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  • Writer's pictureMason Koffie

The T1Dictionary: T1D at school

To continue to celebrate eddii's extension into the Midwest and round off National Diabetes Awareness Month with an ‘UMPH!’, we're diving into the 'T1Dictionary’ once more!

Last week, we explored ‘Confidence with T1D’ and the art of being ‘Characteriffic'. This week, we're hearing from a slightly different, younger perspective. Mason Koffie shares the importance of 'pUMPH!' and what it’s currently like to live with 'T1D at school'.

 

What’s life like living with T1D at school?


The best part - what might surprise a few people, has definitely been the nursing staff. They’re super helpful! There have been days when I forgot snacks or juice and they are always there with the things I need.


Honestly, the worst part... the awkwardness. Having to eat snacks in the middle of class or popping out a bright little juice box. I think that was probably the largest hurdle – jumping out of the awkwardness and being able to just say “Hey, I’m a diabetic, let me drink this.” There are also the misconceptions - sometimes frustrating, but sometimes, just funny!


Do you have an example?

The most common misconception I have encountered is that all diabetics are bigger people and can’t ever exercise. One of my funniest experiences of this was when I was carb counting for my insulin dosage, sitting with a group of theater friends, who had never seen me eat before. Immediately they were like “Girl, put that down” and “you are beautiful” and “you don’t need to count calories, you are sexy and amazing just the way you are!” I had to explain that it was a medical thing – but it felt nice to know that they were on the lookout!

Do you feel comfortable educating your peers about diabetes?


Totally! Living with diabetes means you're pretty much always in teaching mode, because, you know it's this common thing that’s strangely not widely understood. A lot of people, again, with the diabetes = fat thing, see me and assume that I can’t walk for very long or hit the gym, and it really has just been an act of overachieving and explaining that ‘yes I can and yes I do exercise and it’ll be OK’. I find that when encountering other diabetics out in the wild we tend to click a lot quicker and accept each other faster.

Do you have any ideas and suggestions for schools to be more inclusive and nurturing for people with T1D?

I wish that schools would take into account that each and every diabetic student needs to have very specific yet differing lunch times according to their blood sugars. For me, I had to contact school counselors who could edit schedules to make my lunch earlier, as I would constantly be going low in class. Luckily, my teacher was very kind and understanding. I think the hospitals could also do a better job of connecting with schools.


Do you have any advice for other teenagers with diabetes or those who are just starting high school with diabetes?

I would say, please immediately tell every one of your teachers, and even some classmates that you are a diabetic, as this is going to be something that you’re dealing with. I waited and that was very awkward because I basically, one-by-one, had classmates figure out that I was a diabetic. It doubled the awkwardness to bring up months after knowing a person… I would hit the ground running with that. Do NOT be embarrassed or even scared to tell people–diabetes is super common, so most likely, they will know someone who has it, and I have never encountered anyone who meant ill-will with any comments or concerns about my diabetes after mentioning it. Give it some ‘pUMPH!’ You’ve got this! (And for snacks, I really like Hawaiian Fruit Punch–the red variety–and cheez-its, and I carry them with me in my backpack!)


What are your dreams and goals for the future, and do you ever think about how your diabetes could play a role in them?


I would like to be an actor in the future, and that is going to be “affected” by my diabetes as, obviously, my skin has lots of pokes and some bruises in it. However, because of modern technology, this is not gonna be that big of a deal, all it means is I will be spending more time in the touch-up chair.


What diabetes is really going to do is impact others how finding out Nick Jonas is a type one diabetic did for me–encouraging them and creating even further community.


Do you have any role models or inspirational figures who have motivated you on your T1D journey so far?


As mentioned, kind of Nick Jonas, but generally anyone who I find out is a T1D always has my heart. It’s always instant camaraderie.


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