What I Wish I Knew About Adjusting My Type 2 Diabetes Management Plan

'My diabetes doesn’t change, but my plan does.'

Liz Cambron-Kopco smiles with her blood glucose monitor on her arm. The words next to her say Type 2 Diabetes What I Wish I Knew.

Photo Courtesy of Liz Cambron-Kopco, PhD

What I wish I knew about living with type 2 diabetes is that although my diabetes may never change, my management plan will. 

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the age of 23. I had just moved away from home for the first time to start my PhD program. I was barely figuring out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my life when suddenly, I also needed to navigate life with a chronic illness. 

After my initial diagnosis, my diabetes management plan mainly consisted of lifestyle changes in areas like my nutrition and exercise, along with one oral medication. After 23 years of only seeing a primary doctor, now I also needed to see an endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in managing hormone-related conditions) and set up appointments with specialists like optometrists, dentists, and podiatrists who could help prevent diabetes-related complications. 

At the age of 25—two years into my diagnosis—my management plan I had been using was no longer enough. After the loss of my mother to cancer and the chaos of graduate school, stress was impacting my body. My blood glucose levels and A1C (the average blood glucose level over the past three months) were both rising. One oral medication alone wasn’t enough, and I had to go through the exhaustive process of finding another medication that would work for my diabetes and my body. It took months of trying new doses, getting sick from side effects, dealing with insurance rejections, and finding the right combination of medications to finally get a new management plan that worked. 

I wish I would’ve known that the one thing worse than dating in my early 20s was having to find a new provider. Moving cities and having to find a new healthcare team felt like breaking up a long-term relationship because that’s exactly what it was. Years of working with the same providers—having them get to know you, your diabetes, and your body—was a real commitment. The real struggle was when the new provider I found didn’t listen to me and so I needed to dump them and start over. Learning the importance of speaking up and advocating for myself to my healthcare team was difficult, especially as a Mexican American when I feel as though my culture says women should be seen not heard.

As I’ve changed throughout the years, so has my diabetes management plan. Our bodies and circumstances change over time, and therefore our management plans need to as well. At 23, my life consisted of long nights, cheap drive-thru meals on a student budget, and alcohol. I definitely don’t live the same life now that I’m 31. Over the years, my medications have changed, my doctors have changed, and my lifestyle has changed. I’ve learned to prioritize sleep and stress management. I’ve learned to listen to my body and know when something is wrong and to ask for help. What worked for me at 23 doesn’t work for me at 31, and that’s OK. 

Diabetes management changes with us. With each new chapter of our lives, how we take care of our diabetes usually requires new changes too. As I enter the next chapter of my life and navigate pregnancy and parenthood, I’ve already started working on changing my diabetes management plan⎯adding a maternal-fetal health specialist and changing my medicine regimen to medications that are safe for pregnancy, like insulin. 

What I wish I would’ve known about adjusting my diabetes management plan is that I always get through the tough transitions and end up better for it. Better diabetes management, better quality of life.   

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