Ages and Stages of Diabetes

June 21, 2023 | By Renza Scibilia

There’s a saying in the diabetes community: Your Diabetes May Vary, or #YDMV. It conveys that there is no one size fits all when it comes to diabetes – everyone’s experiences are different, and assumptions should never be made about a status quo of any aspect of diabetes.

For DOC history buffs, YDMV is the name of a diabetes blog written by one of our community’s OGs, Bennet Dunlap, and the hashtag has made its way into our vernacular, frequently seen in social media posts.

But here’s something else – not only do the experiences of people with diabetes vary from each other, our own individual diabetes experiences vary over time. My own diabetes varies constantly, never more so than at those life transitions that have the ability to turn my life on its head as I scramble to understand just what I need to do in this new season of diabetes.

I love the idea of breaking down those stages and recognising there will be particular challenges – and successes! – at different stages of our own diabetes timelines. I was diagnosed at the age of 24 years, meaning that a whole lot of things happened before I needed to consider diabetes. But there certainly were – and continue to be – periods where diabetes has added a degree of difficulty that is specific to that moment in time.

When I think back over the last twenty-five years of my diabetes life, there have been some really significant transitions and diabetes has thrown spanners – massive, scary, heavy spanners – into the mix. Perhaps the first for me was when it was time to start planning a family. There was a lot I needed to consider at that point – from finding a new healthcare team who could help navigate these unchartered (for me) waters, to re-learning a lot of what I had been taught only a few years earlier at diagnosis. Fertility issues also impacted hugely, and that stage had an added bonus of significant mental health challenges. Pregnancy – a successful pregnancy that I held on to – was 37 weeks of rollercoaster glucose levels, rollercoaster emotions and a rollercoaster of a calendar with more healthcare professionals visits that I care to remember. If there was a frequent flyer program for clinic appointments, I would have earned triple diamond status! And of course, being a new parent was, perhaps, the stage that brought with it some of the biggest challenges, but by far, the most exquisite successes too.

Today, with thoughts of a ‘big birthday’ on this year’s horizon, there’s a new stage. Perimenopause and menopause after that. Just as with all those other stages, I’m armed with one of the most valuable tools to steer my way through – others with diabetes who have either walked this path a little ahead of me or walking blindly through it with me today. I think, perhaps, one of the things I’ve learnt over my diabetes years is that finding people who understand whatever stage I am at, and connecting with them, is as important (if not more important) than anything else. I don’t know how I could have survived those early weeks with a brand-new tiny baby without the diabetes mums’ group I formed. They were the women who nodded sympathetically, knowingly and without judgement when I mentioned feeding my beautiful baby on a pillow on the floor so that if I passed out from a low, she wouldn’t have too far to roll. (Other new mothers (without diabetes) looked at me in horror when I shared that bit of parenting advice.)

In coming weeks on the Ascensia blog, we’re going to hear from different diabetes advocates as they share stories of their different diabetes ages and stages, explaining just how diabetes impacted on that time in their life. I’m looking forward to reading their experiences and learning how they worked their way through different life stages. And even more so, I’m looking forward to broader community discussions about this, as we seek to understand just how impactful these stages are, and how we can work more closely as a community to support each other through those moments.

Renza Scibilia is from Melbourne, Australia and authors the blog Diabetogenic about real life with type 1 diabetes. Renza has lived with type 1 since 1998 and for the last fourteen years has used an insulin pump. She works for Diabetes Australia and is a proud member of the Diabetes Online Community (DOC). She is a diabetes consumer representative and a vocal advocate for ensuring the voice of the ‘patient' is heard loud and clear.
The opinions presented in this blog post are those of the author and may not represent the opinions of Ascensia Diabetes Care. Ascensia have paid Renza an honorarium for her services as a contributor to this blog.