The Power of the Diabetes Online Community

By Nate Allman

Daily management of the beast that is type 1 diabetes (T1D) can be challenging, at best, on a good day. I am 29 years old and was diagnosed at age 12. Thankfully, I had a good support system in place. My mom, a nurse, and my dad, who worked as an EMS/Firefighter, helped me start my journey, as did my older sister. I learned as much as I could, as quickly as I could. I memorized the carb counting nutrition guide book my parents bought me, which made calculating my doses a lot easier.
Into my late teens, early twenties, my fear of hypoglycemia and the dangers of my sugar going too low caused me to keep my blood sugar higher than it should have been. I would consistently have readings above 600mg/dL, and my A1c was 12.4%, an average blood sugar of 360mg/dL. I got to the point where I gave up on trying to manage it. Diabetes had taken control of my life. I had let it.
I suppose I had been ashamed in a way of being a diabetic. Which, looking back now, I find ridiculous. Five years ago, a change took place. I was scrolling through Facebook when I came across a fellow T1D. This person was a friend of a recent acquaintance of mine. He replied on a post with a photo comment, in which I saw his insulin pen. That was the first time I really saw someone openly displaying their diabetes. I had felt like it was something I needed to hide away.
I liked the comment and replied to him. I had never really been around many other people with type 1 diabetes, not since I was first diagnosed and in a clinical setting. I was in my mid-twenties at the time and never realized how lonely I was. I still had the support of family and friends, but no one can truly understand this unless they are living it themselves. When I received a Facebook message from this diabetic, my life forever was changed.
I was invited to a couple of different Facebook groups, only for type 1 diabetics. They welcomed with open virtual arms. I found a family of people who struggled with and fought the same battles as I had. I learned more from these people than I ever thought possible. I learned about the Continuous Glucose Monitor, Dexcom, through this group. In fact, when I went to see my endocrinologist at the next office visit, I asked her about getting a Dexcom and she did not even know what it was! I was finding out things my doctor hadn’t even heard of.
After starting my CGM, my A1c started to improve drastically. In one year it lowered from 12.4% to 7.4%. I, as of last month, am now at a 5.7%. Having access to the diabetes online community (DOC) is without a doubt the best thing to have happened in my 17 years of being a diabetic.

Nate meets some of his online diabuddies in real life | Photo credit: Nate Allman

Since 2004, the tools available to assist in treating diabetes have advanced. I now have a connection to others just like me, all around the world, and can share my life with my DiaFamily, through Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. From receiving Christmas gifts and care packages to meeting up with these amazing people in the real world, I am forever grateful to have found my place in the DOC. It has given me the resources and strength to take control of my life. Diabetes is still hard, but it makes all the difference to have a group of people to share that burden with. The power of the Diabetic Online Community is truly awe-inspiring.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

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