Sweet Life without Sugar – A First Grader’s Type 1 Diabetes Story
Over half a million people in Bulgaria are diagnosed with Diabetes, while another 150 000 live with the disease without knowing about it and without taking the necessary medication, data of the International Diabetes Federation shows. In other words, around 10 percent of the Bulgarian adult population is affected by the illness, which falls into two types: Type 1 diabetes (T1D), or juvenile diabetes, an autoimmune condition in which very little or no insulin is produced by the pancreas, and Type 2 diabetes (T2D), also known as adult-onset diabetes which affects the older population.
Many people, who are not closely acquainted with the specifics of the condition, often mistake juvenile diabetes with type 2 diabetes, while the two are very distinct and have only one similarity – that both of them are concerned with a person’s blood sugar levels.
How does life with T1D look like through the eyes of a seven-year-old? According to Dima Biserova, a first grader who has been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of five, diabetes is just a condition which cannot stop her from anything. Her story is a proof that diagnosis does not change lives – it rather changes a routine – because no condition can bring down those who are rising. Dayana Milieva spoke to Dima about her perspective on the disease and all its significant aspects.
It is a great pleasure for me to have this chance to interview you and learn about the influence of type 1 diabetes on one’s life. Tell us more about yourself – what are your hobbies, do you have a favorite subject at school?
My name is Dima Biserova, I’m 7 years old and I’m in first grade. I like drawing and my favorite subject is Sports, because I have some time to relax and socialize with my classmates during those classes.
So, you like sports? What is your favorite sport? Who is your favourite sportsman?
Yes, I like sports a lot and my favorite sport is football, which I practice at school. I am a huge fan of Dimitar Berbatov and he is my favorite footballer. When his book “My Way” was published, I attended the presentation of the autobiography and got a personalized autograph from him.
Would you say that your life changed after you were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?
No, I wouldn’t say so. I don’t feel as if any aspect of my life has changed after I was diagnosed.
What is the role of diabetes in your everyday routine? Does the diagnosis bother you?
No. I don’t know how to expand on this question, because I just perceive diabetes as a condition, which has to be regularly monitored and managed by my parents.
Are there any modern technological advancements that can be used to make monitoring your blood sugar levels easier and faster?
Yes. An example for that is the FreeStyle Libre – a glucose monitoring sensor, which is constantly attached to the back of my upper arm and with the help of a special device or a smartphone, my family can easily check and control my blood sugar levels without having to prick my fingers, which is pretty painful. Also, they check it every five minutes, so using a glucometer would be far less effective and more difficult.
Did you stop practicing any of your hobbies after you were diagnosed?
No, I still participate in as much physical activity as I want, it’s just that my mom should regulate the amount of insulin that she injects depending on whether I will be playing sports or not. For example, if I’m more active, she gives me some juice in order to raise my blood sugar and not experience hypoglycemia.
What is the role of your family and close relatives in the process of dealing with diabetes?
The role of my parents is enormous. My mom takes care of me throughout the day and at school, while my dad monitors the level of my blood sugar during the night. It is usually my mother who injects the insulin and she also plans all of my meals. Everything I eat should be carefully measured and should correspond to the amount of insulin that is injected in order for hyper- and hypoglycemia to be avoided.
Do you think that the diagnosis limits your opportunities and would impede your academic development in the future? How did your classmates react to your condition?
Diabetes will not stop me from exceeding academically and personally. My classmates had a normal reaction when I told them about the condition, but I think that they didn’t really understand it. Otherwise, I have read about many Bulgarian children with diabetes, who are bullied at school – their classmates mock them, throw their insulin pens and make them feel as if the diagnosis is something they should be ashamed of and I think that is completely wrong. I really hope that no one has to go through something like that.
How would you describe the condition of diabetes with one word and why did you choose this particular word?
Responsibility. Because a person should monitor it all of the time and take care of it in order to prevent any negative consequences.
What would be the final thought concerning the diagnosis that you would like to leave our readers with?
Diabеtes is going to affect me throughout my whole life and there are many limitations that come with it, but that doesn’t mean that I will let it navigate my future in any way.
I would like to tell the readers that it can be a sweet life, even without sugar.
What do we have to know about the difference between T1D and T2D?
|Type 1 Diabetes||Type 2 Diabetes|
|What is the condition?||The pancreas produces extremely limited or no amount of the hormone insulin.||The pancreas produces slightly less insulin than needed by the organism.|
|Symptoms||Increase in thirst and hunger, frequent urination, severe fatigue and lethargy, drastic weight loss, blurry vision and poor wound healing.||The symptoms are closely similar to the ones observed in T1D.|
|Cause||It is unknown, but scientists state that it is a combination of two factors - genetic and environmental.||It can be stimulated by abundant consumption of sugar, obesity and lack of physical activity.|
|Affected group||Young children||Individuals over the age of 45|
|Prevention||There is no way to prevent T1D.||T2D could be prevented by limiting a person’s sugar consumption and frequent physical activity.|
|Treatment||Insulin therapy, usually given by an insulin injection approximately 5 times a day.||Medication is used to control the condition and a diet is recommended.|
|Cure||No cure for T1D is available.||Medication|