Diagnosed with T1D on Christmas Day. Shawn Shepheard shares his story at JDRF conference in Regina

IMG_0613   Imagine being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on Christmas Day. Can I get a refund on this not-so-sweet gift? That’s what happened to Shawn Shepheard. At that time he was 30 years old, engaged to be married. If you’re looking for inspiration on living well with diabetes, this is it. He recently shared his story and how he turned it all  around at the JDRF conference in Regina. Read the full story by The Star Phoenix here. Xo, J

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Opinion: Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as an adult

My diagnosis smoothie is a not-so-healthy mix of guilt, frustration and…wait for it..an additional hit of more guilt.

At the last JDRF adult support group meeting I attended we got into the topic of what it’s like to be diagnosed as an adult. I was pointed out by one of the organization’s reps as someone who was diagnosed much later in life (29).

I was happy to share my thoughts on the issue, but more importantly, incredibly thrilled that someone else in the room was able to chime in with me in feeling the same.

JDRF in the exhibit hall.

JDRF in the exhibit hall.

Guilt: I haven’t lived with type 1 diabetes for very long. I’ve passed my two year mark but that’s it. The majority of t1d’s were diagnosed so much earlier in life. What right do I have to complain when I lived such a huge portion of my life free from the worries this disease brings?

I’m hyper aware of this fact and so when I’m around other type 1’s or even people who are curious about what it’s like to live with t1d, I watch myself carefully. I don’t ever want others to feel like I’m not acknowledging their long struggle with this autoimmune disease.

I’ve been through my fair share of struggle, heartache and pain. This did not happen to me at a time when I was still growing. Why can’t I get this down? Why do I feel so incredibly helpless at times? I have often felt guilty for feeling this way, not for myself, but for the loved ones around me who feel the ripples of t1d.

Frustration: Trying to explain t1d and that I was diagnosed at 29 can be a pain. As an adult, coupled with the misconceptions about the disease, I feel (FEEL, not that it’s in any way reality) like there is a judgement put on me when I proclaim I am diabetic.

“She must not have taken care of herself.”

For me- I equate the above statement with being lazy about my health. I know that’s not the case, but for some reason I cringe to even think that the word ‘lazy’ can be associated with me. I’m a self-confessed workaholic (but I’m getting better). Prior to being diagnosed I was the girl who stayed late at the office and checked her e-mails in the middle of the night. It has been incredibly difficult to own my disease because of my Type A, work-work-work mentality I have carried with me for many years.

A little more guilt: I know there are people in this world praying for food, water, the end to violence. I live in a place where I have access to insulin, doctors and amazing organizations like Connected in Motion. In the grand scheme of things, I know I have it good. I am free to live how I want, pursue my dreams and have the hope of a long life ahead of me. There’s a tinge of guilt for me when t1d gets me down and I complain or make note of my annoyance.

I left that meeting feeling a lot better about being diagnosed much later in life. I always knew it, but this time I felt it- I was not alone in my thoughts and emotions.

Irregardless of what struggle you face (a disease, a troubled relationship, a career dilemma) it always feels good to know you don’t walk the path solo. Others have prevailed and so will you.

The dreaded “before” photo & taking on the Inches Challenge

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I’m a big fan of my gym. Here’s why:

  • Trainers are friendly and so helpful. Every time I go in, I call on one of them to see if I’m doing an exercise correctly. I always have a good experience and walk away feeling empowered and not intimidated in the slightest (the latter being a big deal for me).
  • They provide lots of fundraising initiatives. For Christmas, one of the trainers dead lifted the total weight of how much food was donated. For Movember, donators could purchase from an exercise “menu”, appetizers being $2, a main course $5. I bought a few appetizers and purchased squats. At the end the trainers had to do all the exercises that were purchased from the Movember menu. I won a poster and free passes to the gym 😀
  • New programming. Last month I took part in two olympic lifting sessions (power clean and dead lift, which I’ll blog about later) and had a blast doing it. And now, I am taking on the Inches Challenge.

So the photo above explains it all. On Thursday I had my measurements taken and sat down to talk about my goals. You can decide your end date to the challenge. I have decided it will be a year from now.

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For the most part, I want more definition. I want to build muscle and decrease my body fat percentage. 2013 was definitely a year to push myself when it came to fitness and this year, I want to continue to grow and dedicate myself to my health.

Taking a “before” photo was nerve-wracking. It took 10 seconds at the most, but standing there, in form fitting gym clothes to bare every curve in front of a lens that I wasn’t shooting was no easy task. I wouldn’t have dared to enter something like this 5 years ago.

I’ve never been a person that was proud of my body. I struggled long and hard and resounded a while back that it just wasn’t in the cards for me to be really fit. Being diagnosed, and all that has come with it, has really changed my perspective on things.

We hold so much power in our thoughts. We are much stronger than we believe. I’m thankful to be part of a fitness facility that helps build my self esteem and provides me with a comforting environment where I can say, “Yes, sign me up! I can do this.”

Find a place, whether it’s outside alone on a trail or a group class with an energetic instructor, that makes you feel comfortable. An environment that makes you feel strong, that encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone.

It makes all the difference. And with that, you will be another step closer to conquering your fears and reaching your goals.

Body Fat 33% & going down,

J

Skin conditions & diabetes. Did you notice any changes in your skin after diagnosis?

ImageThis was my wrist a few days ago.  

