Diabetic & Me

Alexa Wierbicki

Alexa Wierbicki

Hello! Who are you? And tell us a little bit more about your diabetes.

Hey everyone! My name is Alexa Wierbicki. I’m 22 years old and currently living in Ontario, Canada. I have Type 1 diabetes for a total of 6 years.

Travel, nutrition and type on diabetes are my biggest passions! I travel every chance I get! I am a dietetic student on route to being a dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). I love educating people about diabetes and about making diabetes fun! Mainly through painting my Omnipods 🙂 My bionic parts are my favourite accessories!

I didn’t grow up with diabetes and I never ever hid it! I think it’s so cool and I love all my gadgets! I definitely show them off as I think its a great way to start conversations and educate!

I honestly don’t remember diabetes as being too hard of a transition for me. Obviously the amount of information and first month or two can be extremely overwhelming. I was lucky enough to already have a friend with type one with whom I could relate and an amazing, compassionate health care team and endo. However, when I was first diagnosed I had one appointment with a different endo (who didn’t specialize in Paeds) and he was very cold. He essentially walked in, stuck a needle in my stomach and said;  “Take 2 units every meal.” He was then talking briefly about site rotation and I asked him a question and he replied with; “I am speaking to your mother.” Which floored me because it was me who was going to be doing my injections and managing my diabetes. I was 16 at that moment. I was almost immediately transferred to the great pediatrics endo and type one team who did proper education with me and I’ve been there ever since.

That original lack of empathy, compassion and communication was the hardest for me and my family.

Alexa Wierbicki

“Diabetes will not hold me back in any way.”

Your treatment

How do you treat your diabetes, did a lot change over the past years and are you able to manage it well?

I have huge support from a few diabuddies and close friends and family who have been educated just by being close to me over the years. I also have a diabetes Instagram and there is a great family of support and connectedness there as well. I treat my own diabetes.

I am on an Omnipod insulin pump and a Libre CGM. I am currently using Humalog, fast acting insulin. I’ve always been on Humalog but back when I was on injections I was also on Lantus for my long acting.

Diabetes definitely changed my life. My diagnosis is what got me interested in food and nutrition, as obviously I had to start carb counting. From this stemmed my love for food and nutrition and set me on the path I am on now which is becoming a dietitian and a certified diabetes educator. That is a very positive outcome for me.

I also love to travel a lot. Diabetes has definitely made travel harder for me. Always having to have documentation, get enough supplies and backup supplies, other ways of insulin injection in case your pump breaks, store the supplies properly, worry about your luggage getting lost or stolen, full pat downs every time you go through security, having to carry and plan so much more than a healthy individual. It has not deterred me at all from travel but again definitely added many more steps. I am lucky to have a great healthcare team. As there motto is that my diabetes will not hold me back in any way and have been a huge part of helping me with and making my extended travel plans possible This is kind of a neutral outcome as I’ve accepted this so it doesn’t bother me but I could definitely do without it!

I’ve also made so many friends I would have never met otherwise! Big plus!

I think I manage my diabetes very well! A1C has been favourable since diagnosis. The only time I have more issues is when I am travelling. Much more physical exercise, exertion and foreign food that is hard to carb count. Their may be language barriers to reading packaging.

Alexa Wierbicki
Alexa Wierbicki

Can you recognize the symptoms of a low/high blood sugar? Do you test often and can you tell a bit more about your experiences with low blood sugar?

Yes, I can recognize them. When I am low my heart races, I can get shaky and start to sort of fade in and out of full consciousness, if it is a really bad low. During highs I get very tired and have very bad headaches. Both occur 2 to 5 times a week.

We are required to do a minimum of 4 blood sugar checks a day in Canada. I check approximately 7 to 18 times a day depending on how good my sugars are. The libre makes it so quick and easy. I rarely draw blood for a glucose check anymore – only when I feel different than what my Libre is saying.

Apple juice boxes are my go to to treat my low blood sugars. Always a liquid over solid as I can get it in my body quicker and some times when I’m low I genuinely cant coordinate chewing.

I have never fainted before due to a low blood sugar!

Alexa Wierbicki

Food and diet

How does your diabetes affect your eating and do you find being on a diet restrictive?

What I am eating always changes as I love to explore with food! I generally eat 3 meals a day with at least one snack but I eat intuitively and therefore do not follow any specific plan nor is every day the same.

Current favourite breakfasts: eggs and toast, oatmeal with peanut butter, toast, yogurt or smoothie bowls. Current favourite lunch and dinners: rice bowls, chili, stir fry, quesadillas and wraps, sandwiches and omelettes. I like Greek Food and Pierogies/Polish food! I never skip a meal.

