While navigating college, Greek life, and diabetes, it can feel as if you’re speaking a different language. Fear not! In no time, you will be an expert "translator"! For the past 12 years, I have had type 1 diabetes. Once I went to college, I was finally at a cornerstone in my life where I would truly be responsible for my own decisions as an adult. It was my time to choose my major, social life and most importantly how I would handle my diabetes. At first, it would be easy to think that all three may be difficult to do in college. However, after time, patience, and support, it finally came together. With God, family, friends, and community, I was able to make my college experience the best it could be. Within these systems, I found my place within the ‘finest’ sisterhood of all time! I am currently a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. We are a part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), aka the Divine Nine. I am apart of the Pi Nu Chapter at the University of North Carolina Wilmington where I serve as president. It is because of my experience that I recommend any diabetic student take part in Greek life if they feel that it is for them. Coming to college, people do not always expect diabetic students to partake in social activities like Greek life because of the commitment. This is the time to show up. No, it won’t be a walk in the park. At times you may feel as if you’re learning a new language. At times you will be! From the Greek alphabet to A1Cs and basal rates, “there lies a path beyond the burning sands”…
Here are my tips for doing Greek life and T1D right:
1. Stick N’ Step
Stepping is a historically black tradition characterized by synchronized hand foot movements, along with singing, dancing, chanting, and acting. This is a significant part of black Greek life. While this is a fun and engaging activity, it is very important for diabetic students to test their blood sugars and treat accordingly before engaging. Personally, when I step I use temp basal patterns on my insulin pump preferably 30 min before I perform.
2. Don't Conceal - Feel
We’ve all had those times where our sensors, sites or pumps make us stand out like sore thumbs. Pro tip: Decorate your sensors/sites with adhesives that represent your org. For example, my sorority’s colors are royal blue and white. Therefore, I wear a blue adhesive for my Freestyle Libre. Not only does this draw attention away from the random sensor on your arm, but it also poses as a conversation starter. So, yes, this is a sensor and I am a type 1 diabetic but as you can see from my colors I am also a member of Zeta Phi Beta.
3. Show and Tell
Well, since we’re in college, we don’t need a big platform, a pet hamster and our first-grade teacher to help us show and tell. However, it is important that you tell your organization leaders about your condition before you start your process. This alleviates liability, shows responsibility and can potentially create a strong, confidential sisterly or brotherly bond. At a minimum, I would advise them that you have type 1 diabetes and the effects of highs, lows, and emergencies along with what your insulin pump or pen, glucometer and glucagon all look like. Also, if there are days you are not feeling tops, let them know ahead of time. If you begin to feel bad mid-time with your future sisters (or brothers), let them know ASAP. Remember, they are about to be your sisters. They have your best interests at heart.
4. "Cause we are sisters, we stick together"
Just like the Cheetah Girl’s song, sisters stick together. Be sure to find those one or two ride-or-die sisters who you do not mind opening up to about your diabetes. These are the sisters who will be able to alert the right avenues in an emergency and will know how to handle situations. Not only will they help you handle business, but they will also help serve as an ear for those long nights of hyperglycemic episodes.
5. Living Young and Wild and Free
Have fun! College comes and it goes faster than you imagine. Don’t let diabetes rule your life. The best remedy at this point (other than INSULIN) is to live and laugh. You never know what tomorrow brings and with many stories of college-aged T1Ds losing their battle, it is our time to WIN! Go to a party, go to a step show! Go anywhere that will enhance your college, Greek, and successful life with diabetes. This is the time to see that support is all around. In addition to your family, friends, and community, you now have new sisters and/or brothers to guide you. Along with your brothers and sisters, remember we are T1D strong!