Juggling Act - High School, a Pandemic, & T1D

Contributor
Jack Beggans

Editor's note: we recently interviewed Jack, a 15 year old high school student living with T1D. He gave us his thoughts on how his life with T1D, and what he has been considering as he starts thinking about college.
 

Introduce yourself-tell us a bit about your story, when you were diagnosed, what you're involved in.
 
My name is Jack and I have had type 1 diabetes since I was 5 years old. I was diagnosed when I started kindergarten. It was strange transitioning into elementary school, but it was even harder to do this with diabetes. Fast forward, ten years later, I am now 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. I am managing my diabetes well. Some days, it's going really smoothly and I don’t need to worry about it all, other times it is at the forefront of my mind. I play lacrosse and basketball for my high school. I am very thankful for what my family and doctors have done to help me learn how to manage diabetes.

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"I am very thankful for what my family and doctors have done to help me learn how to manage diabetes."

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What is it like generally to have T1D in high school, especially during a pandemic with ever changing schedules? Could you describe some of the challenges you've faced and talk about what has worked to help overcome those challenges?

I would say the biggest change for me during the pandemic has been wearing a mask and not being able to eat sugar in class without worrying about taking my mask down. It feels much harder to eat in public with a mask on. In general, I am a very active person. When we needed to be in lockdown, I made sure that I stayed active outside, playing basketball and riding my bike.

At times, diabetes can be harder to control when I am with friends. The last thing I want to worry about is my blood sugar. When I’m playing pick-up basketball, I need to be mindful of what I am eating before and during to prevent lows or highs. It takes some planning that my friends don’t have to worry about. I’ve been dealing with this by checking my blood sugar before I start an activity and making sure I am in a good spot. I wear a CGM, which is really helpful and convenient for how active I am. My parents can also see my blood sugar, so they can keep an eye on my numbers as well. It’s a good back-up.

Playing competitive sports and managing T1D has been a challenge as well. I have handled my blood sugar during games like I do when I am playing casually with friends. However, I do make sure I am in a higher spot (180-200 range) before I start playing. Depending on my blood sugar number, I will have an uncovered snack that will boost my blood sugar or keep it steady.
 

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"At times, diabetes can be harder to control when I am with friends."

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Why is it so important to form those peer connections as it relates to diabetes, especially before you even start to transition towards independence?

My family has been my biggest supporter in staying healthy. I think one of the most important things you can do is to look for help from your family and friends when you need it. Early on, my friends were not really a big part of my diabetes management because I usually handled it myself or with my parents help. However, my friends were aware to get an adult if anything happened or understood if I needed some candy while we were playing. 

Now, as I become more independent in high school, my friends play an important roll in supporting me and my diabetes management. They all know how to use my glucagon. They watched a video easily explaining how to use it just in case. They understand if I need to sit for a time while we are biking or playing basketball while I wait for my blood sugar to come up.

For example, one time on the basketball court I wasn’t playing like myself so my friend brought me my phone to check my number and gave me sugar. My friends support me emotionally when I am frustrated and just done with diabetes, as well. It is important to inform your friends so they can help you or even just so they can understand what you are doing. As I get older and more independent, I will rely more on myself and my peers to help me stay healthy.

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"My friends play an important roll in supporting me and my diabetes management."

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What advice would you have for newly diagnosed young adults as they navigate diabetes and high school?

My advice is to not let diabetes define you. Don't let it affect your social life. That said, you do need to be mindful and always try to prevent yourself from going low or high. If you stay on top of your blood sugar, you can prevent being sidelined from school or sports. When you are low you should always just stop and take something to help yourself get up so you can go back to what your were doing. Some days your blood sugar is going to be feisty, and you just have to roll with it.

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Jack Beggans is a tenth grade student at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts. He plays basketball and lacrosse for his school. He lives with his mom, dad, brother and sister. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 5.