When You're Diagnosed As A Young Adult: I Have So Many Better Things to Do!

Katelyn Warner, Ball State University '17

On March 25th, 2014, I called my mom and told her I was feeling a little funny. I didn’t have the flu or a cold, and I don’t have allergies. But I was drinking water like crazy, and going to the bathroom all the time. As a freshman in college, I was in an awkward stage where I couldn’t just call my parents and expect them to make it all better, but there were also practical issues like transportation, money, and insurance that I needed their help with. So after I explained how I was feeling, my mom told my dad what was going on. Since my dad has Type 1 Diabetes, the thought that I or one of my siblings could have it one day was always in the back of his mind. He remembered that my friend, Carter, also had diabetes, and he told me to ask him to check my blood sugar. I conceded, but was certain I didn’t have diabetes.

Later that night, Carter tested my blood sugar in our dorm, and sure enough, I was a whopping 497. I immediately knew that was too high, and that I had diabetes. Oddly enough, no one ever actually told me “You have diabetes.” Before I even stepped foot in a hospital or doctor’s office, I knew I did. When the number popped up on the screen, I immediately looked at Carter, and his eyes bugged out of his head. Then I called my dad as I was holding back tears, and he explained that I absolutely needed to go to the hospital. I appeared very calm and put together on the outside, as I explained to my roommate why I had my coat and purse on at 12am, but internally, I was completely a mess.

Because of my dad, I actually consider myself blessed to have had a decent understanding of diabetes before being diagnosed. I wasn’t afraid of needles or blood, so it wasn’t that part that I was scared of. All I could keep thinking was: “I don’t have time for this!” I had better things going on in my life than dealing with diabetes. And it certainly didn’t help that my parents, who ordinarily would have been about an hour and fifteen minutes away from Ball State, where I go to school, were on vacation about 13 hours away when this was happening. The rest of the night was, and really the last two and half years have been, quite the adventure! But feeling like I really had so many better things to do than deal with diabetes was incredibly true and frustrating. I have always been a high achiever and path-forger. In the fall of my freshman year, just a few months before I was diagnosed, I applied for a ten-week internship with a missionary organization in Costa Rica – but here’s the kicker, it was for the summer following my diagnosis.

As I was in my hospital bed, I was worried about my exams and club involvement and how I was going to manage diabetes with everything. But more than those things, I wanted to be able to go to Costa Rica. I knew God was calling me to be there, and I was determined to not let diabetes stop me. And with the help of all of my incredible family and friends, I did! They surrounded me with such great love, joy, encouragement, and support during my diagnoses and in the following months that I felt empowered and ready to conquer anything! I consider their support and love just as important to my overall health as the insulin I was giving myself.

When I consider what young adults really need in their diagnoses, there are many aspects of it that are so different from other age groups. We deal with the awkward position that I explained earlier – not being able to fully depend on your parents anymore, but still being on their health insurance and needing their help with medical expenses. Then you have the introduction and encounters with drugs, sex, and alcohol, not to mention fraternities, sororities, and hundreds of other student organizations on top of college classes that add immense busyness and stress to your schedule. But like anyone else who is diagnosed with diabetes, support and encouragement are absolutely vital to successful management. They have helped me manage my blood sugars and achieve so much more in my life than I thought I ever would at this age.

Diabetes is hard and frustrating and annoying in every way, and college – as fun and exciting and great as it is most of the time – is also an incredibly difficult stage of life. Put the two together, not to mention actually figuring out diabetes while in college, and you’ve got a pretty crazy recipe for a few years. But with the incredible support systems that I have, as well as the fantastic CDN organization, diabetes has turned out to be not so bad after all! Oh, and remember when I told my dad that I was sure I didn’t have diabetes? Well, I certainly do now, but diabetes doesn’t have me!


Editor's note: for more information about being diagnosed as a young adult, check out our new guide: "You've Got This: A Guide for Young Adults Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes", and the accompanying video series.