Diabetic & Me

Jessica Ortiz

Jessica Ortiz

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

Hey everyone! My name is Jessica Ortiz. I’m 27 years old and currently living in Miami, Florida. I have Type 1 diabetes for a total of 18 years.

I was diagnosed as a kid when I was 9 years old, so I grew up with diabetes. I don’t really remember a life with it, too much. I had an amazing medical team when I was diagnosed, so I’m really grateful for that. I learned how to do a lot independently as a kid, like checking my blood sugars, and giving myself injections. My parents did an amazing job taking care of me and supported me throughout. Being diagnosed at such a young age meant everything had an extra layer to it (think puberty, adolescence and teenage angst). At one point in middle school, I “hid” my diabetes by not going to the nurses office to check my blood sugar or give myself insulin. I didn’t want it to interfere with making friends at the new school I was in.

Being diabetic is both emotionally and financially draining. I am lucky I have insurance, but many don’t have access to affordable healthcare. Diabetes supplies, along with insulin, are extremely expensive in the United States and I’m passionate about the topic and often speak to other diabetics about how we can change that (#insulin4all). Diabetes is an expensive disease.

Emotionally, diabetes takes a serious toll on my mental health. It is draining, because it’s a full-time job. You can’t get away from it. My father passed away due to complications from type one diabetes, so that was very emotionally difficult to deal with. I struggle with anxiety and depression, and while not the sole cause, I know diabetes is a contributing factor.

Jessica Ortiz

Days before I was diagnosed.

Jessica Ortiz

My dad.

“My #1 supporter will always be my mom.”

Jessica Ortiz

My mother, brother and I.

Your treatment

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

My #1 supporter will always be my mom. She did a lot for me as a kid. She would wake up in the middle of the night at like 3AM to check my blood sugar while I was sleeping, just to make sure I was okay and give me juice if I was low. She encouraged me to go to a youth diabetes support group as a kid, and I’m grateful for that experience. More recently I became involved in the diabetes community again, and she has always supported and encouraged that. Currently, I am being treated by my endocrinologist and licensed nurse practitioner.

I use the Dexcom G6 for continuous glucose monitoring, and the Omnipod Dash for my insulin pump with Humalog insulin. Before I used NPH, Novolog, Lantus. I also take Synthroid as I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism a few years after my type one diabetes diagnosis.

A lot has changed since I was first diagnosed. There were no such things as CGMs so I had to check my blood sugar manually. I started by injecting myself manually, and was on 2 types of insulin (one short acting and one long acting). I then went on a pump, but it was very different than the one I have today (the one I have now is wireless, the other one was huge and looked like a beeper and had a lot of tubing). The advances in technology for diabetes have been amazing. It’s so cool to see how far we’ve come Overall I would look at these changes as positive!

I think I do pretty well when it comes to managing my diabetes, but I can always do better. I recently lowered my A1C which I’m proud of. It is difficult, and diabetes fluctuates. I want to try every day to be better.

Jessica Ortiz

My Dexcom and Omnipod.

Jessica Ortiz

My Dexcom.

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. I feel dizzy. I sweat a lot. My hands and fingers shake. I can always tell by looking at my hand if my fingers are jittery, then I know I’m for sure low. How often I get low changes every so often.

Since I’m on a CGM, I don’t have to test unless I don’t think it’s accurate, or the CGM is warming up. Before I got on a CGM, I was testing 10 to 15 times a day. I want to have children soon, so that’s why I was testing so frequently. I was trying to get better control of my sugars.

To treat my low blood sugars I usually get a Gatorade or Coke. I’m not a fan of glucose tabs.

Yes I have fainted before! I wake up from the fall and am confused and disoriented. I never remember the actual act of fainting. Luckily, the times I’ve fainted I have been with people I trusted and knew what to do. It is a very scary experience.

Food and diet

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

What I am eating for breakfast, lunch and diner changes every day! I have coffee every morning, though. I sometimes skips meals. I love salads! It sounds so simple but it honestly is one of my favorite foods because there is so much variety in what you can put in it.

Yes, I eat snacks. I feel like a little kid saying this, but I love Goldfish. When looking for a low carb snack, my go-to is usually a mozzarella cheese stick.

If I know something is high in carbs, I will adjust my insulin dose based on my blood sugar at the time and where it is predicted to go.

I try to drink enough water! I have a water bottle I fill twice a day.

Being on a diet is especially difficult when dining out and you don’t have full control of your meal.

Sometimes I get annoyed when people ask me about certain food I can or can’t eat. I understand that people mean well, so I get that. But I also don’t like the feeling of being judged when the person is not fully informed.

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

I don’t have enough information to answer this question. I recently began reading the book “Mastering Diabetes“, which mentions a plant based diet. I know many who have tried it, and it worked for them. I think it’s important to note that while it may “improve” diabetes, nothing can ever “cure” it. I have not yet tried experimenting, but I am open to it.

You can grab a copy of the book “Mastering Diabetes” right here.

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

No. I do think it’s helpful when the restaurant provides a nutrition menu. I think these days, it’s easy to look up how many carbs are in something. There are many different APPs for that, and my pump actually allows me to search for stuff. However, I think what’s difficult is knowing the portions. For example, you may order a side of rice and because you know how many carbs are in rice, you bolus for that. However when it arrives, it may not be the amount that you bolused for. So that can be tricky. Italian restaurants are my favorite.

“As the wise Dory once told us, Just keep swimming!”

Exercise and work

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

I enjoy a good run and I like burning calories dancing or doing other fun exercise videos, like Richard Simmons.

I’m a Behavior Analyst. I work with children on the Autism Spectrum. Sometimes it’s difficult because I’m working directly with a client, and my CGM will beep alerting me of a high or low. So I have to treat that, and that gets tricky sometimes when I have to sort of “pause” our session for a minute. Which is difficult to do when working with active young kids.

Jessica Ortiz

My fiance and I.

Final

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

To manage my diabetes better I look at my Dexcom reports and try to see how often I’m in range, what my trends are, and how I can adjust settings to have better control.

The hardest part is making 180 to 200 more decisions per day than the average person. You never get a break. Your mind and your body are constantly working overtime to make sure you stay alive and in good shape. It truly is exhausting in every way: mentally, physically, emotionally and financially.

The best part was getting out of things sometimes. Like PE class when my blood sugar was low. Just kidding. The best part is that I gained a strength throughout all this. I also think being diabetic has made me more empathetic and really sensitive to people’s situations because you just never know what someone is going through, even if they “look normal”.

I was also diagnosed with Hypothyrodism, Anxiety and Depression. All of which are often comorbid with diabetes.

Jessica Ortiz

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

Hmm, this is a good question. I’d like them to know that while it may look easy because I smile through it, that it’s not. It also really hurts when people say “Well, it could be worse. At least you don’t have ______”. I feel like that diminishes my disease. It truly does affect every hour of my day. Literally everything I do affects my blood sugar. And that cinnamon or natural herbs will not cure me.

I’d tell them that things will get better. It doesn’t really ever get “easier” per say, but you learn how to deal with things. I’d also recommend going to a support group or peer-led group because it is comforting meeting individuals going through the same thing.

I think one of the best things I could say would be to not be afraid to laugh at yourself, at the situation. Diabetes does what it wants, a lot of the time. Just try to push forward and do the best you can, every day. Some days will be harder than others, and that’s okay. As the wise Dory once told us, Just keep swimming!

What would you ask the other diabetics?

What’s the weirdest comment you’ve gotten about your diabetes? I’ve gotten a lot.

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.

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