A Journey Through Type 1 Diabetes: Nurse, Educator and Nutritionist

By May 6, 2019 2 Comments

I vividly remember a conversation with my sister in October 2010 about how much muscle mass I was losing. My typically athletic frame was bordering on frail. I was post-partum and nursing my first baby, so in all the unknown and newness of the season, I thought this was just part of the process. The day after Christmas, I was working a 12-hour shift in the NICU at Cook Children’s Hospital. This being my 3rdyear as an RN, I was used to the 12-hour grind. On a regular day, I would not have really had much time to think about my thirst or repeated need to use the restroom, but on this day I could not quench my thirst or take enough bathroom breaks. Upon my arrival home, I walked inside with blurry vision.

Something was not right.

Shortly thereafter, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on the day before my oldest daughter Emma turned seven months old. While I have been pretty open about my diagnosis, I feel led to share more about how God has used this disease to pave pathways in my life that otherwise might not have existed. Through His guiding hand, Type 1 essentially led me to become a nurse, a diabetic educator, and a nutritionist.

Hold up.

“Didn’t you just say you were diagnosed after you were a nurse for three years…?” A+ to you for paying attention, and yes you are correct. However, at age 13, I sat on the hospital bench as my six-year-old brother Reid was diagnosed with Type 1. I knew right then I wanted to be a nurse. I admired and respected the nurses and doctors working with Reid and my family immensely. I also remember wishing we had someone that was able to relate to us and help us in the day-to-day transitions with the disease, and this led me to become a diabetic educator.

My desire to educate was intensified with my own diagnosis when I was simply taught how to “manage my disease”. For those who may not know, Type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which your body attacks the insulin making white blood cells in your pancreas. Type 2 Diabetes can have a genetic link, but it is a disease more typically related to a lifestyle in which the pancreas is overworked due to a high carbohydrate diet. While I knew that my Type 1 would not go away, I wanted to be more proactive than just managing it. I wanted to optimize every aspect of my health and control what I could control. I wanted to know all there was to know about this autoimmune disease and how to fight it!

For me, being proactive with my diagnosis is a daily discipline, and it is where my passion for health and wellness takes root. While it’s trendy right now to count carbs ;), I count carbohydrates, pair macros, eat the right things, and exercise all to help with blood sugar management and stabilization. I practice what I preach to my clients because my life truly depends on it. Blood sugar stabilization is vital to my health as a Type 1, but it is also vital to yours! Much of what we teach to clients seeking nutritional guidance revolves around properly stabilizing blood sugar to ward off fatigue, stress, late afternoon binges and more.

Beyond making conscious efforts around how I fuel my body, Type 1 involves quite a bit of data assessment. I wake up each morning and immediately check my blood sugar. If I am wearing my Dexcom (the continuous glucose monitor that attaches to my arm), then it is what I am checking. Otherwise, I am pricking my finger to check my blood sugar. I then give myself my first shot of the day with long acting insulin, which helps with my blood sugar even if I do not eat. When I eat, I use short acting insulin before a meal. When it’s all said and done, I typically give myself 4-5 shots per day with meals and snacks.

While I’d love to keep this rosy, I could write line after line about the frustrations of this disease. One of the hardest things is that it is very unpredictable…being sick, stress, not getting enough sleep, and cortisol release before exercise are all fairly out of my control and can impact my blood sugar. Ordering the supplies needed to manage my diabetes daily is a frustrating waiting game making the DPS look fun. There are so many moving parts: the pharmacy or medical supply company is waiting to hear from doctor who’s waiting for insurance approval. Not to mention that the cost of supplies, even with insurance, is CRAZY!

Now let me be clear. I am not telling my story for pity. My Type 1 diagnosis was the beginning of a journey of heartache and disappointment, but it was also where God provided me with strength, courage, and comfort in a way I had never experienced. He gave and continues to give me the ability to see these life experiences not as the end of my story, but as a part of my story. This is a story He has and continues to use as an encouragement to others. Only through Him could I have an eternal perspective: This is not about me but about His glory, even through pain and sadness.

Tangible blessings God has provided through this journey far outweigh the frustrations. When I focus on these, I feel so encouraged. New technology has made the day-to-day management easier, and I feel confident it will only improve with time. When asked if there was something I wish I knew when I was first diagnosed that I know now, my answer would undoubtedly be WHO I know now not what I know. The community surrounding Type 1 fills my soul. I love getting to relate to others with the disease and help encourage and provide resources to them. Most specifically, I think about Lily here. Lily is a darling girl in my youngest daughter Madelyn’s class. Without fail, Lily runs up to me every time I see her and says “Mrs. Poorter, Mrs. Poorter!” and tells me something she is excited to share about her Type 1.

When I think about Lily and her age and her innocence, I cannot help but think about whether my girls will be diagnosed. When I think about this possibility, I am not afraid. I know if either of them do, we are surrounded by amazing people, I know how to manage and teach them to manage the disease, and that no matter what, God has a plan, He will be with us, and He will never leave us! For now, we do what is in our control to prevent or prolong the diagnosis and keep trusting in His perfect will to be done. All of this said, in reading this, I hope you have a little more color on what fuels my passion for wellness and nutrition and are encouraged to walk through whatever journey you are trekking.


  • Katherine says:

    Dabney, thank you for sharing this! I loved reading the details behind your diagnosis and the way your day-to-day life has been impacted. It’s inspiring to see how you are taking your challenges and using them to benefit a community of people who need you. So proud of you!

  • Great post! Thank you for the insightful article. I would like to include a little bit more information that long-term hyperglycemia during diabetes causes chronic damage and dysfunction of various tissues, especially the eyes, kidneys, heart, blood vessels, and nerves.

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