Now this is a story we haven’t heard before! Patrick and Keegan are twins – both living with Type 1 diabetes… Patrick was diagnosed at 13, Keegan at 18. We asked them for more details – read on!
Can you tell us your diagnosis story?
Patrick: I was diagnosed at age 13 and I had no idea what diabetes was. I was always lethargic, thirsty, urinating and sleeping all the time. My grandmother who had Type 2 diabetes asked to check my blood sugar. And so we did and I was shocked that my reading was 25mmol/l. The next morning I fasted and tested it again, I was shocked that my sugar didn’t go down at all. So we went to the clinic and from there on I had to learn how to become a functioning Type 1 diabetic real quick.
Keegan: I was diagnosed at age 18. I would feel sleepy all the time and be super thirsty. The one day I was lying on the bed looking out through the window and I realized I could not see my neighbour’s red roof as my vision was so bad.
I went to my brother and asked him how he knew he had diabetes. After explaining all the symptoms I tested my sugar as much as I hated needles. My first reading was 28.7mmol/l. I went to the doctor to get a urine test, and the doctor told me I had diabetes. I was in denial. I did not want to believe it and asked the doctor if it could be something else, but unfortunately it wasn’t.
What do you wish you’d known when you were diagnosed?
Patrick: How to count carbohydrates, use my insulin to counteract my sugar and what HbA1c meant.
I wish I could have told my younger self not to see it as a death sentence, and that it will get better.
Keegan: How to count carbohydrates, how to deal with my diagnosis and come to terms with it as I was in denial.
I wish I knew how much my stress levels affected my sugar as I thought that it was just food that caused my sugar to go up.
If I could speak to myself then, I would tell myself that being diagnosed with diabetes is not a death sentence. I remember I could not imagine injecting myself with needles due to my needle phobia.
What is it like juggling Type 1 diabetes, ADHD, and dyslexia?
Patrick: Hectic and overwhelming, especially being young and full of energy. It was quite challenging to come to terms with my body not being able to match the extreme energy of my mind. I often felt like I was missing out. I struggled to read and focus on all information being thrown at me all at once.
Now I think I only get effected when I lose concentration as I hyper focus on something and then forget to test my sugar – like when I’m busy at work, I don’t think twice about testing it and that has to do with my ADHD. I still struggle with reading but have found videos very useful with educating myself about diabetes.
Keegan: It’s not the easiest thing to do because I don’t focus as much as I am supposed to. I still don’t really know how to carb count as I struggle to retain that information. I still mess up all the time and these disabilities play a big role in that. I am not good with numbers or spelling so learning formulas that could help me does not happen. Also, my brothers’ formulas are completely different to mine so doing that trial and error with my disabilities is a huge struggle.
What advice do you have for people with diabetes who are struggling?
Patrick: I would say that you’re going to have good and bad days, but don’t get discouraged – it does get better!
Diabetes is not a death sentence, it’s a lifestyle change, and we must do it. Eat what you want, just stay consistent with checking your sugar and taking your insulin injections. Rotate your sites when injecting, change needles regularly and enjoy your life.
Routine is important if you want to get your sugar under control – its easier to maintain your sugar at a good level than letting your sugar go out of control and having to get that down.
Keegan: Research as much as you can and try to understand the do’s and don’ts. Have a good support structure that forces you to stay on track. I also end up in hospital quite a bit because of my DKA and I really do get violently ill, so what helps me is to remember that I don’t want to go through that again. Learn how to manage your stress and anxiety as I get affected by that quite often. I can’t really give advice on this as I still haven’t really come to terms with my diagnosis yet.
I would tell them to remember it’s a very slippery slope, you have high sugar and it’s all fine and then DKA hits you and it’s suddenly not fine.
What’s the hardest part about living with diabetes?
Patrick: People thinking they’re an expert in Type 1 diabetes and not understanding that we must deal with this every single day, all the time. Having to check my sugar every single time and trying to figure out the correct dosage of insulin. The fact that you can do everything right and still not get rewarded for it by the medical aid like the ability to be granted a CGM (continues glucose monitor).
Keegan: Always having to check my sugar. Loving food and having to control that. Watching people not having to care about what they eat and how it will affect their blood sugar – I am so jealous of that. I also don’t like being told every 5 minutes I can’t do things because I am diabetic. I don’t like that at any time I may lose my legs or my sight due to diabetes.
Does having a twin with diabetes make life easier?
Patrick: For me personally, I always felt like the teacher and never the student with my brother, so I don’t think so. But it does help with a little bit of friendly competition and having a back-up for insulin in case I forget mine. I like that I can help him and teach him to understand diabetes better, but he is also very stubborn at times.
Keegan: Yes! It makes it a lot easier. If I need information, I always go to my brother and get an answer. It was much easier when I got diagnosed because the transition was better as my brother had everything I needed, and I did not have to go through it alone.
What makes your life sweet?
Patrick: Having people that unconditionally support me with my diabetes and push me to do better. Life is good and I still enjoy my fishing trips and outdoor activities. I have a special spot for animals and my pets make my life sweet. Being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes makes me realize how precious the small things in life are and I appreciate that with all my heart.
Keegan: DKA, eating things I’m not supposed to – just joking! Being able to be alive and still do the things I want to do even though people say I can’t. Fishing, fishing, fishing. Being able to enjoy the thing I did without diabetes, with diabetes. I’m also a human heater at night because of my diabetes so in winter I never get cold! Having diabetes brought me closer to my brother and my dad. I can also always ask my mom for money with the excuse that my sugar is low! Life is good, even with the bad.
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What to read next?
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Let’s talk about being the partner of someone with diabetes: A Facebook Live session about being the partner of someone with diabetes, and wanted to share it with you we were joined by Daniel Sher, clinical psychologist living with Type 1 diabetes, and his wife Jess Sher, speech-language therapist.
Everything you need to know about Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA): DKA is a serious and life-threatening complication that affects people with diabetes and those who have undiagnosed diabetes. The good news? It’s treatable. So it’s really important to understand it and know the warning signs.