Speaking About T1D at a Symposium

Tyler Hill, University of Delaware '19

My name is Tyler Hill and I am a sophomore at the University of Delaware studying Computer Science. I have been active with our College Diabetes Network (CDN) Chapter on campus since the start of my freshmen year and a few months ago, I was elected president. My connection with (type 1 diabetes) T1D is something that only continues to grow. This disease has become such a huge part of my life, and I take any opportunity that I am given to speak out on it, educate the public, or spread awareness.

When I was asked to speak at an annual Healthcare Symposium here at UD to share my T1D diagnosis story and the challenges I face as a college student with T1D, I simply couldn’t wait to get up on that stage. This allowed my leadership skills to truly shine.

This year’s Healthcare Symposium topic was an “Update on Diabetes: Part II”. Allan Carlsen, a professor and the director of healthcare theatre here at Delaware, was in need of a guest speaker who could relate to diabetes. I was asked to make an appearance and I couldn’t be more thrilled I spoke on how I found out I had T1D, what it was like, and how life as a college student with T1D has been difficult. My story went like this:

 

Exactly at this moment, two years ago, I was your typical high school student. I was cramming for AP exams, preparing for prom, and getting ready for graduation, and of course senior week. They say it is one of the best times of your life, right? Well, I was doing practically everything I could to make this milestone as memorable as possible. However, while enjoying my last few days as a senior, I noticed that I wasn’t myself. I was extremely ill and very sick. I was irritable, constantly thirsty, tired day in and day out, and the most significant symptom of them all, I lost a total of 35 pounds over a six-week period. A trip to ER uncovered why I was feeling the way I did. A blood sugar of over 400 mg/dL revealed that I had T1D. My new life with diabetes has been both challenging and life-changing.

The timing of this diagnosis was everything. It was two days after my last day of high school and three months before the start of my freshman year of college. How am I supposed to learn how to manage a life-long disease and then start college right after? It was very difficult and time-consuming, but I have managed to whip myself into shape and grasp the concept of managing T1D 24/7. This discussion leads me into some of the challenges I have been facing as a college student:

 

Diabetes Becomes Obsessive and Takes Over your Life –

From the time I wake up to the time I shut my eyes for the night, type one is always on my mind. Anything and everything I do affects my blood sugar. The medical world is flooded with amazing equipment that helps better manage diseases such as diabetes. I am blessed to have two of these devices: my Tandem G4 Insulin Pump and Dexcom continuous glucose monitor. While of course, they aid me immensely in keeping my blood sugars in line. They are a constant reminder that I am T1D since they are always attached to my body. I find myself staring at the Dexcom screen on my Apple Watch to keep tabs on my trending blood sugar just as I do with adjusting my insulin pump to keep my sugars in range. Quite honestly, you can never catch a break.

I am Sometimes Jealous of Those who are not Suffering from Type One-

Although my insulin pump and Dexcom ease the pain of managing diabetes, occasionally I will get fed up with using them. I think to myself what it must be like living life without the worries of blood sugars, finger pricks, and insulin. If I think about it long enough, sometimes it saddens and upsets me knowing that I used to have a life where none of this medical talk was in the picture.

Finding the Right Social Group can be Difficult-

As I mentioned earlier, I was diagnosed with type one just a few months before the start of my freshmen year of college. While most incoming students are worried about fitting in and trying to be the cool kids on campus, I was more concerned about finding people like me, people who understand the ins and outs of living with a non-stop disease. This is where I found CDN. The best part about being a member in this club is I always have a group of friends and support system to fall back on when diabetes just isn’t going my way. I have learned that there are people just like me, trying to get their way through college while tackling a life-long medical condition.

 

To sum it all up, I was truly honored to be a guest speaker at this symposium. Opportunities like these not only allow me to further educate the public on an invisible disease like diabetes, but also to get the word out about CDN. My true colors as the president were able to shine and I would do it all again in a heartbeat if the time comes.

Word of advice for all you type ones out there, never be ashamed or embarrassed about something completely out of your control. Embrace the challenges, make the best of the situation, and walk away an even stronger person than you were. You are capable of so much and never let anyone tell you differently. Diabetes is just a speed bump on the road to many great successes. 

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