Going online: best & worst idea for someone newly diagnosed with diabetes (or anything for that matter)

When WebMD first came out, I was one of many who turned to the website when I felt the slightest symptom.
A cough: Was it a sign of the common cold, a debilitating throat infection or a warning of some pretty serious disease? Take your pick. Want to scare yourself silly? Start browsing.

We all know how the internet works. It’s a free-for-all for anyone with an idea and a connection. And although we know we should screen what we absorb online, sometimes proper judgement gets thrown to the wayside. This could happen when, let’s say, you are diagnosed with a disease you know nothing about and are told you will have to rely on insulin to survive.

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It makes sense really, a wealth of information right at your fingertips, a range of opinions and seemingly good answers to questions that would take hours to answer in a doctor’s office.

But there’s a great danger out there if you are in an emotionally vulnerable state of mind.

I didn’t realize it myself until now. What I read and who I communicated with (willingly or not) has definitely shaped how I view diabetes.
I was so overwhelmed with it all, and I found reaching out to people on Twitter made me feel less alone. On the flip side, sometimes my feed would seem like a storm of people complaining. I thought of myself 5 years later, a decade…would I be just as angry and resentful of my condition?

I sometimes got private messages from people who told me my doctors were wrong, that what I was doing wasn’t the “right way”. But when I felt so incredibly sad and frustrated, here were a bunch of strangers who understood what I was going through.

Today I’m much more selective of how I screen diabetes information. I look at how I conduct myself online much like how I should in all other aspects of life. I must be careful and selective of who I trust, be surrounded by those who will uplift and inspire me, and spend my time wisely. 

The online world has changed how we communicate but online or not, some things remain the same. There will be positives and negatives (opinions, people), those to be trusted and others with false claims. Do your research and do things that make you feel comfortable.

Tips to tackle the online world with a health challenge: 
  • Filter, filter, filter. Many social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook) allow you to make lists so you can choose what you want to see. I have my lists filtered so if I don’t want to come online and read about diabetes-related news/info that day, I don’t have to come across it.
  • Ask yourself who is the creator and what is the motive? A good exercise is to repeat the information given and ask yourself if you would trust it if a stranger said it to you on the street.
  • Verify reputation. Has this person been mentioned on other sites? Are they featured in reputable publications? Do a quick search and find out more. There are a lot of people who claim to be experts who have little to no educational background on the subject.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask. Not sure where to turn to for information online? Ask the experts. E-mail an organization and ask who or what sites they’d recommend for topic x. Find well established and respected online sources and see who they mention in links and go from there. Call for help on Twitter. Word of mouth can often lead you to the best resources.
  • Give an attitude check. Yes, the internet is a place where people like to pour out complaints. I think people are more likely to complain online than in real life about certain issues, but the internet is also home to tons of inspirational stories. There are tons of sites dedicated to people who may have similar health challenges who are defying the odds and living each day to the fullest. What kind of outlook do you want to have on life? That’s what you should be searching and bookmarking.

Safe surfing,

J

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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