Someone said to me, “I don’t know how you do it.” I replied, “I wasn’t given a choice.”
My diabetes journey began on our honeymoon in Thailand at the end of 2018. We travelled for 3.5 weeks with the aim of enjoying delicious food and fresh juices, learning about the culture, and experiencing nature through hiking and sports. It was a fabulous trip with many great memories but also a trip in which the souvenir was Diabetes Mellitus Type 1.
Near the end of the holiday, we did a major hike along the Tab Kak Hang Nak Nature Trail. I carried a big backpack with drinks, some snacks and the camera, which was not particularly heavy, but on this day was especially exhausting for me. I do a lot of sport, am very fit, and a vegetarian, so I was very surprised that my strength was disproportionately lacking compared to my wife the longer we were on the trail. Tiredness, listlessness, with a very strong thirst – I thought this was due to the climate and the rucksack. The view was worth the hike and we took time to take beautiful souvenir photos. After we had descended, we treated ourselves to a delicious mango juice and an ice cream. If I had known at that time that my pancreas no longer had the ability to produce insulin, I would have approached the day quite differently beforehand.
On the days that followed, I had an unquenchable thirst and since I did not want to drink any more water, I drank a lot of lemonade. Even after drinking 3-4 litres at a time, I still had a strong feeling of thirst. It seemed strange, but again I blamed it on the climate. When I had calf cramps at night and my wife Julia googled these symptoms, she told me that it could be diabetes type 1. However, since I had never really been ill, had no family history of type 1 diabetes, and I felt otherwise fine, I just smiled at the “diagnosis.” Nevertheless, we agreed that if the symptoms persisted, I would have myself examined immediately in Germany. We landed in Germany on Friday morning and the symptoms remained. In the evening, I drank 5 litres of water with grape juice and felt very tired.
On Saturday, we decided to go straight to the hospital. This was the beginning of the journey into a new life. They measured my blood sugar and wished me a quick recovery. I spent some more time in the emergency room – blood sugar value was 385 mg/dL. At the time, this was a number that I could not classify as normal, too high, or too low. However, that changed quite quickly. Through training and reading articles and books, I was able to better understand and comprehend the topic of type 1 diabetes relatively quickly, even though the diagnosis was very unexpected at first and hit me hard.
Now as I look back over the last two years, I can definitely say that my life has changed because of the disease. In addition to the constant blood glucose checks, the injection of insulin, and the restrictions associated with the disease, I have become more sensitive to my body. I pay more attention to myself and my needs, do more sports, and eat much healthier. I still eat what I want, when I want, and have gotten used to the insulin release and the different glycemic properties of foods.
Diabetes is a full-time job. It’s exhausting. Sometimes it sucks, is annoying, and incomprehensible. BUT for me it is not a limitation in my life. I do sports as I like (of course with BG controls) and I eat what I like- even several portions or sweets or something unhealthy (of course with BG controls). I go on holiday (of course with different preparations), and I go to parties (of course with BG controls).Overall, I have fun and live my life.
I don’t live for diabetes, but with diabetes and believe that my diabetes has to live with me. We are not given a choice. It can be very painful to know that you will be dependent on insulin/medicine and technical support for your whole life. There are days when you don’t feel like measuring, checking, injecting, and watching anymore but it pays to be disciplined! With the necessary discipline and knowledge, as well as trust in my own body, I can live wonderfully with diabetes. I will continue to see the disease as an opportunity to deal with my life in a healthier, more thoughtful, more sporty, and more conscientious way.
-Paul Johann, 28, Type 1 Diabetic since 01/2019.
Paul Johann. Living with Type 1 Diabetes for over two years. Instagram @damnbetes_t1.