"I got my diabetes under control"
Judith Hernandez; Miami, Florida
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 12. Even then, my biggest dream was to have a family, and I worried that diabetes would prevent me from living a normal life. I gave myself two to three insulin injections a day, and my diabetes was pretty well controlled. But stress can affect glucose levels, and when I was in college, my glucose levels became less stable -- that was scary. If I skipped meals or ate the wrong foods, they could skyrocket, making me very tired and thirsty, and putting my health at risk.
After getting my degree in engineering, I started working at a very demanding job that had crazy hours and lots of international travel. Even before I got married, I knew that if I wanted to have children some day, I would have to get better at managing my illness. So I went on the insulin pump -- a device about the size of a pager that I attach to my stomach. It gives me varied doses of insulin over the course of the day depending on what I eat, and it really helped get my glucose levels under better control.
Still, pregnancy can be risky for women who have diabetes. Fortunately, both of my sons, Roberto, 5, and Andreas, 2, were born full-term and healthy. After Roberto was born, however, I started getting anxious when I had to travel. I took my first trip when he was just 4 months old. And I hated my 45-mile daily commute. I knew that the hectic pace could make my diabetes worse, so I decided to make a career change. Now I work for a university, and my schedule is much more reasonable. I still struggle to deal with the pressures of balancing kids and work, but my husband, Gilberto, is a real help.
I do finger-stick glucose tests on the boys. There's a genetic component to type 1, but their chance of getting type 2 is greater, and Hispanics are also at a higher risk. I check my own blood eight times a day -- and I'm proud of the fact that I have zero complications from my diabetes. My biggest dream is to live a long, healthy life so I can get to see the boys grow up, graduate, and get married.
Learn more: For ways to reduce complications, go to the American Diabetes Association's Web site, diabetes.org.