On March 14th, 1975: I was diagnosed with “Juvenile diabetes”! I received my very first injection of insulin. It was a very memorable day for me. I knew nothing about diabetes, except that I would live with it for the rest of my life.
Diabetes management of 39 years ago was not the same as it is today. Disposable syringes were available so I didn’t have to sterilize and reuse my needles. But, the size of the needle tip was neither short nor as sharp as today’s fine pen tips. In those days, I only took one shot of “long acting” NPH insulin. I took the same dose everyday regardless of carbohydrate intake or activities. The only way to check your sugar was by urine testing, which was extremely inaccurate. But, I was grateful then, as I am today, that insulin had been discovered (in 1921) and that I could manage my diabetes.
Interesting fact: In 1975, diabetes researchers in Edinburgh, Scotland, and London, UK, detected antibodies made by the body in people with insulin-dependent diabetes (type 1). The antibodies occurred when the body’s immune system attacked the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and destroyed them. The pancreas then produced little or no insulin. The researchers discovered that type 1 diabetes is caused by an immune system attack on pancreatic islet cells.
The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial
Over time, my diabetes regimen changed and I started taking two injections of insulin every day. In those days, there were no support groups or social media to share the experience of living life with diabetes. Basically, you were very alone.
Diabetes management changed in a big way in 1993 after the results were published from the 10-year clinical study known as the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT). The study results showed unequivocally that keeping blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible, by intensive insulin therapy, delayed the onset and slowed the progression of eye, kidney, and nerve diseases caused by diabetes in patients with type 1 diabetes. With this new information, my medical regimen changed as well. I started taking four shots a day – the new “peakless” insulin and the fast acting insulin before meals. Some people did not understand why I had to take four shots a day and felt sorry for me that my diabetes had gotten “worse”. No, no! I explained this regimen more closely approximated what a working pancreas does. This was a good thing – not a bad thing!
1999 to present
In 1999, Miss Nicole Johnson was crowned the first Miss America with type 1 diabetes. I didn’t feel so alone anymore with her crowning achievement bringing diabetes into the spotlight. People started to become aware of diabetes. She was quite an inspiration for me. I saw her as a role model of how to live successfully with diabetes.
In December 2001, I started my private practice, part-time, specializing treating the emotional issues of patients with diabetes, including children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. In 2002, I started my own web site: http://www.AskDrBev.com. By March 2004, I took the leap to a full time private practice. In addition to focusing on issues of diabetes self-management, therapy also involved processing feelings of anger, guilt, depression, and anxiety regarding adjustment to diabetes, using my clinical training in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). I provided individual, family, and group therapy sessions. I also spoke to diabetes support groups about coping with emotional issues.
In November 2009, I became a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). I started publishing articles in print and online, always with a focus on the emotional adjustment to diabetes. In 2011, I published my first book: MY SWEET LIFE: Successful Women with Diabetes. The book is a collection of life stories for 24 successful women with diabetes (including myself). The diverse group of women share their heartwarming stories and insights about finding balance between their personal, professional, and spiritual lives. In 2012, I published my second book: MY SWEET LIFE: Successful Men with Diabetes. This book is a collection of life stories for 25 highly respected and successful men with diabetes (including Ken Kotch). The diverse group of men share their heartwarming stories filled with honesty, humor, insights and encouragement how they triumph over their chronic illness.
One Day at a Time
Thirty-nine years have passed since that life-changing day when I got my first insulin injection. Although it sounds like a long time, it happened one day at a time. When you look at it that way, it’s not so overwhelming. I add up all the “one days” together and the result is 39 years. I’m most proud to say, on my 39th diaversary, that I remain complication-free!
Who could have predicted where I would be 39 years later? Diabetes regimens and supplies have been updated with the advancement of medical knowledge and technology. The Internet was invented and social media exploded with an active Diabetes Online Community (DOC). It’s common now to read about and talk about living with diabetes. Nobody has to feel alone anymore.
Who would have guessed where my career path would take me? Who could have guessed that one day I would be invited by the American Association of Diabetes Educators, in 2012, to be a part of a panel discussion on “Women Living with Diabetes – Success Stories”? And who would ever have guessed that I would get to meet my role model Miss Nicole Johnson and present on the same panel with the former Miss America? It was a wonderful experience! Who can guess what’s in store for my future? All I know is that I will live with diabetes for the rest of my life – and I will not just survive with my diabetes but I will thrive with it!