Happy Diaversary! Surviving the First Year with Type 1 Diabetes

Betsy Boehm Bland
7 min readJan 4, 2019
Whimsy Foods unicorn cake (https://www.facebook.com/whimsyfoods/)

There is a tradition in the Type 1 Diabetes community to celebrate each year on the day of diagnosis. My 6-year-old daughter’s first “Diaversary” just came and went. Last December, we found out our five-year-old daughter’s increased thirst and hunger wasn’t from a growth spurt. Her body’s immune system had started attacking her pancreas, the gland responsible for regulating blood sugar by producing insulin and glucagon. She had developed Type 1 Diabetes (T1D).

What a difference one year makes. And no, the sugar didn’t cause her diabetes. And yes, she can eat it. Just requires a uuuuge shot.

Reflecting back, it’s simultaneously hard to believe it’s already been a year and only been a year. We’ve dealt with the complex emotions that accompany a life-long battle to keep a child alive. We’ve navigated the steep learning curve of Type 1 Diabetes care filled with blood checks, shots, idiosyncratic medical terminology, archaic tools, and a whole lotta math. T1Ds and their caretakers learn to speak, think, and act as if they went to medical school just to stay alive.

Here’s an honest look at our experience through the first year after diagnosis — what we’ve had to learn, how it felt, and what has made it slightly easier for us along the way. I hope it helps other parents navigating these waters. Hopefully, it also sheds some light on the true experience for those only vaguely familiar with Type 1 Diabetes.

The Basics

Learning to care for a T1D felt a lot like bringing home a first baby, down to a whirlwind hospital stay and feeling like an incompetent idiot. We had to pick up the basics of care between short stints of sleep and huge waves of emotion before being sent home to do it alone. In less than 24 hours, we were taught the mechanics to:

  • Determine blood sugar levels throughout the day by poking a finger and getting the blood on a little test strip. We even set alarms to wake up one to two times a night to check blood levels in case she was going dangerously low.
We went through a LOT of these strips in the beginning.
  • Count exactly how many…

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Betsy Boehm Bland

Product Experience Team Lead and Designer | Mission Driven, User-Focused