Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes close to her 4th birthday, Lorena Bergstrom is a bright (above 4.0 GPA bright), talented (plays multiple instruments very well), and honest representative of the T1D community. As an incoming student at the University of California, Berkeley, Lorena writes articles for her local JDRF chapter and holds an interest in biotechnology. Along with her incredible achievements, Lorena stood out for her willingness to try new things in her care...something that can be difficult for someone who has had T1D for 50 days or 50 years. Here are some of Lorena's insights from her Every Step Counts Scholarship application. Thank you, Lorena, and congratulations!
What advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed?
Throughout my experience with T1D, I have learned that diabetes management is an art rather than a science—that it is impossible to find the answers in numbers and data only. My family spent years seeking a perfect treatment plan solely through insulin calculations and blood-glucose graphs; yet I now realize that while these figures are useful in diabetes management, they cannot tell the complete story. I would ask new T1D patients to view their condition through a broader lens; diabetes defies easy characterization, and often manifests in starkly unpredictable mannerisms. There is no foolproof solution contained entirely in this endless whirlwind of data—rather, it is most essential to understand one’s own body before obsessing over these figures. There is certainly value in numbers, but there is infinitely more value in comprehending one’s own health beyond the multitudes of graphs and tables.
I would also encourage new T1D patients to remain optimistic toward their own capabilities—to avoid viewing themselves as inherently limited in any sense. Diabetes is an undeniable struggle, but it is not a death sentence. Although some activities may require more effort and caution, they ultimately remain possible; diabetes only limits these experiences when one views it as a restriction rather than a condition. There are countless talented T1D individuals in all walks of life—athletic, artistic, and intellectual—who exhibit the resilience and determination necessary to succeed in the face of this disease. I believe Type 1 individuals possess a special, fundamental type of strength that drives them to exceed expectations, inspire others, and establish new standards of excellence.
What do you think is the biggest challenge of managing T1D as a young adult transitioning into fully independent care?
The most challenging part of T1D management is that it must always assume priority over every other aspect of life—and as a student with a busy schedule, it can be frustrating to constantly attend to my health instead of fully engaging in other important activities. As I take more individual control over my own treatment, diabetes becomes a never ending worry in the forefront of my daily routine.
Occasionally, I have to sacrifice my other interests for the sake of my health; this unpleasant reality is the most prominent struggle I face as I adopt more agency over T1D management. On the evening of my first high school marching band performance, I experienced sudden hypoglycemia and realized I could not join my peers on the field; it was immensely frustrating to watch from the sidelines as my classmates performed without me. Because of the long hours, constant physical activity, and unusual schedule associated with marching band, I often struggle to control my blood sugar during practices and competitions—consequently, I have frequently missed valuable rehearsal time as a result of T1D. It is never easy to accept this reality -- that uncontrollable facets of my health may limit my participation in certain events. In similar fashion, diabetes occasionally interferes with academic life, as blood sugar fluctuations can drain my energy and focus at crucial and inopportune moments. Ultimately, this is the most difficult part of T1D care as I gain independence -- accepting that my own health must always transcend all other personal interests.
Nobody is in range 100% of the time. What steps have you taken in the past to improve your T1D care? What do you do particularly well in your care and how can you improve? What steps will you take?
The most significant step I have taken to improve my T1D care was (strangely enough) giving up the insulin pump and starting manual injections again. About a year and a half ago, my blood sugars were strangely high on a fairly regular basis; I kept adjusting my insulin pump ratios until they reached absurdly high levels, but nothing seemed to work. Finally, after a visit to the hospital, the doctors realized that I had a large buildup of scar tissue in virtually all of my infusion sites—the insulin couldn’t efficiently reach my body from the pump. I switched to manual injections and noticed an immediate difference; to this day, I still use insulin shots, and my blood sugars have greatly improved. It seems counterintuitive—and it was quite daunting to return to a treatment method I hadn’t used in nearly 10 years—but this decision has greatly improved my health within the past year. In the long run, I hope to eventually return to the insulin pump, but in the meantime I am working to effectively manage T1D through injections. I am proud of my capacity to recognize what is best for my body, even when it seems difficult and unfamiliar. I also started a CGM about a week ago, and have already noticed a distinct positive impact—I have a tendency to over-check blood sugar to the point that it negatively affects my daily routine, and I believe this device will help me feel comfortable without constantly taking a blood test. The CGM will be a useful tool as I attend college and become increasingly independent in my T1D management.