 1.

I now have a husband (who kisses me!), a fancy pink pump, and a job devoted to ensuring Medtronic employees have the tools and resources necessary to get involved in their communities around causes they care about. I look forward to sharing with you the laughter, frustration, and everything in between that fifteen years of diabetes has provided me in future posts. If a 20-something is able to impart any words of wisdom from those first moments, days and years upon diagnosis, here are mine:

- A positive attitude and a positive influencer in your diabetic’s life, can completely change the trajectory of the effect illness has on their life. Having even the fictional model of Stacey immediately made T1 “normal” to me…after all, a famous book person had it!

- The balance between “you can lead a normal life” and the “this is a part of your life where you will always be different” is a constant give and take. Almost 15 years in, I am still figuring it out.

- To parents: THIS IS YOUR CHILD’S DISEASE. Empower them to know it and own it. 

- To people with diabetes: YOUR FAMILY DOES NOT KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE YOU. But, they really want to support you. Understand that the questions (“Have you tested lately?” “Can you eat that?” “Ohhhh, you’re being bad”) are truly only to relate with you and to better understand your situation. Take each and every one of these as an opportunity to educate.

- Don’t tell your newly diagnosed diabetic that “it could be worse” (who wants to feel invalidated in their emotions?), but do all you can to provide a healthy sense of perspective to the disease. 


Katie Rys

Posted on Thu May 10 15:36:44 GMT 2012

I just revisited the early 90s as I read this! Love it. You have a great attitude and like myself, it seems you never let diabetes own you. You owned and still own it. I am 33 and was diagnosed as T1 6 years ago. It was life changing for sure, but I've never let it take over my life and now it's as normal to me as brushing my teeth each day. It's inspiring to know there are others who share the take charge attitude.

Marie Lee

Posted on Thu May 10 15:57:26 GMT 2012

I have had T1 for 32 years now having been diagnosed at age 19. Peeing on sticks and shots was my initial world. Now it is pink pumps and testing bloods sugars. All along I had a very supportive family and was provided the latest greatest in medicine and doctors. My mother, a nurse, told me to "make Diabetes part of my life but not my entire life!" My daughter turned Diabetic 10 years ago and we are T1 buddies. We do everything together and encourage each other daily. Having a buddy really does help keep you motivated-love you Jen!

My best advise to all you have T1 or a family/friend who has T1 - Enjoy life every day and remember to live your life to the fullest!

Tina Kaetzel

Posted on Thu May 10 17:07:41 GMT 2012

I love this post, it is so true. How great to be able to work for an amazing company. I love my pink pump too!!!


Posted on Thu May 10 21:57:42 GMT 2012

Great insight. I have a blue pump, that has hiked with me in Montana, France, Spain, AT, and most of PA. I have had T1 for 47 years. I too had a fantastic mother who encouraged me to live life to the fullest and while DM was with me day in and day out, it never held me back. What a change from the glass syringes and animal insulin and 18g needles.

Dorothy Koch

Posted on Fri May 11 01:56:05 GMT 2012

Type 1 for 38 1/2 years I am number 11 out of 14 children in my family i really thought i was "special" getting to take shots and having something NO ONE in my family was "ALLOWED" to do! It is really nice to see other people have this diasese for as long as i have or longer was missing that "special " feeling I have a wonderful, supportive husband and 2 GREAT healthy kids.

Kristin Whitlock

Posted on Sat May 12 02:55:57 GMT 2012

Ditto on what Dorothy Koch wrote, I have had Type 1 for 34 years and the local meetings here in Tucson AZ that i have attended no one has had this nearly as long and most are Type 2. Wish i could find a support group here in town with Type 1 long time diagnosis. Ginny above that has had it for 47 years Wow you give me hope.


Posted on Wed May 16 05:35:26 GMT 2012

You guys give me so much hope, like I think I've cried with every single post that I've read. I finally feel understood for the first time, in a Diabetic-sense. Most of the people that you meet are Type 2 which makes finding a group such as this one even more exciting. I'm only 22 and was diagnosed 18 years ago. It doesn't feel like that long, honestly I was so young people remind me all the time that I never really knew life without this disease. I've not encountered anyone that lives in my area that has this disease. I work as a teacher, substituting right now but hopefully soon I'll be a kindergarten teacher. My pump is pink also and I tried the CGM technology when it was first introduced, but it was very difficult to use and made me bleed almost every time I changed the sensor set. Great post, those notes at the bottom are awesome and absolutely true...


Posted on Thu Jun 14 00:28:38 GMT 2012

I dont feel alone reading all these posts, i have Type 1 for 37 yrs.. but its true dont let it rule u.. you rule it. I 've been on an insulin pump for over 10 years now its great..
I reallly think more people should be educated on diabetes.. Thank u medtronic for all the new techology for all us to live and easier life.


Posted on Thu Jun 14 00:46:33 GMT 2012

Thank you Carol! That's wonderful to hear!

cory cyronak

Posted on Thu Mar 21 17:18:53 GMT 2013

Getting to the point where managing your diabetes is like brushing your teeth is a huge accomplishment. I feel I am there with an A1C of 5.1, and running up to thirty miles a week. It was hard to get here but I found that it is about the JOURNEY and not the destination. Thanks for all your posts they are wonderful.


Posted on Sat Mar 23 00:20:59 GMT 2013

Congrats on the A1C Cory! Keep up the hard work!

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