How Diabetes Made Me

By: Taylor Ryerse

11 Votes

How Diabetes Made Me - Taylor Ryerse

Western Piedmont Community College

Taylor Ryerse

My name is Taylor Ryerse. I attend Western Piedmont Community College, and my short-term goal is to achieve an associate’s degree in recreational therapy. I have had to overcome some challenges in my life to get to where I am now. Most of those challenges were brought to me because of Type 1 Diabetes.

I was diagnosed with Type 1 when I was only 10 months old. As I’ve been told, I started crying a lot and that was unusual for me. My Mother took me to the family doctor, who told her that I just had an ear ache. He sent me home with some medication to treat that, but my Mom insisted that there was something else wrong with me. She ended up taking me to three different doctors in less than 24 hours before I was finally diagnosed with the disease.

Growing up with it I felt no different than any other kid—mostly because Mom and Dad took care of everything. I felt the highs and the lows, but I didn’t really understand what was happening inside of my body and I definitely wasn’t always capable of handling it on my own. I started struggling more with it when I turned 16, because I got my license and my first job. Getting a job was not easy because no one wanted to hire a diabetic. Potential employers didn’t want to deal with a kid who was untrained and a potential risk, so no one wanted to hire me. I got a job working at a local pharmacy as a cashier because the manager was a family friend. He was always very good with the diabetes, so I never really took it into consideration in a workplace until later. Driving with diabetes was a little more difficult, because I learned very quickly that I shouldn’t be driving unless I was in a certain range. If my sugar was above 180 or below 80, there was no way I would be able to safely operate a vehicle. My reaction time is slow and I put myself and everyone around me in danger. When I was 16, it wasn’t that big of a deal because my Mom just took me to work when I needed her to.

When I changed jobs when I was 18, life became more difficult. At this point I was already attending college at Western Piedmont and most of the time I was capable of driving myself to and from anywhere I needed to go. I had learned how to maintain good blood sugars without so much help from my parents. However, it is normal for an 18 year old to seek complete independence from parents, and I did that, especially with diabetes. I started doing it completely on my own, except for occasionally changing my pump site when I couldn’t reach the spot. This became overwhelming. I quickly realized how much work it was, and I didn’t do a very good job at it. I went through a stage of denial, and I felt like a newly diagnosed diabetic. My blood sugars spiraled out of control, making every aspect of life very difficult. I couldn’t drive to work or to school, because I could never be sure that my sugar would be in range by the time I needed to go home. I dropped so quickly at work nearly every day that I could have died from the lows. My sugar went high when I would get frustrated in class because I didn’t understand the material, which only made things worse. It was a complete mess.

I ended up leaving my second job for various reasons and focusing on diabetes. I was able to get it back under control after several months of trying. I am doing better in school, and my GPA is now back to a 3.8. I can usually drive to and from work and school now, which is a major blessing. I know how to manage my disease, although some days it proves to still be very unmanageable.

After the long battle with the disease and learning how to fight it on my own, I am now going to school full-time and working as often as my employer will allow. My coworkers all understand the disease enough to give me a break when I need it and they don’t get mad at me for the inconvenience. My teachers are all very understanding as well. I was allowed to give speeches last November in several of my classes to inform my teachers and classmates about the disease. That helped my teachers understand why sometimes I function better than others and it helped my classmates understand why sometimes I act a little different. It was an eye opening experience for everyone, including myself. I didn’t know how much raising awareness could benefit me as well as them.

Fighting diabetes inspired my decision to go into recreational therapy. I have done a lot of research on diabetic alert dogs and the therapy they provide to their handlers. My long-term goal is to be able to train therapy dogs of all kinds, but especially for diabetic children and young adults. I made this decision after I was forced to learn how to deal with my diabetes on my own. The reality of my disease and its consequences often made me feel very alone, but I was able to train my dog to sense when my sugar was fluctuating. Unfortunately, she died before I could train her completely. The experience of having her with me made me feel not alone, and that was very important for my development in fighting my disease.

I am looking forward to a new year with new opportunities to raise awareness and new adventures, no matter what battles they have in store for me. I believe that I am strong enough to fight my diabetes without letting it dictate my life. I also believe that I grow stronger with everything it throws at me. I’m capable of fighting it, so I will do just that.