I love snacks! Some of my current favourites are granola bars, yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh fruit.

I don’t believe in foods that are “not good for you” or in labeling food. I always take my insulin based on my carb ratio and the carb content of the food.

I do love water but probably don’t drink as much as I should although I try. I normally drink water in the morning, at night and with each meal.

It is definitely annoying when people ask me about what I can eat or cant eat. It is a common misconception but I use the situation as an educational opportunity and explain simply that I can eat anything.

Alexa Wierbicki

Do you believe that a plant based diet can improve diabetes? Did you ever experiment with this?

I’ve been vegetarian in the past and to date rarely eat meat or dairy, however these choices have nothing to do with my diabetes. With type one diabetes I don’t believe that being a vegetarian alone would drastically affect anyone’s management.

Do you have a hard time eating out in a restaurant? And what are you thoughts on making this easier?

I don’t have a hard time eating at restaurants. Being on a tubeless pump is a huge part of this as it is way easier to bolus than being on a tubed pump or injections. I also have come to be pretty good at carb “guestimating” or most websites actually have the nutritional information of each meal so you can be precise. Obviously I am not perfect and my blood sugars aren’t always good after but it has never been a big issue for me.

I love trying alternative or vegan restaurants. For typical chains I love Swiss Chalet or Chucks Roadhouse at the moment.

“I rarely draw blood for a glucose check anymore – only when I feel different than what my Libre is saying.”

Exercise and work

Does your diabetes restrict you from exercise or your daily job?

I really enjoy walking and hiking. The only organized exercise I do is yoga. I would say I do one or the other about 4 days a week.

I am just about to start my dietetic internship although I am currently a Dietairy Aide. In both professions most have a good understanding of type one and have so far been very compassionate and ensure I have the support I need to manage my diabetes while at work. This is mostly things such as keeping juice boxes at work for myself and encouraging me to take the time to test and treat whenever I need. My work doesn’t really affect my diabetes.

Alexa Wierbicki
Alexa Wierbicki

Final

Do you have any positive or negative effects because of your diabetes?

To manage my diabetes better I try to pre bolus so that I don’t spike as much after eating. I think having a CGM and being able to see my levels at all times has improved my control significantly.

I think the hardest part is that sometimes it can make me feel like a burden to others. Such as in situations when I’ve had to call in to work due to diabetes or cancel plans. Although some are compassionate, I feel like some don’t see diabetes as a valid reason to say, call in to work. Although this may not be true, I always feel guilty and like I need to prove that I’m sick enough to validate me changing plans which can be emotionally burdening to me.

But the best part is I get to express myself creatively through painting my Omnipod pods and I get to meet the most incredible people all around the world due to our connection through diabetes!

I think the place where I live can affect my diabetes through affecting my mental and physical health. I generally require a support system, a consistent social life, walking trails or some sort of outdoors in my vicinity to be content.

Living in Canada covers my insulin until I’m 25 which is a huge financial relief. I also get funding for my pump which helps financially as well. The more financially stable I am the better my mental health. I do wish we had more coverage for all the other supplies we need and that we were covered for longer, however the coverage we do have does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. The future financial burden of diabetes in Canada does cause me significant stress.

What is the best advice that you can give to non-diabetics, new diagnosed diabetics and diabetics?

Having type one diabetes is not at any fault of our own. We can eat whatever we please. That is the base knowledge I would love everyone to know as we often get clumped in with type two diabetes, which can be very frustrating.

Things will get easier but also that, however they are feeling at the moment, whether it be anger, confusion or feeling defeated. It is completely valid.

If there is something you want to do or accomplish and think that you can’t because of your condition, there is always a way. It will definitely take extra work but it is possible.

What would you ask the other diabetics?

If there was a cure for type one, would you undergo the procedure or get the cure?

Feel free to answer in the comments below.

Want to publish your own story?

Hey! I’m Ely Fornoville, the founder of Diabetic & Me.

We interview people with diabetes share the stories behind their lives.

By sharing these stories, we want to help others to understand life with diabetes.

If you liked this story, join our mailing list for new stories.

Interested in sharing your own story? Share your story with us!

Subscribe and receive new updates

All published stories, diabetic friendly places, recipes and blog posts in your inbox.
SUBSCRIBE

Write a Comment

Subscribe and receive new updates

All published stories, diabetic friendly places, recipes and blog posts in your inbox.
SUBSCRIBE
close-link