Imagine Spotlights: Community Manager Tiana Cooks Talks T1D + Pageantry

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

By Beyond Type 1

Imagine Spotlights is a weekly video series produced as part of ADA’s virtual Imagine Camps for kids and teens. Hosted by Rob Howe, this series features conversations with inspirational individuals affected by diabetes and offers a fun learning experience for campers and their families. Watch the first interview with Tiana Cooks below!



*Partial transcript of the conversation below, edited for content + clarity.

You were a senior in high school when you were diagnosed – did you have the typical symptoms?

That’s a great question, and I always think back to that time since I remember it so clearly, and I think it was at least a month before I started feeling a little sick. I don’t know if any of you have bathroom passes, but at my school, they gave us this sheet. And on this sheet, we had about 15 passes to use the entire school year. And if we didn’t use our passes, we received extra lunchtime. I had saved all of my bathroom passes. I had all 15 passes left. And then I remember in one week, I went through the entire sheet of bathroom passes and I was so mad at myself. I remember telling my teacher, “I have to go to the bathroom,” but I was all out of my bathroom passes. So my teacher said, “Tiana, are you okay?” And I said, “That’s a great question.”

I wasn’t feeling great. I was obviously using the restroom a lot. I was very thirsty. I was losing a lot of weight. And then I went to my track coach and said, “Coach, I’ve lost 10 pounds in the first two weeks of the season, what is going on?” And he said, “Well, you probably just lost it because you’ve been running so much.” And then I remember this is when it really hit me. I thought, why is my vision blurry? I remember waking up one morning and I couldn’t see. And so I pulled out my phone and I typed in my symptoms. The first thing that popped up was type 1 diabetes, and I thought, this is it.

Do you ever try to strike up conversations with others you see wearing a pump or continuous glucose monitor (CGM)?

If I see someone else with diabetes, we’re automatically friends. There was one time I was waiting in this line to order food for 15 minutes, and all of a sudden I saw someone with a Dexcom on and I thought, Am I going to stay in line? Am I going to go talk to them? And I chose to go talk to them. I went over and introduced myself to them because I just feel like it’s so rare. They call it seeing a diabetic in the wild. And it’s so rare to see someone that has their equipment on as well.

Can you speak to stigma and stereotypes in the pageant world? How do you battle people’s assumptions about living with diabetes?

People do often stigmatize people with diabetes. They think that just because we’ve got diabetes, we can’t eat certain things or we can’t participate in certain events and that is totally not true. It is present in pageantry as well, people don’t think that we can do pageants because we have diabetes. People don’t think that we can participate in different athletic events because of diabetes. And I think one thing that I’ve learned after participating in various events, whether that be track or softball or basketball or pageantry, there’s always going to be people that have their own opinions. And sometimes those opinions will not be positive, and that’s okay because we just have to educate others about diabetes.

Before I started competing in pageantry, I also had stigmas about people who competed in pageants. Before I had diabetes, I didn’t know what it was. And so until we continue to educate ourselves and others, it will be hard to be fully aware of what people go through. So the more we advocate and the more we continue to tell people and educate them about diabetes, I think the more that stigma is going to go away. I just want to say this, even if people at school say mean things about you because you have diabetes, you just have to know that you’re special and that you have to have that confidence. You have to be confident regardless of what people are saying about you because you know that you’re enough and regardless of what anybody says, you’re capable of doing anything in this life just as good or even better than anybody else.

What advice do you have for people who want to get involved and give back to others living with diabetes?

I would say, if you want to get involved, do what makes sense for you. Just because Tiana is very vocal about her diabetes and just because Tiana loves to talk to other people about it doesn’t mean that you have to. If getting involved for you just means telling people that you meet the warning signs of diabetes, then do that. It might look like being vocal in your community and not online. There’s this huge misconception that in order to be making an impact, you have to be posting or talking about it, and that’s totally false. You can make an impact in your own way. Maybe you write cards to people at your local hospital. That’s how I started, I volunteered at my local hospital.

There are also support groups going on in the community. And we have an online community, our Beyond Type 1 app, and that community is just a great way to meet other people with type 1. There are just so many ways to get involved and it doesn’t look like competing in a beauty pageant all the time. It doesn’t. Or it doesn’t look like having a platform online. I actually helped set up support groups in my community, and those were super fun. Sometimes there would be five people, and other times there would be 50 people at the support groups. It’s just cool to build that community and that support network.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Unusual Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms Not to Ignore

Approximately 463 million people globally are living with type 2 diabetes and by 2045, this is supposed to rise to 700 million. Type 2 diabetes is largely caused by insulin resistance (IR) while the cause of IR can range from any number of genetic deficiencies to environmental causes. It’s important to look at both of these factors when considering a type 2 diagnosis.

