This blog will feature my longtime friend, Cassie Rost. Cassie is a wife, mother, former speech-therapist and owner of Marie + Grace Floral Design. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 8 years old. We sat down to talk about living with diabetes, managing her symptoms and words of wisdom for those struggling or watching family members struggle with this condition.
First, I want to explain the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
When a person eats food, it is broken down into glucose and sent into the bloodstream. Insulin that is secreted from the pancreas moves the glucose from the blood into your cells. It is used as fuel for energy or stored for later use. When a person has diabetes there is a problem with insulin production and/or use.
In Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disorder generally diagnosed in childhood, your immune system destroys the beta cells in your pancreas that make insulin. When enough beta cells are destroyed, your pancreas makes little to no insulin. The insulin needs to be replaced through injections by syringe, insulin pen or insulin pump. This is the type of diabetes we will be talking about more in depth in this blog.
In Type 2 diabetes the body does not use insulin properly. At first, the pancreas will make extra insulin in order to make up for it. Over time, it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels normal. Type 2 diabetes is treated with lifestyle changes, oral medication and sometimes insulin. Medication isn’t always needed and healthy eating and exercise can sometimes suffice as treatment.
Q & A with Cassie
How did you get diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes?
I had a lot of bladder infections as a child and I was put on a lot of antibiotics. I also had two surgeries, one in Kindergarten and one in 1st grade. I believe this compromised my immune system and possibly killed off my beta cells. My initial symptoms were feeling shaky, constant thirst, going to the bathroom frequently and eating a ton but still losing weight.
What was the hardest part of growing up with Type 1 Diabetes?
The insulin shots. As a child, I had to have them at least 4 times a day on top of pricking my finger 5-8 times a day. I also really struggled to tie my moods and feelings to my blood sugar, making it very hard to regulate. I had to eat based off of the results of my blood sugar readings and the dietary restrictions were hard to understand. I was unable to eat any processed sugar whatsoever. I can remember being taken out of the classroom during birthday parties because I wasn’t allowed to eat the treats. I also had to pack my lunch every day.
Being a teenager and a college student was the hardest. I didn’t realize how much strain my diet could put on my body. It took me a long time to learn that just because I could give myself insulin based off of my food intake, that it didn’t mean I should choose junk food. For example, I could eat a Big Mac and give myself the correct amount of insulin, but it still wasn’t good for my body.
When I was 19 I switched to an insulin pump. It gave me amounts of insulin based off of my carbohydrate intake. I had a really rough year adjusting to the pump.
What symptoms do you have when your blood sugar is high?
I get very thirsty, tired and achey. My vision gets blurred. My breathing becomes heavy because I’m not getting as much oxygen in my blood due to too much sugar. I may also vomit if my blood sugar is very high.
What about when your blood sugar is low?
I feel shaky, tired and confused. My vision also becomes blurred. My thoughts and language don’t make sense. My heart races and I can become clammy or sweat profusely. My tongue might also become numb.
What advice would you give to parents who have a child with T1D?
I would tell them to stay current on all the latest technology and different types of insulin pumps available. Also, let your child be as normal as possible and try not to be too controlling. Let them make mistakes, but still remind them of the importance of eating well and making good choices. Try not to exclude them from activities. My parents did a good job of not freaking out if I made poor decisions that impacted my blood sugar!
How has T1D made you a better person?
I’m more aware of food and the way I treat my body. T1D forces me to live more healthy. I look on the bright side and I am very grateful it’s something that can be controlled in the comfort of my own home.
What is the most frustrating part of T1D?
There is always something new to learn about T1D and the technology that comes with it (insulin pumps, glucose monitors, etc…). I have to be very vigilant of what I’m eating and how I’m feeling. My body is also constantly changing with age and pregnancies (Cassie has a 7 year old and a 2 year old).
How do you monitor and adjust your diet due to T1D?
I count carbohydrates and unhealthy fat intake as recommended by my dietician. I try to stay away from fried foods, pizza and sweets because those are things that make me feel poorly. I still indulge on special occasions but try not to make it a regular thing.
*Katy’s side bar: Cassie counts carbohydrates and fats because their digestion impacts blood sugar in different ways. Carbohydrates (especially refined) have more of an immediate impact, whereas fats may take 4-5 hours to have their impact.
How do you manage your cravings?
Drink water! If I have a craving I will have a glass of water and then re-evaluate how I feel.
What advice would you give to someone who is pre-diabetic and may be able to prevent or prolong the onset?
Most diabetics die from complications of poorly maintained diabetes, such as heart disease or organ failure. It’s important to exercise. Start small, even walking for awhile each day is better than sitting all day long. Pay attention to the junk that you’re putting in your body. Eat food that comes from the earth. Also, find a way to lower your stress. Stress impacts your blood sugar.
Katy’s sidebar comment: Sounds like what we should all be doing!
How does diabetes impact you during your day to day life?
I still prick my finger 5-8 times a day to take my blood sugar count. Being a mom, sometimes I get very busy and forget. My diabetes is always changing, so it’s important I have a good doctor that I see regularly. I check my A1C levels every 3 months, cholesterol, feet, etc. I’ve had diabetes for almost 25 years, it is a part of me so I try not to get too comfortable. It takes work, but diabetes CAN be well managed and controlled.
Tell us more about Marie + Grace floral design.
It’s an event and holiday floral business that I just started in October. I have always loved flowers and the joy they bring to people. I’m excited to start offering floral club subscriptions in June. Clients can choose between receiving flowers 1x a month or biweekly.
Check out Cassie’s website for more info: http://www.marieandgracefloral.com/services
If you or a family member struggle with a medical issue, mental health disorder or another condition you want to spread information about please contact me. I’d love to feature you in an upcoming blog!