Gaining Independence through Education and Advocacy

Student Blog

Gaining Independence through Education and Advocacy

One of the best lessons I’ve learned is this: doctors don’t know everything. They make mistakes. They miss certain signs and symptoms. An example of this is the number of misdiagnoses in the diabetes world. But as diabetics, particularly Type 1s, most of us were diagnosed at a young age, and were told to listen intently to every word our doctors said. We are taught from diagnosis to follow our doctors’ directions perfectly. But as every diabetic comes to know, over time, that becomes impossible. There comes a point when you have to learn how to be independent in managing your health.

Educating yourself about diabetes, and about your body’s needs, is essential to being healthy and is the most powerful way to be your own advocate. I remember the first time I left my endocrinologist’s office with more questions than answers. My doctor had been in a rush that day, and so the questions I’d asked her were met with very vague answers. I left the office thinking, “Okay, so where is the next best place for me to find this information?” I turned to my grandmother, who was once a nurse, credible online forums and blogs (like DiabetesSisters), and my peers.

The best thing any diabetic can do is to act like a sponge, soaking up any information they can get from any source, and then process that information by experimenting. Try new things (within reason) and then take note of what happens to your blood sugar. It was a complete revelation for me when I discovered that I didn’t need my doctor looking over my shoulder for me to change my basal. If I felt it would help my blood sugars, I did it. Education, and learning about what works for us as individuals, can make us more independent.

Education and advocacy are two things that are going to push us closer to a cure, or at least closer to having the tools that make life a little easier. The unfortunate truth is that type 1 diabetes isn’t the thing on the top of legislators’ and researchers’ minds, so we have to be the loud ones, screaming for ourselves and advocating for what we need. We also have to be the ones taking our health care into our own hands on the days we don’t see our endocrinologists.