Symptoms may be similar to those of type 1 diabetes but are often less pronounced since the condition progresses gradually over time. A startling statistic is that 1 out of 2 people will be misdiagnosed, leaving them susceptible to years of elevated blood sugars and the risk of complications that come along with the disease before being properly diagnosed and treated.

It is more important than ever to know the signs of type 2 diabetes so that a person can properly educate themselves in order to make better choices to improve their blood sugars and overall health. Routine blood tests at your yearly physical should help determine if you are experiencing issues that need medical attention.

Many of us are aware of the common symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes. But since it may take years before a correct diagnosis, many say they were unable to detect the slow changes to their health. It is important to pay attention to these signs especially if you are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

Common Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

Some common symptoms to look out for are:

  • Increased thirst and frequent urination. As sugar build-ups up in your blood, it forces your body to try to flush it out through increased urination.
  • Increased hunger. Because your body is not absorbing sugar properly, it thinks it needs more creating you to become hungrier than normal.
  • Weight loss. As your body can’t utilize sugar, it turns to muscle and fat for fuel, which can result in significant weight loss.
  • Fatigue. Your body loses access to sugar which has been your main source of energy, therefore, leaving you feeling exhausted.
  • Blurred vision. High blood sugars can cause swelling of your lens and damage blood vessels which can create vision issues.
  • Slow to heal sores. High blood sugar can make your immune system not function as well as normally, causes wounds to heal more slowly.
blurred vision diabetes sign

Blurred vision is a classic symptom of type 2 diabetes. Photo credit: Adobe Stock

Unusual Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes

While many will have classic symptoms leading up to a type 2 diagnosis, some people have rare and unusual symptoms that occur. Here are some of the less common symptoms to look out for, as being vigilant can help add years to your life.

  • Dark patches of skin. This condition is known as acanthosis nigricans (AN) and seems to occur mostly around the neck area or other areas where there are creases of skin such as the armpit or groin area. It is more common for people with darker skin and is a result of skin cells reproducing too quickly because of the excess of insulin in the blood.
  • Yeast infections and jock itch. High levels of sugar in your blood can cause an overgrowth of yeast in the genital area, resulting in a fungal infection. Other fungal infections such as bladder infections and skin infections can also be indicators of diabetes.
  • Itchy, bumpy, discolored skin. Eruptive xanthomatosis is a condition that can occur in people with poorly-managed blood sugars who have very high triglycerides and high cholesterol. It creates itchy, yellowish-colored bumps on the backs of the appendages and buttocks when blood sugars are elevated for a long period of time.
  • Sexual dysfunction. This is seen mostly among men with type 2 diabetes who frequently have high blood sugars. Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to nerve and blood vessel damage making it harder to achieve an erection. Women can also experience sexual issues related to high blood sugars, including arousal problems and less lubrication.
  • Lightheadedness. We often assume that when we feel this way it must be because we are hungry or fatigued but this can also be a result of diabetes. Dizziness will often be a sign of low blood sugar, but long bouts of high blood sugar will lead to dehydration, affecting sodium and electrolyte levels, resulting in cognitive changes.
  • Lack of sleep. There are quite a  few reasons a looming type 2 diagnosis could cause you issues when it comes to getting sleep. If you have undetected high blood sugars, you are likely to get up a few times to urinate disrupting your rest. Additionally, being obese isn’t only a risk factor for diabetes, it increases your risk of sleep apnea as well. If you notice your sleep patterns are changing, it is important to talk to your doctor.

It isn’t always easy or possible to be attuned to all the changes in your health but being aware of the symptoms, both common and uncommon, can help you to detect any issues if they arise. The good news is that once a proper diagnosis is given, you can take control of your health and normalize your blood sugars which will make many of these symptoms disappear. Acting fast is key to ensuring no long term complications.

If you were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, what symptoms did you have? And if you haven’t been diagnosed, but have reason to think you may, what symptoms are you experiencing? Share and comment below!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Diabetes Cheatsheet for Family and Friends

This content originally appeared on Blood Sugar Trampoline. Republished with permission. Do you struggle to explain your type 1 diabetes to your friends and family? Or maybe you are just tired of explaining it again and again, and again? Here is a quick rundown of some of the basics that you can share with your […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

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