Diabetic & Me

Anna Koon & Margaret McElwee

Anna Koon and Margaret McElwee

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

Hey everyone! Our names are Anna Koon & Margaret McElwee. We are 26 & 23 years old and currently living in South Carolina. We have type 1 diabetes for a total of 11 years & 4 years.

We are sisters and type 1 Diabetics. Margaret was diagnosed at 11 years old and has had type 1 diabetes for 11 years. Anna was diagnosed at 21 years old and has had type 1 diabetes for 4 years. We grew up in South Carolina and are super fortunate to have both parents in the medical field who somewhat understood type 1 diabetes whenever Margaret was first diagnosed. Margaret had been a type 1 diabetic for 8 years whenever Anna was diagnosed so we were able to help each other and learn more together. That’s how Sweet + Sisters was born in 2016. Now through social media and our blog, we hope to create a community of people who care about the type 1 diabetes lifestyle.

I (Margaret) grew up with diabetes being diagnosed at 11 years old. I didn’t hide my diabetes. I’d let friends help me take shots and certain friends kept snacks on them for when I went low. CGMs weren’t around when I was a kid and I mostly did injections (3 months I had an Omnipod) so from the outside you couldn’t really tell I was a diabetic.

This was difficult emotionally for my family because what parent wants to see their child put a needle into them 4 to 6 times a day. We are extremely fortunate to be able to afford diabetic supplies, however there are still some things I don’t get because our insurance won’t cover them and they are too expensive.

Anna Koon and Margaret McElwee

“I didn’t hide my diabetes.”

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 grew up with two amazing nurse practitioners. They took such good care of me and were invested in my diabetes care. They knew and trusted me that I was taking care of my diabetes and doing the best I could even if my sugars weren’t perfect. As sisters, it is nice that we both know what the other is going through and we can go through it together. We are a great support system for each other and working on Sweet + Sisters together has been an incredible way to support each other.

We both do multiple daily insulin injections and use a Freestyle Libre CGM. I (Margaret) tried an Omnipod and a T-slim insulin pump. I really loved the T-slim and used it for 2 years but found that injections work better for my personality and lifestyle.

We both use Humalog log short acting and then I (Margaret) use Tresiba long acting and Anna uses Lantus long acting. We’ve used Humalog, Novolog, Lantus, Tresiba and even been on Metformin for a little bit.

Growing up I (Margaret) played competitive travel soccer. So I was running and exercising frequently and at a high level. That just isn’t realistic to keep up that level when you’re no longer playing so it was an adjustment to regulate my sugars when I wasn’t exercising as much and as hard. I had to get used to upping my insulin.

We are very well managed diabetics. We don’t neglect it. That said, even managing it as closely and as well as we can, our sugars aren’t perfect.

Anna Koon and Margaret McElwee
Anna Koon and Margaret McElwee

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. Getting dizzy, shaky, sweaty when I have a low blood sugar. When I get a high blood sugar I get confused, can’t connect thoughts and get thirsty.

The CGM is the best invention in the world. So we both really rely on that and actually physically check our blood sugars if our CGM says we’re really high or really low just to double check before we treat it.

To treat a low blood sugar I eat a granola bar and wait to see if I need more food.

Anna Koon and Margaret McElwee
Anna Koon and Margaret McElwee

Food and diet

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

I eat a fruit smoothie for breakfast, usually some type of bowl for lunch (sweet potatoes, black beans, quinoa, veggies) and dinner is usually veggies and protein (tofu, beans).

We both follow the Mastering Diabetes approach to eating. So we eat high carb, low fat, whole foods. Essentially low fat and vegan. Truffle fries is one of my favourite foods and I love to go out eating at Chipotle, Thai and Greek restaurants.

I never skip any meals and for snacks I love Skinny Pop popcorn, pretzels and hummus and RX bars.

If something is the same amount of carbs as a healthier food but a higher glycemic index then I’ll take more insulin for it and vary my regular dose.

I drink around 2 liters of water a day. I keep a water bottle at my desk and drink throughout the day.

For me, being on a diet is restrictive. I eat in a healthy way all day, which includes almost all types of food. Even eating mostly vegan, if somebody made bacon and I want some, I’m going to eat the bacon. A restrictive diet only leads to you falling off and feeling guilty over something you shouldn’t feel guilty about.

When people ask me about certain foods I can or can’t eat I get a bit annoyed! I appreciate the concern however, we are both very responsible type 1 diabetics who 80% of the time eat very healthy. The other 20% is left for treats so let us enjoy the treat. No one should feel like they can’t eat a certain food whether you are a type 1 or not.

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

Yes. We both eat plant based as best as we can.

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

No, there is always something you can find to eat a restaurant. MyFitnessPal also gives plenty of info on most restaurants and foods if you can’t figure out how many carbs are in a meal.

“Do YOUR best and have grace with yourself.”

Anna Koon and Margaret McElwee

Exercise and work

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

We both run and do some form of HIIT at least 3x a week and we both work in commercial video production. It does not affect our diabetes.

Anna Koon and Margaret McElwee

Final

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

To manage my diabetes better I do my best to eat well and workout.

The hardest part is having to think about it 24/7. But the best part is getting to connect with other type 1 diabetics who are going through the same thing. It’s a cool bond that other people can’t relate to.

My diabetes is not causing any other problems than the normal ones.

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

We are thinking about it 24/7. Even if our sugar is perfect we’re planning for what we’re going to eat next or do next and how it will affect our sugar.

It will get easier! You will learn the carbs in your food and how your body reacts to them. You will get smarter and it will help you!

Do YOUR best and have grace with yourself.

What would you ask the other diabetics?

Are you thankful for diabetes?

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 and share the stories behind their lives.

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

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About the author

Ely is the founder of Diabetic & Me. He's a diabetic type 1 since 1996 having an insuline pump and CGM treatment. He believe's in a community where he can bring people with diabetes together where they can share their experiences, read about others, discover diabetic friendly places and more.

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