Anna Norton, MS
Anna Norton, MS, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1993. She is the current CEO of DiabetesSisters (diabetessisters.org), a national non-profit focused on providing education and support for women living with diabetes. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, reading, traveling, Hip Hop Fit dance class, and cheering on her son at baseball and soccer games.Get their bookView their FacebookView their InstagramView their LinkedInView their Twitter
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in August 1993, two weeks before I began my freshman year at the University of Florida. In addition to moving away from family for the first time, I also had to learn how to adjust to living with a chronic illness. College years can be tumultuous and adding diabetes to that equation resulted in erratic blood sugars and, at times, a mismanagement of my diabetes treatment plan.
By the time I was in my mid-20s, I acquired an insulin pump to accommodate my lifestyle and I mastered that pretty quickly. Following this, I got married and focused much energy into preparing my body for pregnancy.
I became a mother when I was 32 years old, 14 years after my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Until then, I had weathered my personal diabetes storm as best I could: sometimes with ease, oftentimes with difficulties. But by the time I decided to embark on the journey of motherhood, I had a good grasp of how to best live with diabetes.
During my pregnancy, my insulin pump offered me an ideal way to manage blood sugar and the changing insulin needs my body required. After delivery, I found it comforting as well, allowing me to dial back on my insulin needs.
I soon learned as my son grew and needed my attention, my diabetes did as well. I was managing two unpredictable forces in my life. And it brought me question, what came first? My son? Or diabetes?
As a mother, I was responsible for a small, helpless baby, who needed everything. Diaper changes, feedings, clean clothes. And then my diabetes: blood sugar checks, pump changes, endocrinologist appointments. I did, somehow, manage for a few years, although the blood sugar management I had accomplished was slowly become less of a priority for me.
Then I began to experience hypoglycemia unawareness.
At the time, my husband was occasionally traveling for work, leaving us alone for a few weeks at a time. Our family had recently moved and we didn’t know our neighbors well, so I was uncomfortable asking for any kind of help, especially of the diabetes kind.
And one day, I was out with my son who was two years old at the time, and I experienced a blood sugar so low that I lost consciousness. I only remember waking up with emergency responders hovered over me, a glucacon drip in my arm, and my son sitting his stroller, happily playing with a toy.
I was scared. Scared that one day I might be in a similar situation but at home, alone, with a baby who could barely communicate.
Immediately, I reached out to my endocrinologist, who recommended a continuous glucose monitor. I agreed, not completely understanding what a cgm did, but convinced that it would improve the quality of my life as a mother.
A few weeks later, I trialed my first cgm. With my endocrinologist, we determined a range of blood glucose that we both felt comfortable with and she sent me home. I recall going about my usual activities and hearing a buzz, then a beep. My husband, who was home, immediately asked for a lesson in the buzzing and beeping, and when I explained, he was hooked. “We are getting this, no matter what it costs,” he said to me.
And so, another chapter of my life with diabetes began, that of cgm-use. It’s been nearly 10 years since my first cgm, and I am forever grateful to those buzzes and beeps, alerting me of where my blood sugar is, and where it’s going and how fast.
Having a tool like this has allowed me to fully embrace motherhood. Because I know what’s happening diabetes-wise, I am able to immerse myself into whatever activity my son is involved with. Whether we are at a sporting event or a Boy Scout event, I can glance down and see if I’m within the range my healthcare team and I have agreed upon. And without much fanfare, I can adjust my insulin or activity needs to accommodate diabetes. Life with a cgm is second nature in my home. My husband and son both are attuned to it, and can identify both the high and low alerts, simply by their audible beeps. My son, now a tween, has grown up understanding how important it is for me, for our home life, to try to live between the lines of my cgm.
I am aware that as I continue to grow as a mother, as well as continue along my diabetes journey, my needs will change. Insulin formations will change and improve, technology like insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors will advance, oral medications may be helpful to me, and complications may arise. But as I have since 1993, I will embrace those changes for the quality of my health and life.
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