Ronda Keys, 37, is an event planner in Gaithersburg, Md. Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when she was just 19 years old, she struggled to control her blood sugar for years. By her early 30s, Keys was experiencing health problems like tingling in her arms and legs and hard-to-heal infections. She was terrified of insulin, and avoided it as long as possible. When she finally started using it, she found that she had more energy and fewer health problems, and that it was much easier to use than she had thought.

Chuck FazioI was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at a routine checkup at the doctors office when I was 19 years old. I had all of the classic symptoms: I was tired all of the time, was really thirsty, and had frequent urination.

I was scared, because I knew there is no cure for diabetes. But I wasnt really surprised because it runs in my family. Still, I was shocked when someone told me I actually had the condition.

I started out taking oral medications and altering my diet, but I really only followed it some of the time. I was in college and none of my friends had diabetes—plus I didnt feel sick. Then, in my mid-20s, I started feeling differently about diabetes; I was more aware of the possible consequences of not taking care of myself.

I started having complications
In my early 30s, I began to have complications like bruising and tingling in my arms and legs.

So I started writing the symptoms down and talking to my doctor about them. I began to pay attention to the annual exams I needed, and saw an eye and foot doctor to make sure everything was okay. But by the time I started taking my oral medications diligently, they werent able to control my blood sugar anymore.

I was so determined to not take insulin—I thought taking it meant failure. I was so terrified of insulin. I tried a couple different combinations of medication, but they still werent working.

Then, a couple of years ago, I was hospitalized. I had an infection, and my blood sugar was wreaking havoc when the doctors tried to cure it. My doctor told me as soon as I got there that I didnt have a choice any more; the oral medications werent going to work, so I would have to start taking insulin. I spent two weeks in the hospital and began using insulin there.

Now I take two different types of insulin each day—NovoLog, a fast-acting insulin that I use three times a day before meals, and Lantus, a long-term one I take at bedtime.

When I was in the hospital, they were good about explaining how to use everything, and I went home with vials and syringes. When I got home, however, I was very nervous about giving myself shots. I was worried I was going to get the wrong dose or have air bubbles. I talked with my doctor about my concerns and was able to get insulin injection pens. These are prefilled pens; you just dial the dosage, screw the needle to the top, and inject. Its really easy.

I travel a lot because of my job as an event planner. I was worried at first that it would be a burden, getting around with the vials and syringes. I was afraid I would have to scale back on the thing I love the most. I quickly realized, though, that it wasnt going to be the case.

Insulin pens are very easy to carry with me. At first I was self conscious about it and would go to the ladies room when I needed a shot. But they are so easy to use, and its not painful at all. Now I just have the pen in a case in my purse, and I can angle it under the table and give myself a quick shot anytime.

Next Page: I did gain weight [ pagebreak ]I did gain weight
There were a few things I didnt expect when I started using insulin, including weight gain. I have pretty much always had an issue with my weight, so that has been very difficult for me. Ive gained 30 pounds. Ive been trying to combat weight gain by stepping up my diet and exercise plan. It is slowly beginning to come off.

Ive also been worried about my blood sugar dropping too low. I was concerned it would happen at night while I was asleep, and I actually did have that happen. However, your body wakes you up, and I knew what to do to deal with it.

I dont have a lot of lows. They are few and far between for me. But I was concerned about it happening again in a time or place where I couldnt do anything about it, like in my car during rush hour. I talked to a nurse about it, and she told me to carry a tube of Life Savers. They absorb quickly, and now I have something in my purse to quickly reverse hypoglycemia when Im traveling.

All of these issues are just minor ones. Things are a lot better for me now. Insulin has freed me up because I dont have to worry about getting sick or having complications. I feel better and have more energy now. And the issues I was starting to have with my kidneys went away once my blood sugar was regulated.

I think people need to get as much education about insulin as possible. I had such a fear of the unknown. But if I had known that it was so easy to use insulin, I totally wouldnt have been scared about it. Its your life—it can be the difference between life and death. Its not a failure—its doing whats best for your body.