Samantha Owen on Breaking Sterotypes and Being Your Own Advocate

We caught up with twenty-four year old nursing assistant Samantha Owen to talk to her about the challenges of living with type 1 diabetes, the importance of advocacy, and having a diabetes support system.

Here's her story...

Name:  Samantha Owen

Number of years you have been living with diabetes:  16 and ½

Can you tell us your diagnosis story?

I was diagnosed March 11, 1995 when I was 7 years old (I’m 24 now).  I remember being really sick for about a week--nausea, vomiting, and extreme thirst.  My pediatrician actually diagnosed me & sent us straight to the hospital.  Being so young, I don’t remember too much.  I remember being scared and not really understanding what was happening.  They kept me in the hospital for about a week.  Luckily, being so young, I don’t remember life without diabetes.  I remember being given different foods than my friends but I don’t remember having to give things up and completely change my life.  Although I know it happened, I just don’t remember it.

When I got married and it was really up to me to take care of myself, a lot changed.  I realized exactly how much work this disease requires, that it does things you don’t want it to no matter how hard you try, and that even though I could have that piece of cake if I wanted, it’s really not worth the extra bolus and risk of a high blood sugar.

Why did you start your diabetes blog?  

I’ve been blogging on & off for a year or so. I used to just use it as an outlet but this month I really got involved in Diabetes Awareness Month and something just clicked.  I realized I can use my blog to educate and help support others who are dealing with diabetes.  I’ve already met so many people in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) and am learning something new every day.

What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced living with diabetes?  

Definitely stereotypes.  People always seem to think that Type 1 & Type 2 are so similar when they’re not.  Heaven forbid I pick up a Hershey’s Kiss (I get death glares and “should you be eating that?’).  It drives me crazy.  I’m constantly being judged as a person by what my numbers are and what food I put in my mouth.  I’ve also gotten slack from a few people about wanting to have a baby. They either think I shouldn’t do it, or why would I do it, it will be bad for the baby, etc.  You know those people who have never dealt with diabetes but think they know everything about the disease?  I’ve been caught up in some hurtful conversations.

Have there been any particularly scary or challenging moments since you were diagnosed that you can tell us about?  

When I was 8 or 9 years old my family went to Kitty Hawk, NC to do a Tour de Cure. We did a lot of exploring and I didn’t really feel like eating.  The only thing I remember is waking up to EMS surrounding my bed and being told that I had a seizure.  That would probably be my parents most scary (although I would never want to experience it now!).

My scariest moment happened in 2008.  I had been fine all day but as soon as night came I got extremely sick.  My blood sugar was through the roof and I think I vomited about once an hour.  I changed my site, my insulin, everything.  But my sugar stayed high.  I just assumed being sick was causing it to be up. About 12 hours later, Aaron (my husband) had had enough and took me to the ER.  Turns out I was in DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis).  And not borderline.  When the ER doctor gave us the news and wheeled me to the ICU, she looked at us very seriously and told us we were almost too late.  My body was almost too acidic to really help and they were surprised I was as aware as I was.  It was a real wake-up call.  I realized never to put diabetes on the back burner.

It also opened my eyes to how important it is to be your own advocate.  When I was in the hospital, I was put on Lantus (long lasting insulin), which I had never been on before.  When they brought me my meal, I asked for a fast-acting insulin to cover the food.  The nurses argued with me that I didn’t need it, the doctor didn’t order it, and the Lantus would cover it.  I finally seceded when I realized I wasn’t being heard.  Sure enough, a few hours later I was sky high and I looked at the nurses and said ‘I told you so’.  This experience taught me you really have to be very careful and be your own advocate.

What are some essentials in your diabetes management and care?

Franco my insulin pump, Philip my Dexcom, Aaron my husband, and the diabetes online community...and lots of juice-boxes!

What are your top three health and fitness tips for other people living with type 1 diabetes? 

  1. Test, test, test!! Knowing where your numbers are makes such a big difference in not only your care but how you feel.  You can easily prevent a high or a low just by testing, which in turn helps control your A1C.
  2. Exercise.  Yes, you may have a few lows (always bring glucose tabs to be safe) but I found out how much exercise helps control my numbers.  The more I exercise, the more efficient my body uses insulin and processes carbohydrates.
  3. Have a support group.  Even if it’s a small one.  Aaron may not fully ‘get’ what having diabetes encompasses but he knows to keep an eye on me, he looks for signs of highs or lows and will tell me if he thinks something is wrong.  But he also advocates my disease with me, helps educate others about Type 1, and the days when my diabetes upsets me, he listens to my rants and then helps me smile by talking about my ‘sugar dia-beat-us’.

What are your goals for the future as far as managing your diabetes and living the healthiest life you can?

Babies!  There, I said it.  I’m definitely working hard to control my numbers for pregnancy.  I’ve always wanted to be a mom, but I want to be a healthy and diabetes controlled mom so I can give my future baby the best start possible.




Twitter: samanthaowen07


Tags: prevention,type 1,interview,insulin pump,dexcom,Diabetes Awareness Month

Category: Interviews