Diabetes, Me, & the College Game
September 27, 2016
My name is Madison J Teater. I am a third year student at California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM), and I am a T1D. I am a history major hoping to become an archivist one day. I’ve had T1D since I was 13 and am now “celebrating” my 7th year of T1D. And while having T1D kinda… sucks (for lack of a better term), it isn’t all bad all the time.
I found out about getting accommodations at school fairly quickly (which is probably the #1 piece of advice that I got from other DiaBuddies). At CSUSM, we have an awesome Students with Disabilities department and its super easy to register with them. All you have to do is fill out a form (quite similarly to the ones we had while I was in high school), get a doctor to verify it for you, and return it. So now I can take tests in a private room, and sometimes, I can even have more time to take a test. Registering for accommodations was also fantastic because I get priority registration, so I can fairly confidently plan the rest of time at CSUSM.
While registering with your health office or disabilities office is great, it seemed to be the only piece of advice that I received from my friends as I headed to college. The College Diabetes Network’s new Off to College Booklets didn’t exist when I was preparing for college. Here are a few more tips/fun facts that college-bound me would have liked to know:
1) Find another T1D. I found mine after we were already friends for at least 6 months. We were both so stealthy about hiding diabetes that we never knew about each other’s T1D until after we were good friends. I know during high school, many T1D kids try as hard as possible to stay in the diabetes closet. Many college students do too. But when I had started school, it was kind of daunting not knowing anyone with the same struggle as me. Just knowing this friend had diabetes made me feel a little more secure. Like if I had an emergency, I wouldn’t be S.O.L. because she knew how to handle it. It was also great to know her because I could text her with my diabetes specific problems. Since we were friends, we were able to talk about things like the diabetic lady’s extra necessity for lube. Which brings me to my next point:
2) Find some good lube, my friends. Knowing me and how I don’t take care of my blood sugars as much as I should, it means I need lube more often than I don’t. It was kind of embarrassing at first, and I didn’t even know that dryness was a symptom of high blood sugar until I was in my second year of college. I really wish I had known that.
3) Heating pads are good alternatives for PMS cramps. Less cramps, means less cranky (at least it does for me), so I’m better able to finish my homework.
4) It’s okay to tell people that you have T1D. It’s actually a unique icebreaker sometimes. I’ve met a fair amount of T1Ds just because I had checked my blood sugar or bolused in class. You may not want to scout solely for T1Ds when searching for friends, but when you’re in a class on the first day of school with no one you know in your class, it’s good to have a buddy (related to T1D or not!). Just in case you forget to write an assignment down (not that you ever would). Having just one person you know on campus really makes going to campus less terrible at 8am (how did I ever get to school by 7:30am my whole life!?)
5) Take a card from a friend’s deck and see where you can store insulin on campus or in someone’s dorm (if you’re commuting) so if your pump dies or someone takes your extra diabetes supplies from your car, you’re not up a river without a paddle. There are a ton of places in our student union that have fridges that are open to students. Find where your school has open fridges for students and ask if you can store some medication there. The disabilities office is also a good place to store your supplies.
6) I highly recommend wearing a CGM as much as you can. You end up doing yourself a favor by not having to test so much because you know what’s going on all the time. It’s also a good reminder to bolus.
7) Bring snacks or have cash for low treatments. My school is on the side of a hill and has a rather appropriate nickname: “Cal State Stair Master.” This means that I get random lows sometimes when I go from the bottom of campus to where the history department is stationed on the top of campus. Snacks are your friend!
Even if its not perfect all of the time, you can totally maintain T1D and be a full time working student. Getting in the swing of college and diabetes, and regularly checking your blood sugar (if you’re out of the habit), IS possible. It won’t last forever. Try not to be hard on yourself, it can discourage you from doing better in the future. College is awesome, and diabetes really doesn’t have to inhibit you - you can do it!
The College Diabetes Network (CDN) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide innovative peer-based programs which connect and empower students and young professionals to thrive with diabetes. To connect with other young adults, find out more, or sign-up for more information, click here. CDN recently released audience-specific Off to College Booklets for parents and students! You can request booklets here.