Diabetes makes me special

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Akira Cotton, 8, shares his T1D story in his own words. Akira lives with his mum Natasha and brother Tane in Port Chalmers, near Dunedin. He organised a diabetes awareness event at his school last year and was interviewed by a local TV channel. Go Akira! 

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in February 2017. It really changed my life. 

You might be wondering what type 1 diabetes is. There’s an organ in your body behind your stomach called a pancreas that turns carbs (carbohydrates) into energy. My pancreas used to create insulin, and what insulin does is it turns glucose in your food into energy. 

Before I was diagnosed I felt really horrible. It was the worst thing in my life. I felt stressed, angry, sad, annoyed, and much more. That was because my pancreas started producing less insulin, it meant I got less energy. Once I was diagnosed, we started taking care of it. And now we have to give me insulin manually. Oh wait, I forgot to tell you I am eight years old, so it’s a really big thing for me. I used to have to finger prick myself and it really stung, to get blood to read my glucose levels to tell me how much insulin I have to inject myself with. 

But now I have a Libre sensor [Freestyle Libre] that goes into my arm, and I just need to take the reader and put it next to my sensor and it shows me my levels. When I have dinner, lunch or breakfast, or snacks I have to have an insulin injection, I might have a lot or not much, it depends what I eat, and how many carbs I have. My mum has to calculate a lot of things. She is the one who gives me insulin. When I’m not well I need extra insulin. When I’m doing swimming or sports we have to check my levels more often.

I feel much better now compared to how I was before. But it’s still hard to deal with. And it’s hard to get my levels right. When I’m too low I feel dizzy and horribly hungry and I have to eat something, I eat different foods, but it depends how low I am. When I’m too high for some reason I’m really angry, it feels horrible, I can’t control myself, and it’s because of the high. 

There are different diabetes. You get type 1 from bad luck. But with type 2 it’s about your health, and how you are not taking care of yourself. That’s the big difference. Some people get confused between the two and they might think that you have type 2 when you have type 1. For type 1 there is no known cure. But with type 2 you can get better from looking after yourself. I am going to have type 1 diabetes for the rest of my life. There are lots of other children and grown-ups who suffer from the same thing. So I wanted to do this not only for me but for them too. I am hosting a Diabetes Awareness Day at St Leonard’s School. I’d like everyone to wear blue for the day because the diabetes logo is a blue circle. And please bring a donation and the money will go to Diabetes Youth Otago because they help children like me do really fun activities including camps.

I’d just like to say, diabetes is hard but it isn’t that bad, because it also means you’re extra special.

– Akira Lennon Cotton.

You can see Akira’s TV interview here

 *A version of this story was featured in Diabetes Wellness magazine February 2018, which is published by Diabetes NZ and available for free to all members.

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Jo Chapman