health

'I'm 23 and have lived with type 1 diabetes all my life. This is what I wish people knew.'

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at just 14 months old, so I’ve never known life without it.  

I’ve also never known life without the love and support of parents who have never stopped encouraging me to live as normal a life as possible.  

From a very young age, they instilled in me that all my dreams were achievable and nothing - certainly not my diabetes - would stop me.  

"You live your life, and we’ll deal with the diabetes side of things," is what they always told me.  

Despite their reassurance, raising a toddler is tough enough, without the additional challenges of type 1 diabetes. 

From waking up three times a night to test my blood glucose levels to all the extra planning that went into every single detail of my life, I didn’t know any different. This was my normal.

Side note: Talk to your family about their health history. Post continues below.


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As I got older, I noticed I wasn’t the same as everyone else.  

In primary school, my mum would come to school every lunchtime to administer my insulin, and I began wondering why my mum was the only one who came in to visit every single day.  

The feeling of being different really manifested during my teen years.  

Having type 1 diabetes as a high school student meant I had to be more organised than any teenager - thinking ahead about what foods I would eat and how activities like PE class would affect my blood sugar levels and insulin dosage.  

I had to be so much more careful than everyone else and quickly learned that my blood sugar rising too high or dropping too low made it tough to concentrate in class, which became disruptive to my learning.  

Although I felt different, I was lucky in that I was never picked on or shamed for my diabetes, like so many others are. Unfortunately, that type of behaviour usually comes from a place of ignorance, a lack of understanding around what diabetes is and is not, and unfair assumptions.  

Instead of singling me out because I was a bit different, people tried to understand my condition by asking questions about my insulin pump and why I needed it. 

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It became apparent just how important sport and physical activity were to managing my diabetes. In my teens, my medical team suggested I get more active, and it took me some time to control my blood sugar during exercise. 

Image: Supplied.

I was experiencing hypoglycemic episodes ('hypos') during sport, so I needed sugar to bring my levels back up and it often felt like I was chasing my tail. 

It took tips and advice from others living with type 1 diabetes, and some trial and error, but I eventually mastered exercise strategies to keep active and be confident that my blood glucose would stay within my target range. 

I was feeling so energised by my new approach that by 2019 I was inspired to run the New York City Marathon. It was a bucket list moment, but never again... preparing for a marathon is a monumental task for anyone, but for someone living with type 1 diabetes it took mental and physical prep and training to a whole new level!

Image: Supplied.

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Another game changer for me has been technology.  

Thinking back to a childhood of daily injections and up to 10 finger pricks a day to check and monitor blood sugar levels, I’m incredibly thankful things look a little different now. 

Instead of finger-prick testing throughout the day and night, I can see my glucose levels using a Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) and insulin pump. I wear a small Dexcom G6 CGM device that measures my glucose levels at frequent intervals and sends data straight to my phone (which I can easily share with my family and medical team). 

I also get alerts before my glucose levels go too high or low, so I have time to make adjustments and avoid the consequences of being out of range. Instead of injections, wearing an insulin pump makes that quick and easy.  

Image: Supplied.

Now that I'm studying and working, I don't have to worry about disrupting my class, stopping during an exam or having to pull over when I'm driving. 

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It might not sound like a lot, but for me the difference it makes to the mental burden of living with type 1 diabetes is invaluable.

Now I’m in a good place with my type 1 journey, I still think back to that feeling that I was the only one in the world who had to deal with the realities of type 1 diabetes. 

I want to make sure no one else feels like that. I want to make the condition more visible and advocate for a greater understanding and sense of acceptance, in place of misinformation and judgement.  

I certainly didn't start out with the intention to become a diabetes advocate, but through my Instagram @emilysdiabetes I’ve been candid about my experiences in the hope that it helps others. I’ve been fortunate enough to build some amazing connections with other type 1s and that has spurred me on to do more - particularly in the area of mental health and wellbeing.  

Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast about type 2 diabetes. Post continues below. 


One thing most people don't understand about living with diabetes is the mental toll.  

A type 1 diabetes diagnosis is a life sentence of constantly comparing and measuring your diabetes success or failures according to a set of metrics. It’s hard not to burn out and get down on yourself.  

It’s very easy to compare yourself and your journey to strangers on the internet who might only show the really good days, and it’s important not to beat yourself up. Then there is the guilt from not being able to function to full capacity because of a bad diabetes day or a rough night with your blood sugars. Having tools and strategies to manage that and not let the guilt consume you, is critical to maintaining a healthy mindset. 

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A lifelong type 1 diabetes diagnosis means different things to different people - how you embrace it is up to you. 

For me, learning to live with it has taught me a lot about myself and what I’m truly capable of - and has driven me to achieve more. If you tell me I can’t do something because I have diabetes, I’m more determined to prove you wrong.  

If I could impart some advice to those newly diagnosed with type 1, it would be to trust that you can still be the best version of yourself even with diabetes - and perhaps because you do have diabetes.  

Make mistakes and learn from them - it’s your journey to do your way.  

You will challenge and amaze yourself with what is possible.  

Most of all, remember you aren’t alone.  

There are plenty of people living with diabetes who are willing to share their experiences and help you along the way - myself included.

Emily Vuong is a sponsored AMSL Diabetes Ambassador. Always read the label and use only as directed. Read the warnings available on amsldiabetes.com.au/resources before purchasing. Consult your healthcare professional to see which product is right for you.

Feature Image: Emily Vuong/Supplied.

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