By Corey Marino
A typical college student’s day starts with a series of actions carried out on auto pilot and half awoken thoughts.
They wake up and roll out of bed, throwing their clothes on as they quickly do their hair and brush their teeth. They skip breakfast as they grab their backpack and run out the door, to make a detour at Starbucks to pickup their favorite frappuccino and after circling the parking lot a couple times they find their spot and stroll into class.
“This is something that a diabetic just can’t do,” said Kim Brown, a registered dietitian nutritionists and a certified diabetes educator in the Henry Mayo fitness and health department.
Everyone has heard of diabetes and probably a lot of people even know someone afflicted with the disease. But, what most people don’t know is how drastically different their lives are and the numerous obstacles and interferences they have to deal with on a daily basis.
A college student living with diabetes doesn’t really have just a normal typical start to the day. They wake up to alarms telling them to check their levels, they have to correct it with insulin or a healthy meal. Then they have to make snacks and meals so that can can optimally perform throughout the rest of their day.
“Although it is a manageable disease, you really have to put a lot of thought and effort into your day,” Brown said. “ You have to wake up earlier, test your blood, eat a decent breakfast, and that is just to make sure you are starting your day healthy and on the right path.”
Christopher Marino, a COC student living with diabetes, said that from the first day of being diagnosed as sophomore in high school it was different.
“Early on, before I had it down, I had to go to the nurses office three to four times a day to get my blood sugar checked and fixed,” Marino said.
Marino, like all diabetic students, had to learn how to balance his sugar levels and make a schedule throughout the day for eating habits and insulin intake.
Grabbing a bag of Cheetos or a box of Oreos because you’re hungry and want a tasty treat is not an option for people living with diabetes.
They have to carefully and meticulously manage what goes in their body so that they can be healthy and fully functional throughout the day.
“Mismanaged diabetes can greatly affect a students performance, having high or low blood sugar can lead to numerous symptoms,” Brown said. “They can become irritable, confused, light headed, shaky, nauseous and can even pass out.”
Unfortunately this exact situation is what happened to Marino while attending a class in his first semester in college.
“One time a teacher got pissed because I asked to leave class, to go to the vending machine to get a quick snack because my sugar was low,” said Marino. “It was in the middle of a test but I was shaking and couldn’t think, I needed to raise my sugar levels or I was going to pass out.”
College of the Canyons gives priority registration to allow diabetic students a better chance to get the classes that they need in the exact time they need them.
This allows the student to create a consistent schedule that is tailored to their personal needs and in turn that allows them to have breaks for eating and to take their medication.
“We can’t skip meals throughout the day without being physically affected,” Marino said.
Along with the mental and emotional strain of diligently planning your day, college students with diabetes have extra financial burdens as well.
The American Diabetes Association states that the cost of diabetes has increased by 26% from 2012 to 2017 and the National Center for Education Statistics said that the average cost of students in two-year institutions has risen by 11% from $9,347 to $10,432 in the same time frame.
The ADA also reported in 2018 that people with diabetes have roughly $9,600 in medical expenses per year.
To alleviate some of this monetary stress students with type 1 diabetes can apply for scholarships ranging from $1,000 a year from Diabetes Inc. to $10,000 a year from the Scott & Kim Verplank Foundation.
In addition COC has inexpensive healthy options in the cafeteria and the student store. The student store has a deal for a low carb artisan sandwich, healthy chips, and a diet soda for $6. The school also sells affordable on-the-go salads with protein and low priced fruit cups.
A cornerstone in the landscape of college is drinking and going to parties. College is a melting pot of new people for students to meet and enjoy life with, parties are a way for students to ease stress and get to know their fellow colleagues.
Drinking is just another aspect of college that is different for diabetics, they have to take extra precautions to ensure a healthy and safe result.
Tanner Griffin, a Universal Technical Institute graduate living with diabetes, said when he went out he had to be extra sensible about what he drank and how much he drank in a quick amount of time.
“I have to monitor how many drinks I have in an hour, I have to know how many carbs are in the jack and coke I ordered,” Griffin said. “ I have to be very familiar and mindful with what I drink.”
When drinking, diabetics have to be aware of the amount of carbohydrates in the juices, sodas, and mixers; along with the alcohol proof of beer, wine and distilled spirits.
Diabetics can’t drink on an empty stomach, because once they start drinking their liver will stop producing glucose and they will need glucose from food in their stomach to prevent hypoglycemia, which is an affliction of low blood sugar.
Unfortunately the medicine to raise blood sugar, glucagon, is inhibited after one to two drinks. The liver’s primary function is cleaning the alcohol from your blood, and glucagon will not work until your liver has finished this process and the alcohol is removed from the blood.
If a diabetic isn’t careful they could be sent to the hospital for either too high of blood sugar or too low.
“I have never been hospitalized, but I do get drunk a little faster than all my friends and I have to slow down, because if I get sick and throw up it is really hard to keep my sugars in check,” Griffin said.
Marino on the other hand had a regrettable real-life experience dealing with the dangers of drinking. He said he was at a party and drank an obscene amount and was sent to the hospital.
“I was throwing up all night, which threw my numbers all out of whack, and I could barely stand,” Marino said. “I had to be hospitalized for four days, it took that long just to get my blood sugar and body right.”
Diabetics can die due to their blood sugar being too low or too high and Marino said he felt close to it. He couldn’t think and could barely stay awake, diabetes is a serious disease and has to be handled with attention to details.
Brown knows the struggles of the everyday life of diabetics and is urging for COC students to be proactive, join forces at school, and to help each other along through the college journey.
“Students need to start a chapter of the College Diabetes Network at COC, it’s a club for peers with Type 1 diabetes to come together and discuss different ways to manage diabetes,” said Brown. “ You will be with people who understand your diabetes.”
The CDN is a non profit organization whose mission is singularly focused on providing young adults with Type 1 diabetes the peer connections, and expert resources they need, to successfully manage the challenging transition to independence at college and beyond.
Starting a chapter at COC will bring awareness about diabetes to the campus and the community. Visit their website at collegediabetesnetwork.org for more information on how to start a new chapter.
Living with diabetes is a struggle but there are many ways to get the help and the resources you need to live a happy, healthy and prosperous life.
“Remember to have those emergency snacks, remember to be vigilant with your medication, but above all, remember to enjoy your life because diabetes is manageable and you can live a happy healthy life,” said Brown.