Nia lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two children. Dedicated to her children full-time, Nia is a teacher, an advocate, and an example, especially when it comes to living with Type 1 diabetes. This is her story.
Can you tell us about your diagnosis?
I was diagnosed Type 1 when I was about 19 or 20 years old. I don’t know if it could’ve been caught earlier. I lived with my dad, and he was a single parent who didn’t have health very high on the priority list initially.
My diabetes was more of a quick onset. I graduated from college and was very sick my senior year and chalked it up to it just being my senior year. I was very thirsty, couldn’t quench my thirst, was always going to the bathroom, and lost a lot of weight quickly.
Then my dad started getting more proactive about his health and he wanted us to do it together. He told me that he wanted me to get a thorough checkup.
I think a part of me was shocked by the news of the diagnosis, and I didn’t have the information on how to attack it or what to do with it. I also was in a bit of denial. It wasn’t until I confessed to my dad and told him, saying, “Hey, this is my report. What’s going on? What do I do?” Then the history of the family came out. Grandpa had diabetes. My father told me, “You have two paths: You can follow the path that Grandpa did and not take care of your health, or you can take the better road.”
My doctor wanted me to get on a regimen and help my body. They said that they were going to put me on insulin right away. I said, “Okay, I’ll try it.” And my dad said, “Please do because we want you around.”
After that, I moved here to Austin, Texas. I found a really good endocrinologist who I had only for 2 years before he retired. He helped jump-start me, gave me information, and helped me learn more about what this diabetes thing is.
What were some of your initial changes or challenges?
I think I’ve gone through seasons of change. From the naughty, post-college kid where I ate whatever I wanted to and took the insulin to counteract that, to now, where although I know the insulin is helping, I’m now considering the side effects.
I think one of the first steps in managing my diabetes was understanding how to monitor the insulin. I had a long-lasting and a fast-acting insulin and they peaked at different times. The biggest challenge was the discipline I needed to have with my food and eating.
One thing that was good was that I wasn’t feeling lethargic anymore. I think another improvement was learning about different foods. With the endocrinologists I have had throughout the years, they taught me about which foods spike my sugar that made me think, “Do I want to waste insulin on that?” I learned to be more proactive and learn about different foods and how it affects my body.
Something I had to learn about was dealing with the people who tell me what I’m supposed to eat and what I can’t. They suddenly go from being my friend to being a doctor. That was another change I had to endure when telling people about my health — gracefully dealing with the naysayers.
Does your diabetes impact your family?
I have a loving husband, and in recent years he has wanted to talk about our health. He’ll never understand to the full extent of what I go through, but he helps me down that path. I feel like sometimes we live in a bubble and I have to realize that it’s okay to invite others into my healthcare team.
Now that my kids understand that I have diabetes, which can impact me in different ways, they’re like, “You sound crazy, Mom! Have you checked your numbers?” And I thought, it’s good for them to know about this and to help. It builds more compassion.
One of the doll lines that my daughter likes has a doll with diabetes, and she said, “Mommy, look, they have one like you. She has an insulin pump on.” It’s her way of saying, “I think I’m getting what you’re going through.”
What did you think about Livongo the first time you heard about it?
I want to say I heard about Livongo 2 years ago. We’re under my husband’s insurance and he learned about Livongo. He encouraged me to check it out.
At first I thought it was another meter and I didn’t need one. But as I dug a little deeper, I saw they offered up a coach, someone to talk to. It’s been good. I’ve really enjoyed it. The coaching sessions I schedule every 6 weeks. It’s helpful to have someone to touch base with that has a different opinion on the numbers. The meter is really good, too. It gives you feedback and I like the nudges. They’ve been helpful. I haven’t been on as much, but when I do get on the portal, I like reading the articles.
You talk to a coach! How has it helped you and what have you learned?
My doctor and I had been in a 3-year conversation about a continuous glucose monitor. When I talked about it with my Livongo coach, she gave her insight into it. She told me, “Some like it, some don’t, but why not just try it out?” So I did. That’s what I needed.
My plan with my Livongo coach now is to start looking at my range and where I am on a daily basis. I also told my coach about when my blood sugar drops. It could be at the grocery store or in the middle of the night or because it’s too hot out. She helped me come up with a basal pattern plan so that I wouldn’t drop as frequently.
That’s what I do love about it. My coach is like, “Let’s go to the next step, what do you think is the next step for you?” And I appreciate her honesty as well, where she’ll admit that she doesn’t know something but lead me to find the answers.
A good friend of mine would like to say, “There’s truth in community.” I’m not going to know everything. Having a coach to share with and then having them understand and give me advice on next steps is great.
Are you on a continuous glucose monitor now?
I am. I enjoy it. I was getting weary of checking myself. But now this is giving an overall pattern. It’s not a one-to-one, but it’s close enough.
How often do you check yourself if you’re using a CGM?
I check about four times a day now. And the meter and my CGM have on average a 10-point difference, but sometimes it’s right on. If I see the Dexcom and I don’t feel like my blood sugar is correct, I do a finger stick and use my meter to make sure.
I used to have to check eight times a day. It was too much, and now they download the CGM reports and I share my Livongo reports with my doctor. They usually say that it’s working for me and to keep up the good work.
What is your main motivation for staying healthy?
At first it was about keeping my dad off my back and keeping him quiet. Then it was being pregnant and doing well for my kids to give them a good foundation. Now it’s being a good example for my family and having a high quality of life in my golden age, and finally getting that motorcycle that was promised to me!
And hopefully I can be a motivator for other people. I was so afraid to be on a pump. When I saw two people wearing insulin pumps, I chased them down to ask questions. I feel like those actions open up the community. So as those two were congenial to me in answering questions, hopefully I can do that for someone else to tell them to get on Livongo!
How would you describe Livongo to someone who hasn’t heard of it?
Livongo is a part of your healthcare community. Even though you see your doctor a few times a year, Livongo will help fill in the gaps. You get to determine how deep you want to go in the relationship. This is a community where you can learn more about what diabetes is. You get to control the pace of the program and you can improve.