I like to play a little game with myself when I’m in uncomfortable situations. There’s no real system to it. I barter in my own head about situations I’d rather not be in.

Example. 

I would eat 15 anchovies if it would get me to the front of this line.  

I’m so hungry I would pay $100 for an apple. 

Yesterday I found myself saying, “I will do ANYTHING to make this itching stop!”

About a month ago I started to get red bumps on the inside of my wrists. The strange thing about it is that after being itchy for 15-30 minutes, it would go away. The skin irritation would come and go but a few days ago, it began to spread all over my body. 

I went to see my GP and he said that it’s most likely not an allergic reaction to say, my MedicAlert bracelet or the material of my clothing or the bumps would be there all the time. I did some blood tests and am now awaiting the results. 

My doctor says with certainty that it’s hives and that it might be a side effect of some oral medication I’m taking. We won’t know until the blood results come in. 

In the meantime, I want to take a fork and go to town on my skin. He suggested taking allergy medication and I think tonight I’m going to take it because I’m getting very very uncomfortable. When the hives flare up, it’s really bad news bears. 

Have you noticed any changes in your skin after your diabetes diagnosis? 

Trying not to scratch,

Jessica

I’m a newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic who loves to exercise. Welcome to my unpredictable world.

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When I found out I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the first thing I said to myself was, “I’m not going to give up my exercise regime!”

It was a shock to find out after 29 beautiful years together, my pancreas function wanted out.

First off, way to be a quitter. I’ve invested a lot in keeping you and the rest of my body healthy. What gives? Maybe I took you for granted. I took a lot of things for granted actually. I just assumed you and the rest of my body would just “work”. But I guess not. And secondly, stop coming back for short bits of time and then leaving again. Either you are in or out. I don’t like this wishy-washy fling we’re having. I don’t know why it’s called honeymooning. This is no honeymoon.

Okay, back to exercising and being a newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic.

The biggest problem I face with any type of training is going low (the technical term is hypoglycemia). It has been a very long process and I am by no means at a point where I’ve found the answer on how to work out without going low. I do accept that no matter how much I prepare or try to prevent lows, they will inevitably happen.

In the year and some since I’ve been diagnosed I have been to hospital once over  hypogylcemia  involving exercise. I swam, biked and run much earlier in the day in training for my first triathlon and although I ate when I should have, I still crashed, and crashed bad. I was completely out of it and my run buddies drove me to the hospital. I didn’t know where I was, and apparently was saying on the ride there, “We are going to do swim drills now right?” I eventually came to, and was released the same night.

If you’re competitive and have a type A personality like myself, this whole process may drive you mad.

It’s important to remember the following:

  • This learning curve will teach you the great life lesson of patience
  • It will also teach you about acceptance and lastly…
  • Unless your livelihood depends on being an athlete, you’re going to need to calm down about PB’s

That is, just for the time being. This is absolutely NOT to say that you shouldn’t have goals for fitness. I have lots of them. And a quick Google search will prove that there are plenty of accomplished athletes who have type 1 diabetes.

It’s just that because you are newly diagnosed, your body is needing to adjust to everything. And it’s a process, a long one, and one that will try your patience and may have you in tears at times. But things will get better, I promise. It’s important to stay positive.

The basics to avoiding lows for me have been (after much trial and error)

  • Eating a substantial amount of carbs before working out (what is substantial, now enters the fun part, will again, be a game of trial and error)
  • Hydrating properly (I found I need to keep hydrated throughout, whereas before I could pound out 15km without a sip of water)
  • Taking in a steady stream of carbs via eLoad Endurance Formula in my hydration pack

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I usually mix the formula and water in a water bottle, then pour it into my hydration pack. eLoad Endurance Formula is light in taste so it’s not super sweet and doesn’t overwhelm the senses. 

  • Testing often (for me it’s every 1/2 hour)
  • Eating immediately after a run to replenish
  • Documenting what works and what doesn’t

What works for one diabetic may not work for you. I always like to try different things because you never know what might end up being something that gives you exactly what you need. And also, what works ONE DAY may not work the next. And that can be extremely annoying. If your pancreas is honeymooning that will cause a whole other host of fun surprises in terms of how much insulin you need/carbs to intake before/during/after exercise. What has worked for me is throwing my hands in the air and surrendering to the fact that things are probably not going to go my way.

It took a lot of work from my nurses, dietitians, endocrinologist and GP to help decipher the world of diabetes and exercise, but let me tell you, it’s all worth the blood, sweat and tears (literally!). I completely two triathlons and my first half marathon recently. It can all be done, I assure you.

I realize now there are many frustrations that I just had to accept:

  • Carrying all your supplies including your meter, lancet device, test strips, glucose tabs, food
  • Constantly calculating what you should eat, how many carbohydrates are in your fuel foods
  • Stopping for hypoglycemia or when you are feeling ill
  • Having your friends and family worry about you when you train
  • Listening to people tell you “take it easy”

Those were the major annoyances that I have (for the most part) come to accept. It’s completely normal to be annoyed by the way. I thought my feelings of being fed up was a sign of weakness but it is absolutely not. This disease is exhausting.

If you are afraid of exercising because of lows, remember this: consistent exercise is prescribed a lot to manage stress and to alleviate a host of illnesses. It makes you feel good. It helps you become strong. Always talk to you doctor before starting any kind of new routine. But remember, the benefits of working out, in my opinion, heavily outweigh staying stagnant.

Keep moving,

Jessica